Mass Effect: Andromeda is just around a corner, less than a week away. This is significantly less than it took the Citadel races to get to the eponymous galaxy, but let’s not get too far ahead.
We are facing the final stretch, the last few days we have to figure out whether or not we want to buy a pre-order, get a EA Access subscription to have an early look at ME:A, and to make some calculations regarding just how fast the Nexus and the Arks had to go to reach Andromeda so fast without ripping apart any sense of causality and the fabric of space-time.
If you are still on the fence about this whole deal, read on, we’re listing some of the most important things anyone should know before making the final decision.
What’s the setup?
Nearly a decade before the events of Mass Effect 1 some definitely too rich people decided it is time to start exploring other galaxies for possible habitats, and their sights were set on the Andromeda galaxy. After nine years, five Arks and a Nexus later, the Andromeda Initiative was ready for launch, just before the Reaper invasion. Talk about good timing.
Who’s coming along?
The aforementioned Arks are huge ships, each holding 20.000 of each participating species’ best and brightest. The members of the expedition are humans (obviously), turians, salarians, and the asari. Several other species like krogans are also present as the crew and passengers of the Nexus. This is why we could see all these peoples in early trailers, although let’s all hope that they’ll have only a scarce presence in the game, or the exploratory theme won’t hold much water.
600 years later
After literal centuries spent in cryosleep (intergalactic travel takes some time), the explorers are ready to wake up. The Pathfinder of humanity is Alec Ryder, an N7 veteran, who participated in Earthlings’ first Mass Relay jump. It figures he’d volunteer for making history one more time. Due to some plot shenanigans Alec’s position is transferred to one of his children: Scott or Sarah Ryder, both of whom are a part of the Initiative despite being young, largely inexperienced, and generally not exactly your best choice. But who are we to judge?
New species to meet/kill, new worlds to explore, new stories to witness.
More dynamic gameplay
One of the things Mass Effect: Andromeda was determined to change from the original trilogy is how dynamic the gameplay is. One of the first things you’ll notice is jumping. Finally. While Shepard could only do so when prompted by the game, Ryders of the Tempest (the ship serving as a more exploration-focused Normandy) have a jump-jet, or, in other words: a jetpack. That allows them to jump around, jet-dodge, even hover for a bit for pretty sights and raining down bullets on your enemies.
Remember how Shepard and crew kept to the cover like their lives depended on it? In Andromeda we’ll be allowed to move around much more. Cover remains an essential gameplay element, but 1. it’s not limited to chest-high walls, and 2. it’s not a gravity well, so you can move in and out of cover easily. Which is good, because the fight zones aren’t going to be corridors anymore, but open arenas enabling a number of different tactics.
Dynamicity can also be found in how the skills are handled. Instead of a hefty taskbar you have access to four sets of three abilities. Each set can be customized to suit a different purpose, and you’ll be able to switch between them on the fly. This definitely reduces UI clutter, although it remains to be seen if it’s as convenient on PC as it presumably is on consoles.
Speaking of abilities, they tie into a new progression model of ME: Andromeda. In the previous games we could pick one of six classes for our Shepard, which defined the weapons he/she can use, as well as the assortment of abilities. MEA does away with all of that. True, you have “Profiles”, some of them even called like the classes of old, but they are more of passive bonuses than classes per se, and they level up automatically as you buy new abilities.
In place of old classes you’ll get three lists: Combat, Tech, and Biotics, each holding a decent number of abilities, each with its own tree. The best part? You can pick anything you like, mixing your portfolio the way you want. You can easily play as a biotic soldier with gadgets and the game will never attempt telling you it’s a bad idea. Each ability has some mutually exclusive choices, the way they had in previous installments, but otherwise nothing stops you from unlocking everything.
The developers confirmed that with no level cap you can eventually buy every single thing on your character panel.
All the other features
Although the main changes are all fine and good, there is a decent number of other things that can be mentioned in just a paragraph instead of a whole new section. Let’s take a look.
Mass Effect: Andromeda has three weapon types. One is familiar: Milky Way guns, using solid projectiles. Then there are Heleus cluster plasma weapons, with some heat-seeking ability. And finally: ancient Remnant beam weapons with outstanding accuracy. There will also be melee weapons, for those who prefer getting up close and personal.
You will be able to craft weapons and armor using discovered schematics and resources gather during exploration. These will include some unique pieces like N7 pathfinder armor or even a classic N7 armor, if you so choose.
One of the key antagonists in Mass Effect: Andromeda are the Kett. Outsiders like us, they are searching for Remnant technologies, which becomes a reason for their quarrel with Initiative. They are covered in bone armor they appears to grow naturally.
It wouldn’t be a BioWare game without a party. You have a couple humans (prominently Cora Harper and Liam Kosta), a 1600-year-old krogan, a rebellious asari. Many of them, in a true BioWare fashion, will be romanceable. There was (thankfully) no information whether the krogan, Drack, will be among the romantic interests. More companions are sure to come, Andromeda species among them.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is without a doubt one of the biggest games to launch this game, and one of the most anticipated, too. There are several important changes, but also there’s a familiar core, to make sure it feel right for long-standing fans. What’s been shown so far looks promising, and hopefully the promises will be fulfilled without any hiccups.
ME: Andromeda launches on March 21, so there is still *just* enough time to make some further research and make the final decision.
Will you, or will you not buy a pre order and join the pioneers on a journey to a new galaxy? There will be only one chance to make a first impression on locals.