Elias Atienza is a history sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
“Mass Effect: Andromeda” has only been out for a couple of weeks, but the game already has me thinking about its libertarian themes. It is set 600 years after the events of the original “Mass Effect” trilogy, which centered around Commander Shepard and his efforts to stop a galaxy-wide extinction from the mysterious Reapers, bypassing the controversial ending of “Mass Effect 3.”
The majority of the libertarian themes within “Mass Effect: Andromeda” come from the Andromeda Initiative being a civilian project, not unlike SpaceX and our real life Elon Musk. It is built on the foundation of space colonization in a distant galaxy, with a 100,000 individuals of different backgrounds and species coming together to do so. It blazes a new frontier, one where governments have not been established and privatization rules the landscape.
The objective of the Andromeda Initiative is to establish a foundation in the Heleus Cluster of the Andromeda galaxy, which is more than 2.5 million light years away from the Milky Way. It carries the brightest minds humanity and her allies have to offer: scientists, engineers, military specialists and traders, all of whom are dedicated to the mission of exploration.
The theme that resonates most with libertarians is probably that of diplomacy. The Tempest, which is the ship the Pathfinder uses, isn’t heavily armored or armed, and the exploration vehicle, the Nomad, lacks a gun. The goal of the mission is to create new relationships with the species of the Andromeda galaxy, as highlighted by the extensive library and archives dedicated to teaching others. Of course there is a need for self-defense, so the Pathfinder does have access to high-end gear and weapons if necessary. However, the primary goal is to talk to the aliens inhabiting the cluster, not to shoot them.
Other libertarian ideas blossom throughout the game as well. Governments are portrayed as oppressive, as seen in the Kadara port and slums. The Angarans (the native species of Heleus) had been living under Kett occupation for decades. But the Kadara port is “liberated” by a band of Nexus exiles who were kicked off the station for rebellion. As a result, the Angaran are ruled by a pirate gang who extorts them just like the Kett. However, this new found corporate rule is in line with anarcho-capitalists, which are part of libertarian thought. The exiles charge “protection fees” and kick out anybody who doesn’t pay them. Physical removal, so to speak, which would make libertarian anarcho-capitalist philosopher Hans Hermann Hoppe cry with joy.
However, the most prominent libertarian theme is that of self-reliance. There is no massive government, there is no welfare. Only the reliance on yourself, your friends and a lot of firearms. Unlike Commander Shepard, there is no military hierarchy you can fall back on for support, no massive fleet there to help save the day. It tells of the days of “Mass Effect 2,” when Commander Shepard had nobody but his crew and ship to rely on in order to take out the Collectors.
“Mass Effect: Andromeda” is probably the most libertarian game of the series. It reminds me of “Firefly” in a way, but much more nuanced and even more libertarian. “Andromeda” is filled with these little pointers. It’s not as good as the other Mass Effect games, but it is still a fun way to waste time, just like the Libertarian Party.