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In Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3, ships move around the galaxy using mass relays. They can accomplish "short"-range movement between "nearby" stars using FTL drives on the ships, but to get from one cluster of stars to another they need the relays.

I recall the codex in those games saying that although citadel-based galactic society is spread across the galaxy, it's largely confined to small pockets around mass relays.

In Andromeda, the Nexus and the Arks traveled from the Milky Way to the Andromeda Galaxy over the course of 600 years. I'm not sure if that speed is consistent with the short-range FTL, or if that would require the relays.

I have yet to see any mass relays in the Heleus cluster, which they would need to go to other clusters, suggesting they're stuck there for the time being.

So, do they have access to relays? If not, how did they get to the cluster and how can they leave?

  • On Ada, a historian near the docking bay asks you if it's true that the Initiative can never go back to the Milky Way, and Ryder answers yes. This has been implied in quite a few other conversations. – DCShannon Mar 24 '17 at 18:51
  • However, according to the SFF SE question about how they got there so fast, they ought to be able to fuel up and turn around. – DCShannon Mar 24 '17 at 18:55
  • My guess is that once they've had time to settle and build in Heleus they'll start trying to develop their own Mass Relays. An argument to back this up is that before they were wiped out, the Protheans were on the verge to discovering the secrets to the mass relays so its not hard to assume the milky way species' would also try. Plus i think that the ODSY Drives could handle the initial trips into the other clusters as it wouldn't take as long as the transit between galaxies. – Pathfinder8472 Jun 1 '17 at 15:31
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The 600 year timeframe is consistent with the FTL speeds they used to move between stars within the same cluster in the previous three games. This is discussed at more length on SF&F SE here: How do they get to Andromeda so fast?

The innovations that lead to them being able to make such a long journey between the stars are the cryo pods, and the ODSY drive:

Standard ship drive cores build up static electricity, and require periodic discharge on a planet or at specialized facilities to prevent static from building to dangerous levels. With few such suitable discharge points in dark space, the ODSY drive core was developed for the arks long-haul journey to Andromeda.

I've finished the game and nearly every side quest, and never saw or heard anything that even vaguely implied that there might be mass relays in the Heleus cluster. On my first playthrough, during the opening scene, I saw something that I thought might have been a relay, but it was just the Hyperion ark ship seen out of context with no introduction.

Those facts, combined with ample dialogue indicating that the Initiative is stuck in the Heleus cluster for the foreseeable future, lead me to conclude that

  • there are no mass relays in Heleus,
  • they didn't use a mass relay to get to Heleus,
  • and that they would need to fuel up and go back into cryo in order to leave the cluster.
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FTL travel would require Eezo which is listed as Ultra-rare in the codex.

They are running short on supplies, provisions. So much so that they are not waking up everyone from cryo-sleep.

So they are stuck for now.

EDIT


As far as mass relays are concerned, they are reaper tech and so far the reapers and their tech, according to the ME 1-2-3 games, are confined to the Milky Way galaxy.

IMO the first question would be how did they survey the so called golden worlds, since any light making it to the Milky Way would be 2 million years old. For that in game explanation is they happened across a Geth built FTL telescope which let them see a more current picture.

As for the speeds, I am yet to piece together an in-game explanation. I will update as I progress through the game.

However there is an interesting discussion regarding the same on Sci Fi SE site: How do they get to Andromeda so fast?

  • In theory they can build new relays. The Protheans did it, and the Asari have discussed it (at least Liara's "father" mentions it in ME2). How long that would take, and whether or not the Heleus cluster even has the resources to accomplish such a feat is unknown. – Xantec Mar 31 '17 at 16:36
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tl;dr: There are no relays in Andromeda and leaving Heleus is highly infeasible for the time being.


The Mass Relays are Reaper tech and the Reapers were located in the Milky Way (dormant in the nearby empty space). There are no relays in Andromeda or on the way so they had to use standard FTL transport, hence why it took 600 years to get there. This is confirmed throughout the game during Ryder's conversations.

They are low on fuel and resources so travelling to a different cluster inside Andromeda is not possible, hence they're stuck in Heleus for the time being. They could fuel up with the help of the Angara, go back in cryo and point themselves somewhere else but why would they do that? They surveyed the galaxy and the Heleus cluster was the most viable so they already are in the best place they know. Flying somewhere else would imply the same risks they took when flying to Heleus (such as hitting the scourge). Not to mention that they're still not sure what happened to the rest of the arks and leaving them behind would cause a lot of anger among the sleeping "relatives" of the people left behind, including those of the exiles left in Heleus.

They could also point themselves back to the Milky Way but then it would all be in vain. Thousands of people dead and the only achieved thing would be a jump 1200 years into the future. Not to mention that they were unable to communicate with them so many things could have happened in 1200 years and the Milky Way could be all but destroyed by war.

Therefore their best bet is making do with what they have in Heleus, get a foothold in there, get fuel and resources, build up their population, military and technology, try to communicate with the Milky Way and scan the rest of Andromeda. Another goal would definitely be to analyze the scourge and stop it from being a problem. They might even be able to work with the races of Heleus to research better travel technology (maybe even as good as the mass relays?) and make Andromeda as nice as the Milky Way.

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