This mod turns Stellaris into the Mass Effect strategy game you've dreamed of

mordin solus tapping away at omni tool
(Image credit: EA)

If, like me, you've always wanted to see a more strategic, zoomed-out take on the Mass Effect setting, you're in luck: the Binary Helix mod group (cheekily named for a genetic engineering corporation in Mass Effect) is creating the Beyond the Relays project for Stellaris—a  total conversion of the space strategy sim to the Mass Effect setting.

Stellaris has a history of great total conversion mods, with previous efforts bringing Star Trek and Warhammer 40K to life in the setting. Additionally, talented modders have, in the past, made individual addons based on Mass Effect to Stellaris, but Beyond the Relays looks to recreate the entire setting down to its political climate and rules of space travel.

In its current 0.7.0 release, Beyond the Relays offers a selection of 24 civilizations to choose from, including sub-variants of major races like the Asari and the Turians, as well as second-string favorites like the Volus or Vorcha. The project also includes unique ship and location models like the Citadel and Omega deep space stations.

In an especially exciting move, Binary Helix has recreated the star systems and Mass Relay networks from Mass Effect, with the mod's galaxy map containing 400 solar systems based off those in the games and official lore. The star systems are organized into clusters connected by Mass Relays, and the map can be played in a basic sandbox mode, or in a scenario that replicates the factions' relative positions and prestige at the time of the Mass Effect series.

Binary Helix has some big plans for the mod's future—a major near- and medium-term priority is adjusting the various factions' AI so Beyond the Relays' political simulation more closely matches Mass Effect's. An example provided by one of the team's leaders, Arrenius, was getting the militaristic Turians to behave more like the paternalistic regulatory force of the Mass Effect series than conquering imperialists. Similarly, the team is trying to rebalance warfare for the mod to better reflect the UN-esque interstellar order of the Mass Effect series. Arrenius described making military units more costly to build and lose, encouraging smaller-scale conflict amidst a more peaceful galactic civilization.

In the longer term, Binary Helix would like to implement a fully-voiced advisor for each playable faction, and currently has a writing team gathering the material together. Implementation of the big, overarching forces of the Mass Effect universe—the Citadel Council and the Reapers—is in the cards as well, but Arrenius characterized that goal as being a long way off.

Mass Effect really lends itself to further exploration and adaptation, and the Binary Helix team is doing a great job parlaying the setting's rich lore and politics into a 4X format. You can follow Beyond the Relays on the team's Discord, ModDB, and Steam Workshop, and Binary Helix is actively looking for new writers, coders, and artists to volunteer on the project. 

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.