If you’ve always wanted to see a more strategic approach to the Mass Effect setting, you’re in luck: the Binary Helix modding group (cheekly named after Mass Effect’s genetic engineering corporation) is creating the Beyond the Relays project for Stellaris, a complete transformation of a space strategy sim into a Mass Effect setting.
Stellaris has a history of great full conversion mods, with previous attempts to bring Star Trek and Warhammer 40K to life in a setting. Also, talented modders have made standalone expansions for Stellaris based on Mass Effect in the past, but Beyond the Relays hopes to recreate the whole setting with the political climate and space travel regulations in mind.
In the current 0.7.0 release, Beyond the Relays offers 24 civilizations to choose from, including sub-variants of major races such as the asari and turians, as well as minor races such as the volus or vorcha. The project also includes unique ship models and locations such as the Citadel and Omega stations.
In a particularly exciting move, Binary Helix has recreated the star systems and Relay networks from Mass Effect, with a galaxy map containing 400 solar systems based on those in the games and official lore. Star systems are organized into clusters connected by relays, and the map can be played in either a basic sandbox mode or a scenario that replicates the relative position and prestige of the factions during the Mass Effect series.
Binary Helix has big plans for the future of the mod – the main priority in the near to medium term is adjusting the AI of the various factions to make Beyond the Relays political simulation more in line with Mass Effect. An example given by one of the leaders of the Arrenius team would make militaristic turians behave more like a paternalistic regulatory force from the Mass Effect series than like imperialist conquerors. Similarly, the team is trying to balance the combat to better reflect the UN-style interstellar order from the Mass Effect series. Arrenius described how the creation and loss of military units becomes more costly, encouraging smaller scale conflicts among a more peaceful galactic civilization.
In the longer term, Binary Helix would like to implement a fully voiced advisor for each playable faction, and they currently have a scripting team gathering material. Realization of the large, all-encompassing forces of the Mass Effect universe – the Council of the Citadel and the Reapers – is also in the plans, but Arrenius called this goal a long way off.
The Binary Helix team did a great job translating the rich lore and setting politics into 4X format. You can download Beyond the Relays at website.