There are a lot of locations in Mass Effect 2 and each one has its own unique qualities.
Built in the mined-out husk of a metallic asteroid, Omega has been a haven for criminals, terrorists, and malcontents for thousands of years. At times the station has lain idle and abandoned for centuries, only to be reactivated by a new group of outlaws seeking a fresh start. The space station’s original elegant design has given way to haphazard expansion by scrabbling factions of every species. There is no central government or unifying authority on Omega, and nobody can recall a time there ever was one.
Population: 7.8 million
Orbital Distance: 2.43 AU
Orbital Period: 6.9 Earth Years
Total Length: 44.7 Km
Originally an asteroid rich in element zero, Omega was briefly mined by the Protheans, who eventually abandoned it due to its thick, impenetrable crust. Thousands of years later, nature did what even the Protheans could not: a collision with another asteroid broke Omega in half, exposing its trove of element zero for easy mining.
A rush ensued as corporations and private individuals tried to strike it rich on Omega, and thieves and outlaws followed in their wake. As space became tight, construction of processing facilities extended vertically from the asteroid, creating Omega’s jellyfish-like silhouette. To prevent future collisions, the station is ringed with enormous mass effect field generators that redirect incoming debris.
Today, Omega is a major hub of narcotics, weapons, and eezo trafficking without even a pretense of civilian government or military control. Only mercenary groups have been able to instill a limited order; the most ruthless is an asari syndicate run by the notorious Aria T’Loak.
Illium is a classic garden world developed to serve as entrepôt between the Terminus Systems and the Asari Republics. To abet this trade the normally stringent customs laws of Council space on product-safety-proscribed materials and sapient trafficking are relaxed. Officially, Illium is not an asari world; it is colonized and operated by asari corporate interests. This gives it the same legal latitude enjoyed by the human corporate research enclaves of Noveria. Illium is one of the youngest asari colonies settled during the 7th Expansion Wave. The first child born on the world is only now reaching her middle age. The world is hot and massive; ground settlement is only possible at the higher polar latitudes. In more equatorial locations the population is housed in arcology skyscrapers to escape the heat of the surface.
A regional hub of asari commerce awash in riches, Illium is infamous for its abusive labor practices and legalization of nearly everything except murder. As such, Illium is the preferred production site for weapons and pharmaceuticals that would be illegal nearly everywhere else, made even more lucrative by legal indentured servitude. Among the biotics-related pharmaceutical producers is the Dantius Corporation, a rising star in galactic commerce.
Despite the dangers of its products, Illium is renowned for glamor, luxury, and safety (provided by near-total surveillance), making it a favored tourist destination. Countless celebrities maintain palatial estates on Illium and in its capital, Nos Astra. The sole obstacle to business on Illium is its extreme bureaucracy, tolerated only for its provision of security.
Regardless of the character of its economy, Illium’s self-congratulatory media exalts its own society with the provincial arrogance of “new money”, glorifying in “sexiest CEOs” and “ten richest residents” lists.
A garbage scow with a climate was how one Citadel Council member described Korlus at the turn of the century, and ever since then the Korlus Tourist Board has been attempting to re-brand their planet. It hasn’t worked — though they have tried calling it “the recycling center of the galaxy”, corruption scandals and a staggering murder rate ensure that Korlus’s image is permanently stained.
Korlus’s biggest business is the recycling of decommissioned or junked spacecraft into their component parts. While the invention of omni-gel has made this process significantly cleaner it is still a dirty business that chokes Korlus’s sky with smog and fills its ports with megatons of scrap. A shady hospitality industry and a scavenger underclass round out the spectacle of urban decay.
TRAVEL ADVISORY: Korlus ranks second in murder per capita in the Terminus Systems and first in offworld murder. Civilian traffic is encouraged to employ security professionals when visiting.
Known as the starcraft cemetery, Korlus was the regional toxic junk yard for centuries. Ships reaching astronautical “near-death” at connecting mass relays were sent to Korlus, stripped of every useful component, then dumped planetward to clear shipping lanes.
Currently Korlus hosts numerous merc factions such as the Blue Suns, rumored to be using downed ship fossils to test advanced munitions. Massive gun batteries threaten anyone attempting planetfall, with minimal defenses against ground attack.
Because ancient volcanism greenhoused the planet, Korlus was too hot and CO2-rich to develop a biosphere, despite the abundant lakes that could have sponsored the development of life.
Now cool enough for protected habitation, but too scorching for anyone but extremeophiles and mercenaries seeking secrecy, Korlus supports numerous krogan outposts. The krogan have therefore seeded Korlus with hardy varren, often kept as war hounds. Varren live primarily on a diet of geophagous vermin and each other.
Owned by the notorious Blue Suns mercenary company, the Purgatory was once an “ark ship” used to hold agricultural animals. Now it is used to hold prisoners, whether taken in battle or sold by unscrupulous politicians under the name of subcontracting and outsourcing. Rumors abound that the Blue Suns turn skilled or fit prisoners over to batarian slavers, but few have ever seen the transaction and lived to tell about it. Its population is listed at 4,350, but independent journalists estimate it is nearly three times that in periods of overcrowding.
Originally an “ark ship” designed to carry agricultural animals, the Purgatory was taken by the Blue Suns mercenary company during a large-scale battle in the Skyllian Verge. In a years-long reconstruction of its interior, the Blue Suns repurposed it to hold sapient prisoners, supposedly because they captured so many in their conflicts throughout the galaxy. When media outlets started investigating claims that the ship was used for slaving operations, the Blue Suns turned a public relations nightmare into a regular income source.
Claiming to be in full accordance with Citadel law. the crew of Purgatory now regularly lands on planets or space stations claiming that they can no longer hold their prisoners because of cost overruns. To avoid keeping prisoners under inhumane conditions, they will have to release them at the nearest port, dumping the scum of the galaxy directly into the local population. Faced with such a scenario, the government usually grants Purgatory’s crew massive discounts in fuel, food, and repairs as long as they go away. Some even offload their own prisoners to Purgatory for a fee, grateful to have a problem relocated somewhere other than their backyard. Such unfortunates go in the dark depths of the ship, never to be seen again by their families or contacts.
Purgatory is minimally armed with GARDIAN defenses. Though a cruiser-weight ship, it relies on the Blue Suns’ fighters to prevent any attacks bent on a jailbreak or similar events.
Also known as the Flotilla, the Migrant Fleet is the massive fleet that became home to the quarians after they were driven from their home world by the geth. The Migrant Fleet consists of roughly fifty thousand starships that house seventeen million quarians. The Fleet is so large it can take days for all the ships to pass through a mass relay. Some of the vessels date from the original flight from the geth three centuries ago.
The Migrant Fleet is rarely welcoming to outsiders, as any risk to the Fleet is a risk to the quarian species. Quarians rarely leave except to go on Pilgrimage, ships sometimes leave on an individual basis to pursue their own goals, on missions that can last days or years, but usually return eventually. As Tali’Zorah nar Rayya describes her culture: “Home is a state of mind.”
The Migrant Fleet is broken up into various clans, sometimes spread over several ships. Each individual ship has long been retrofitted to house as large a crew as possible. Over time the quarians thin out the vessels they can’t use or are too damaged to repair, pooling the credits to buy and convert new ships.
Conditions aboard every vessel in the Migrant Fleet are extremely cramped. One cruiser, the Idenna, had a quarian population of nearly seven hundred, while an Alliance cruiser of comparative size would have only around eighty crewmen. Space is at a premium because of the sheer numbers of quarians living aboard the Flotilla. Captains are also keen to increase the size of their crew, as this increases their status in quarian society. Living space is therefore a priority; the cargo holds of freighters, for example, are converted into small compartments for individuals to live in, often lined with colorful fabrics to make it an individual space and reduce noise.
Due to the high value of ships, stealing one is a capital crime among the quarians.
Quarians also serve volunteer rotations aboard the three Liveships which form the heart of the Fleet. Enormous vessels which are recognized as being incredible feats of aerospace and agricultural engineering, the Liveships are the source of food for the entire Flotilla. Losing any one of them would be a catastrophe and doom millions of quarians to starvation, so the Liveships are under heavy guard and protected at all costs.
Everything the quarians do must help to ensure the continued survival of the Migrant Fleet. The Pilgrimage forms a large part of this, as well as being a cultural rite of passage and a safeguard against inbreeding. The Pilgrimage also gives quarians a chance to explore galactic society and appreciate their own people back on the Flotilla. Young quarians are prepared for their Pilgrimage by having lessons in life outside the Migrant Fleet, receiving gifts to help them, and being treated for immunodeficiency before they are allowed to leave.
Apart from their Pilgrimages, quarians typically spend their entire lives living shipboard and contributing to the Flotilla. In addition, quarians do not normally welcome outsiders onto the Migrant Fleet, because visitors carry an unacceptable risk of contagion; taken together, these factors mean quarians tend to be quite insular, caring little about the galaxy outside the Fleet.
Politics and Military Policy
In theory the Migrant Fleet is still under martial law, meaning the captain of a ship has the final say on disputes, but in practice the quarians are quite democratic. Each ship has an elected civilian council and the captain often defers to their judgment. Overruling the council without a good reason is grounds for the captain to be removed.
Representatives from each ship serve on the Conclave, the civilian government. The Conclave makes the day-to-day decisions about Fleet business: collection of resources, the current course of the Flotilla, policing and so on. Opposition comes from a group called the Outriders’ Coalition. The Conclave is overseen by the Admiralty Board, five quarians who can override the Conclave’s decisions.
Once they have chosen to override the decision, the entire Admiralty Board must resign their posts or be arrested by the quarian military. This rule is in place to ensure that the Admiralty overrides the Conclave only in the most dire situations, when the Conclave is making a mistake that threatens the survival of the quarians as a species. This policy has served the quarians well. In three centuries, the Admiralty Board has only overridden the Conclave four times.
Outside the internal politics of the Migrant Fleet, the quarian navy is small, but highly aggressive due to the need to protect ships that effectively safeguard the future of their entire race. If the motives of approaching ships cannot be established, they will shoot to kill.
The quarian policy of strip-mining systems for resources, and often being hired ‘under the table’ for their specialised skills, replacing existing workers, makes the approach of the Migrant Fleet very unpopular. Some species will make a ‘gift’ of fuel, food or ships if they know the Flotilla is approaching, to discourage the quarians from entering their system.
Freedom’s Progress is a typical human settlement, with little defenses beyond a small military force, supplemented by mechs and security drones.
Commander Shepard travels to Freedom’s Progress to investigate an attack on the colony by the Collectors. The colony was attacked only several hours before Shepard’s arrival with no signs of conflict. While there, the Commander encounters Tali’Zorah vas Neema, Prazza, and several other quarians who are searching for another of their kind, Veetor, who has gone missing while on his Pilgrimage. However, while there, the Commander is confronted by various security drones reprogrammed by Veetor to attack anyone in the area, in order to protect himself should the Collectors return.
A temperate world that hit the “sweet spot” for carbon-based life, Horizon has a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere maintained by abundant indigenous photosynthetic plants and bacteria. While the native plants are very palatable to humans, the soil conditions are such that a handful of introduced Earth species have flourished, and the colonists must take strict care to prevent ecological disasters. Genetically engineered “terminator seeds” that grow nutritious but sterile crops to minimize outbreaks are the rule rather than the exception. Animals on Horizon appear to be exploding in diversity similar to during Earth’s Cambrian period. Large flying insect analogs take advantage of the thicker-than-Earth atmosphere and low gravity to grow enormous. Microbial life has proven relatively benign; a series of vaccinations for the most virulent strains of soil-borne diseases is all that is required for a visit.
A typical Terminus colony possessing minimal tourist value, Horizon promises substantial economic opportunity especially in providing new products for humans and supplying the Turian Hierarchy. Surveyed 18 years ago, Horizon received pilot habitation four years later; the colony proper is now eight years old.
Blessed with verdant forests and abundant fresh water, Horizon maintains a colonial culture that thrives as a refuge from the increasing restrictions of Citadel-governed society. Horizon has attracted numerous dissidents, marginal people, and fringe-dwellers from across Alliance space.
Scarred by bombardment craters, radioactive rubble, choking ash, salt flats, and alkaline seas, Tuchanka, the krogan homeworld, can barely support life. Thousands of years ago life grew in fierce abundance under the F-class star Aralakh (a Raik clan word meaning “Eye of Wrath”). Tree analogs grew in thick jungles, their roots growing out of shallow silty seas. Life fed upon life in an evolutionary crucible. This world died in nuclear firestorms after the krogan split the atom. A “little ice age” of nuclear winter killed off the remaining plant life. In recent centuries many krogan have returned to their homeworld. The reduced albedo has caused global temperatures to rise. In order to maintain livable temperatures, a vast shroud was assembled at the L1 Lagrange point. It is maintained by the Council Demilitarization Enforcement Mission (CDEM) which is based on orbiting battlestations.
CDEM ADVISORY: Visitors to Tuchanka land at their own risk. The CDEM will not attempt to extract citizens threatened by clan warfare.
TRAVEL ADVISORY: The ecology of Tuchanka is deadly. Nearly every native species engages in some predatory behavior; even the remaining vegetation is carnivorous. Travel beyond guarded areas is strongly discouraged.
The krogan homeworld boasts extreme temperatures, virulent diseases, and vicious, predatory fauna. Around 1900 BCE, the krogan discovered atomic power and promptly instigated many intraplanetary wars, sending Tuchanka into a nuclear winter. With most of their industrial base destroyed, the krogan entered a new dark age and warring tribal bands dominated. Populations remained low for the next 2,000 years.
First contact with the salarians made resurgence possible. Krogan brought to less hostile planets bred exponentially and returned to reconquer their home. They built vast underground shelters to shield themselves from surface radiation, which proved prescient during the Krogan Rebellions when many of them isolated themselves in a vain attempt to avoid the genophage. Convinced they could outbreed the genophage, they transmitted it into more than 90 percent of the sealed bunkers. Today, Tuchanka’s population is sharply limited and while individual krogan are long-lived, the genophage ensures few replacements.