The N7 Day teaser, big time. A soulful monologue by Commander Shepard plays over real footage of space exploration while a frankly chilling orchestral soundtrack plays. As the trailer comes to a close, we get a view from a spaceship as we zoom away from Earth, our home, quite likely forever, and are finally left with a haunting image of a solitary spacecraft making the lonely journey from the Milky Way to Andromeda. And then we hear the final words from the Commander, wishing us well on our new journey:
We will say goodbye, and you will look back one last time, and know that wherever you go, we will be with you. This is Commander Shepard, signing off.
It's a small touch, but the brief reprise of "Vigil" from the original Mass Effect soundtrack after the end really just serves to push any fan who somehow hadn't shed a tear yet over the edge.
The fact that, due to the Time Skip nature of the series, all those characters you came to know and love in the original series are dead, with the possible exceptions of Grunt, EDI, Liara, and possibly Javik (depending on Prothean lifespans and Javik's biological age). No matter what choices you made in the past or who you managed to save, Garrus, Tali, Mordin, Ashley, Kaiden, Jack, Miranda, Jacob, Joker, Kasumi, Zaeed, James, Hackett, Wrex, Samara (the latter two because they're both approaching the end of their species' natural lifespans), and just about anyone else you can think of are long since dead and gone by the time Ryder steps out of the cryopod.
For Ryder (and, by extension, everyone else on the Tempest), this means that everyone they know and love back home save for their immediate family on the Tempest is now long-dead and forgotten. It's also a One-Way Trip, so they can't come back. Ever. And even if they could, galactic society as they know it would possibly be so evolved and unrecognizable that Ryder would be completely culturally isolated.
While it's made better with the fact some other species such as the quarian and krogan are able to come in significant numbers, it's sad when you realize that the effects of the genophage still plague the krogan. While the some of the krogan that were onboard the Nexus were starting to develop some sort of mutation against it, they left just a year before the cure was developed and possibly given to their people.
Speaking of the mutation, the Nakmor clan was aware of it, and underwent gene therapy to enhance it. It worked! They improved the birth rate from one in a thousand... to four in a hundred.
Remember, Alec, Sara and Scott are a family. Alec was originally supposed to be the Pathfinder, but the title got passed to the Player Character. For that to have happened... something terrible must have occurred in the interim.
And boy does something happen. Just when Scott/Sara and Alec have just managed to neutralize a deadly storm in Habitat 7 (the planet supposed to be their new home, which lacks a breathable atmosphere), an explosion knocks the two away and cracks open Ryder's helmet. Alec realizes the rescue shuttle won't make it in time and immediately gives his helmet to his son/daughter, saving their lives at the cost of his.
God, the look Ryder gives Alec when they meet up again after the explosion, a combination of "I'm sorry" and suffering from the unbreathable atmosphere. They both know Ryder will be dead in seconds and there's nothing Alec can do....except give them his helmet. But for those first few seconds, Alec was literally Forced to Watch his son/daughter die in front of him.
The fact that Drack raised his granddaughter himself implies that either something bad happened to his child, or his child did something bad to Kesh. Or even child-in-law.
Vetra will try to ask Drack about it if they're in the Nomad together eventually, and Drack will tell her to shut up about it because it hurts so much. Vetra then responds that she didn't expect a Krogan to be so touchy about a combat scenario.
Drack: Who said anything about it being related to combat? Some wounds hurt more than a battle.
Drack's medical exam is very bleak, with Lexi and Drack both holding back their feelings as the severity of Drack's health is made very clear. His story afterwards is both this and heartwarming, explaining how he had all but given up due to his injuries before a shaman dropped a baby girl in his lap and told him she was "weak, dying and useless." Drack makes it clear that he's now made his peace with his failing health, knowing that he found the strength to help turn that baby girl into someone he's truly proud of.
During your trip around Elaaden, you will eventually come upon an anomaly which is a clue to the turian ark's situation. Unfortunately, it comes in the form of several jettisoned turian stasis pods which you have to scan. Each one contains its own sad story of a turian who died without ever seeing the galaxy they had finally reached. You get to discover one turian with cardiac problems who insisted on taking the journey anyway, but then died in his pod from said issues during the emergency; an old man who wanted to see a new galaxy before dying (just like Drack); a female turian who went into a coma and then starved to death, and even a dead turian child. The game then twists the knife further by letting you find one pod that is still active, only to discover that the inhabitant is dead inside, just like the others.
Avitus Rix holds on to the hope Pathfinder Macen is still alive because he's second in the succession and, had Macen died, the Turian SAM would've passed to him. It becomes clear on your mission to find Macen that he and Avitus were more than just friends, with Avitus becoming increasingly upset the longer they go without finding the turian Pathfinder. Even once the turian SAM explains that Macen did in fact die, Avitus initially refuses to believe it. He has to be convinced that he's capable and won't let Macen down before he even agrees to be the new turian Pathfinder.
Even worse yet, if Ryder fails to convince Avitus to become Pathfinder, he'll end up as a drunken merc on Kadara.
Macen's audio logs show him being in absolute awe and wonder at the new galaxy even while he's dying.
An additional point about Avitus - he was once Saren Arterius' protege - yes, that SarenArterius. Avitus thinks that Saren flipped and went rogue because the dirty nature of a Spectre's job finally twisted him too much - and Avitus may have been afraid he would end up like that too. One gets the sense that Macen was the one who pulled him out of that life and gave him something positive to look forward to, with the Initiative. And now with Macen dead too, Avitus might feel as if his Morality Pet is gone, and he could very well slip back into the darkness that was his life as a Spectre. Which could be why he is wasted and bitter in a bar if you cannot convince him to become the new Pathfinder.
During the kett facility mission on Voeld, Jaal completely breaks down after learning of the origins of the kett, lamenting his regret over how many kett he killed without knowing they all might have been angara once.
Jaal: They... are us.
The first team meeting after colonizing Eos. Ryder's inexperience clearly shows, and Cora is the only one who actually acknowledges their authority. It's clear they're insecure.
The last audio log unlocked on Alec Ryder's computer. There's a series of transmissions sent from the Milky Way during the Reaper invasion. One of them is from Liara, who says she's with a brave crew trying to find a weapon that will help them defeat the Reapers, but if they don't, to remember them and tell the Andromeda settlers about the Milky Way and what they were. Then she signs off, on behalf of the Normandy SR-2.
They also contain transmissions of the initial Reaper invasion, such as one from Palaven HQ. For anyone who played the original trilogy and gone through Mass Effect 3, it's heartbreaking to listen to, and distinct sound of a Reaper at the end only makes it that much worse.
One of the side missions on Eos has Ryder placing survey beacons around the area, in lieu of the technician who was injured by kett. Every beacon placed has a little recording from her daughter, who says she's sick and he's in the future, essentially confirming that he had to leave his daughter behind. The very last clip reveals he also left a grandson named after him, implying his daughter was pregnant at the time of the recordings.
E.J.R Recording: Job's done, Dad. Keep going and move on. I'm watching. And I'm proud. Eric Jr., signing off.
Ryder: Good job, Erics.
Peebee:(audibly tearful) Let's... go shoot many things.
If the mission is finished, after the game, Ryder finds an e-mail in their dad's quarters from Eric saying "thanks."
There's a somewhat minor moment in a bit of banter with Vetra and Peebee suggesting that Vetra might be developing PTSD. Considering everything she's had to do just to keep herself and Sid alive on top of the horrors Andromeda has brought, it's not all that surprising, but hearing the normally confident and tough Vetra sound so utterly terrified is rather hard on the heart.
The entire plight of the angara, on Voeld and in general. They don't remember a time without war against the kett and they've lost all their culture and historical records except for a handful of stories and myths. They don't even know how first contact with the kett went. Voeld's missions are filled with sacrifice, massacres, loss, vengeance and desperation. And that's before you consider what the kett actually are.
Between conversations you can have with the Moshae and the few angara on Aya who remember first contact with the kett, it gets even more depressing. These are an open, emotional people, who were excited to make first contact, particularly after the damage done to their culture and worlds by the Scourge. The kett lulled them into a false sense of security and trust before turning on them. Now imagine how amazing it would have been if the Initiative could have arrived and met the angara without that betrayal souring things. Of course, the outlaws on Kadara might have ruined it for us anyway.
And it only gets worse later in the story with the revelation that the angara aren't a natural race native to the Heleus Cluster and were created by the jardaan. Ryder and Jaal can worry that this revelation will do enormous damage to angaran morale and culture, though Jaal at least finds the discovery liberating and giving the angara the freedom to choose their own fate.
Should the Hyperion's captain, Nozomi Dunn, die during the final mission, her remains will be committed to the stars. You can later find her coffin as a new anomaly in the Govorkam system, floating toward the cluster's central black hole. Ryder has a choice of solemn comments upon investigating it.
Ryder: Ride in peace, Captain.
Ryder: Respect on deck.
Bit of a Fridge Tearjerker, but the quarians that joined the Initiative not only gave up on the idea of ever seeing their homeworld again, but they also left just years before Rannoch was reclaimed from the geth. Or they missed the extermination of their people by the geth, and the whole Reaper war, so this might be a push.
Even more of a fridge logic one: for the quarians embarking on the trip to Andromeda, the expression "Keelah se'lai" will no longer hold any meaning, or at least be invoked as a hopeful wish. According to Tali, its rough translation is "By the homeworld I hope to see one day," a way to express their desire to someday return to Rannoch. The quarian Ark's name, "Keelah Si'Yah", might possibly be a variation on this. Though its meaning is never explained in-game, it could be inferred to mean something like "By a homeworld I will find anew," or some other equally optimistic longing.
Bring Jaal along on the mission to what Ryder thinks is Meridian, and he gets a unique cutscene on learning about the angaran origin, where he goes right to the verge of a Heroic BSoD. He doesn't succumb, but he's definitely in a state of shock, even feeling the need to try and get in touch with the Moshae for support.
Vetra's backstory. Her parents broke up when she and Sid were very young, and they ended up with their father, who disappeared a few years later. As a result, Vetra had to work through her youth just to keep Sid alive and provided for.
If Vetra and Peebee are in the Nomad together, Vetra will admit that she's bothered by some of Peebee's tales of her wild and rebellious youth, since Vetra didn't get to have any sort of fun in her childhood.
Listening to some of Vetra's other conversations reveals that she tried looking for her dad, but never found anything. A possibility is raised that he knew she was looking for her, which just caused him to try and hide even more.
You can talk to a young turian woman who is a part of an anti-AI group and find that her reason for hating AI is absolutely heartbreaking. She used to live on the Citadel with her two young sisters when the geth attacked, and the little girls were found impaled together on a geth spike while they walked to school. You'd have to be heartless to blame her for hating all AI after hearing that.
It can get worse: She's nothing but friendly towards Ryder, aside from when what happens to her sisters comes up. If you manage to screw up looking for evidence on Knight's deeds (which takes some doing), she along with the others in the room will turn on Ryder and cannot be talked down. It's enough to make you feel like an utter bastard for having screwed up so badly.
Exploring the asari ark, it's possible to find a datapad scribbled by a child, who's too young to even understand what's going on.
Mummy says I have to go on a ship agan.
Mummy says I hav to be brave
I dont want to be brave i want to be a farmar (sic)
What happens to Danny Messier. Initially a bright-eyed defrostee, ready and willing to take on Eos, he's attacked by everything the planet throws at him: the bugs, the Remnant, the kett. Eventually, he decides he's fed up of it, and transfers to Kadara. It's eventually possible to find him at The Paradise on Elaaden, completely drunk.
More like fridge tear-jerker here, but there is only one race from the Milky Way Galaxy that is not part of the Andromeda Initiative: the batarians. Not only are they not part of the Initiative, the only mentioning that they get is an insignificant solar system named after one of their explorers. Since slavery is mentioned as being part of their culture, many would have jumped at the chance to join the Initiative to get away from that. While the krogan (and possibly the quarians) will get a second chance in Andromeda, the batarians are most likely doomed, regardless of whether or not Shepard succeeded in stopping the Reapers, since they were almost completely wiped out in the beginning of the Reaper invasion.
A multiplayer update confirmed that two batarians came to Andromeda by trading intel on a notorious pirate fleet for a place on the salarian ark. This adds another layer of sadness: assuming it's one male and one female, a single mating pair isn't sufficient to populate a species, so these two batarians are, for all intents and purposes, the Last of Their Kind in Andromeda.
Although Vetra and Drack have their own entries, each squadmate has their own heartstring puller moments.
For Cora, it is the utter disillusionment with her role model Sarissa by the end of her loyalty mission. Alec's death didn't affect her that deeply, her parents' implied death didn't really cut to the bone, she even seems composed if a male Ryder who is romancing her temporarily dies and resurrects. However, finding out that Sarissa didn't live up to the asari commando ideal that she preached really hits Cora hard. She is even contemplating throwing out all of Sarissa's manuals - the ones she painstakingly memorized. Drack has to scold her to not do that. And if Sarissa is still allowed to remain as Pathfinder, you can see Cora giving her the silent treatment and avoiding her at Pathfinder HQ.
Walk in on Liam after rescuing the Moshae, and you will be treated to quite the rant from him. It initially appears to just be him complaining about bureaucratic inertia, but listen closer, and his angst is actually complex and multifaceted. Liam wants to help, oh so badly, but suspicion on the angara side and realpolitik on the Initiative's side gives him the impression of being completely shut out. Liam is complaining not so much at the Initiative for taking the slow and cautious approach with the angara to win their trust, but more so at the angara who refuse to let him help them, and refuse to help his side. His complaining of being treated like a "goddamn outsider" sounds very much like a kid who has been shoo'ed away by various cliques, none of whom want to befriend him. Talk to him some more, and you get to the core of his angst - even in his brief time with crisis response, he has seen too many people who just became hardened, unfeeling stoics who accepted whatever rotten situation they were in - including other veteran crisis responders. Liam desperately does not want to lose his idealism and become hardened and stoic like them. Which explains his angsting about being considered a "goddamn" outsider some more - he fears that this particular action might induce a little of that uncaring stoicism he desperately wants to reject.
Choose to confine Verand after his Loyalty Mission, and Liam really loses it. He goes on a What the Hell, Hero? rant about how the Pathfinder isn't trying to be that inspiring beacon of hope to everyone including all angara - this is actually him realizing that you've been bitten by that same stoicism bug, and are losing that idealistic tendency to care, and he is desperately trying to pull you out of it.
Liam Even after all weve done, Pathfinder was just a word to Verand and her people. Now youve brought them home too. Dont mess it up by being a hardarse.
Kallo's sentimentality about the Tempest, and Gil's compulsion to modify everything on it. Although Gil's actions are justifiable and most likely necessary, you also have to feel for Kallo in light of his photographic memory and how he explains that because of that trait of his, in his mind, he's still with his comrades who designed and built the ship, even though he was the only one among them to actually go to Andromeda. And with that, every change that Gil made to the ship must have felt like having his memories erased piece by piece, hammering home everything and everyone he left behind back on the Milky Way.
Alec Ryder's complete inability to watch his wife Ellen die. SAM was initially created as a means to keep Ellen's degeneration at bay for as long as possible, before being appropriated for the Initiative's Pathfinders. His stubbornness continues all the way up to the last day the Ryder siblings saw their mother alive, where he keeps scrambling for ideas while all Ellen wanted from him was a proper goodbye. All that culminated in Alec's biggest secret: he secretly had Ellen put in stasis on the Hyperion, and his last words before sacrificing himself for his son/daughter on Habitat 7 were a hint on how to find her. Sure enough, Ellen is found in the Hyperion cryo bay under a false name, and Ryder later decides to keep their mother there with the renewed hope of discovering a cure in Andromeda.
The tragic fate of Sanjiv Clement, a human tricked by an exile and later brutally murdered in a secluded area of Kadara's Slums. His friend Sellers on the Nexus was already resigned to never seeing Sanjiv again, and only wanted to set the record straight that Sanjiv did not leave of his own accord and didn't deserve to be labeled an exile like his killer. It's a real downer that that's about all you can do for the poor guy.
One sidequest on Voeld deals with Ryder finding a datapad from some angara in a cave. They've chased by the kett, who've already taken the rest of their family. Mom and dad have holed up in the cave, and their last daughter's gone on ahead. Mom and dad's recording explains how they can hear the kett outside. They know they're not getting away. And the daughter? Ryder finds a datapad some ways off... and no sign of her. The datapad has the angara asking why this is even happening to them, her last words being to tell her now dead parents she loves them.
Another sidequest has a group of angara resistence fighters going after the kett for revenge. Turns out a while back some kett forces had levelled an entire settlement, just to get at a few resistance troops. The fighters had been going after them, losing people one by one. Ryder eventually catches up to the last, having managed to get all the kett he attacked, at the cost of his own life.