Video Game Atlas: The Citadel

Once a week Art Attack will offer you a handy little travel guide to the fictional worlds of video games.

Name: The Citadel, Mass Effect series

Population: 13.2 million

Government: Galactic cooperative

Last week I splurged my dough in the massive entertainment complex of the Gold Saucer, the massive man-made amusement park on Gaia. My next stop took me to a structure that utterly dwarfed even that impressive building, not to mention being far from the planet itself.

The Citadel is a massive space station that houses both the galactic government and the hub of the mass relay system that enables faster-than-light travel. The station measures near 45 km in length, more than the diameter of both of Mars's moons combined, and boasts a population three times the size of Houston, not counting visitors. Truly a wonder of technology.

The Citadel is shaped like a pentagram, with five long areas connected to a central ring. These can be closed into a tight cylinder for protection, but generally remain open. Most anthropoid lifeforms will feel right at home in the station. Centrifugal gravity is maintained at just above Earth normal in the arms, with lighter gravity in the ring in order to make docking ships easier. The Citadel is also on a 20-hour day cycle, with six hour nights in the central ring.

The history of the Citadel is as fascinating as it is mysterious. The asari first discovered the structure in 520 BCE, around the year that King Leonidas of Sparta was born. At the time, it was believed that the Citadel was a relic of the Protheans, who mysteriously went extinct in the galaxy roughly 50,000 years prior and were held as responsible for the mass relay system.

Even though the asari, salarians and later the volus races founded the Citadel Council almost immediately, eventually reaching out to loosely govern most of the known galaxy through various races' embassies in the Citadel Tower, little else is actually known about the structure. It is composed of an unknown alloy, the location of its main controls have never been discovered and the maintenance of the systems is handled by the enigmatic keepers.

The insect-like keepers are docile, dedicated caretakers, and visitors should have no fear of them should they be spotted. Approaching them is discouraged, though. They are mute to all other races, and if they feel they are in danger of capture for study, immediately self-destruct through acid secretion.

Unlike the central ring, the arms, or wards, as they're called, run on a constant cycle, so it's just like Vegas except in space. Businesses are usually open constantly, and each ward has its own metropolis for you to explore.

There's the usual assortment of shops selling everything from weapons to food, so the dedicated spender will have no trouble finding places to relieve the weight in his wallet. The businesses tend to get seedier the lower down you go, so those of you looking for items a little off the market can also be accommodated.

The night life is alive and well on the Citadel. Chora's Den features asari dancers, and is owned by the notorious crime lord Fist. Private dances are available, and it's also a good place to make connections with the less legit members of the populace. Less adult-themed is Flux, a popular dance club with an entrance in the upper wards that is a good date destination.

Wherever you wish to go, have no fear of getting lost. The Citadal's virtual intelligence Avina is available on all levels at various terminals. She is a helpful, though limited, guide to just about any aspect of the massive station you could possibly want to know, though of course anything unofficial is not likely to be in her databanks.

She is also prone to programming errors, it seems. Upon seeking directions to the famous Purgatory nightclub, I ended up in a discussion about Catholic dogma. I'm still not sure whether she misunderstood me...or understood me too well.

Previous Entries in the Video Game Atlas

Gold Saucer, Final Fantasy series High Hrothgar, Elder Scrolls series The End of Time, Chrono Trigger series Kakariko Village, Legend of Zelda Series Silent Hill, Silent Hill Series Monkey Island, Monkey Island Series Rapture, BioShock Series The Republic of Dave, Fallout series

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