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Mass Effect’s Andromeda Initiative welcome video offers even more new details

And an exclusive in-game item

Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

BioWare just released a brand new trailer for its highly anticipated continuation of the Mass Effect franchise, Mass Effect: Andromeda. But there are even more revealing details to be found in the welcome video for the Andromeda Initiative: the developer’s in-fiction homepage for hopeful space explorers looking to gear up for 600 years of cryosleep on a journey to another galaxy.

The bulk of that welcome briefing is the above video, introduced and narrated by Jien Garson, who calls herself the founder of the Andromeda Initiative. But if users sign into the site with their Origin Accounts, they are able to access additional pockets of information about the Initiative, the planets it expects to explore in the Heleus Cluster of the Andromeda galaxy, and the "Pathfinder," a person who is a "blend of elite soldier, scientist, and guide" who’ll be leading humanity’s efforts.

The Mass Effect community has long suspected that Mass Effect: Andromeda will concern the results of a secret (or, at least, secret from the characters of Mass Effect 3) mission to send an Ark of galactic refugees from our Milky Way galaxy to our closest neighbor, Andromeda. Presumably, the goal of such a mission would be to preserve the cultures of the Milky Way, in the seemingly very likely event that the Galaxy’s space-faring races would soon be overrun and massacred by the Reapers. Indeed, there’s little way that BioWare could continue the story of Mass Effect after the ending of the third game without removing that story from our galaxy entirely. The three endings of the game, though controversial, would each have a different, long-term affect on the species of the Milky Way.

The way Garson introduces the Andromeda Initiative jives closely with those suspicions. According to Garson, Andromeda recruits are preparing for 600 years of cryostasis aboard the Ark Hyperion, one of four massive ships, each bearing members of a different species of sentients. Garson warns recruits that this is a one-way trip. When the Arks and another, even more massive ship called the Nexus reach the Heleus Cluster, each Ark has a designated Pathfinder who will spearhead the search for a new homeworld.

Four Arks for four species, you might be thinking, is definitely not enough for the galactic diversity showcased in the first three Mass Effect games. So far, in Andromeda’s released trailers, we’ve seen evidence that the Salarian and Krogan races were definitely invited along for the trip — and we’ve seen a single Asari NPC (one of the few characters not depicted in Andromeda Initiative uniform).

Turians and Quarians, who played major roles in previous games, have so far remained quite absent — almost conspicuously so at this point. (Andromeda's lead designer, Ian Frazier, has confirmed Turians will be present in the game.) And that’s without mentioning the Hanar, Volus or Elcor, to name only a few. Whether this means that we’ll be seeing a more homogenous cast in Andromeda than we’ve seen previously in the games — or if there’s simply some un-revealed explanation for how the Milky Way’s multi-species community is fully represented on the Arks — remains to be seen.

The Ryder family

But there’s one more small detail that we can piece together from the new trailer and Jien Garson’s welcome briefing — and that’s that Stubbles McSpace-Marine here is the father of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s player character — and he might not be long for this world.

Alec Ryder is a human soldier of the elite N7 rank — just like previous franchise lead Commander Shepard — and he was among the first humans to use the Charon mass relay at the edge of our solar system to travel inter-stellar distances, thus propelling humanity into the age of faster-than-light travel. Ryder has been chosen to be Ark Hyperion’s Pathfinder, representing "the tip of the spear in humanity’s efforts to find a new home in this unknown galaxy," says the Andromeda Initiative breifing.

As confirmed in the reveal of Andromeda’s voice cast, Alec Ryder is the father of Scott and Sarah Ryder, the game’s two possible main characters. Players will choose one of the twin siblings to play as at the outset of the game, but both will have a significant role in the story, regardless. According to Game Informer, the players will discover the Ryder family’s "mystery" as Andromeda goes on.

Perhaps that mystery will tie in to what appears to be Alec Ryder’s death, or at least his demotion from the role of Pathfinder. Today’s trailer indicates that not all was peaceful in Andromeda. "When we finally awoke," says a voice that sounds an awful lot like Clancy Brown, voice of Alec Ryder, "our dreams of peace were shattered."

Moments later, another voice says "You’re the new Pathfinder," over a shot of Scott Ryder in an Andromeda Initiative space suit.

Wait, didn’t you say there was an in-game exclusive?

Players who explore every aspect of the Andromeda Initiative welcome video and its supplemental information while signed in to their Origin Accounts will progress towards an in-game award: an exclusive special edition Pathfinder helmet that will presumably be redeemable in-game.

A progress bar indicates that this orientation video is only the first of six briefings. Mass Effect: Andromeda will be released in "spring 2017," according to today’s reveals. Watch the newest cinematic trailer below.

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