Updated: A release date has been confirmed for Mass Effect Andromeda. North American fans will be able to get their hands on the game from March 21 and those in Europe from March 23. CES has also brought more gameplay footage that gives a glimpse of combat. More details below.
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Mass Effect: Andromeda, the fourth installment in Bioware’s hugely popular sci-fi role-playing franchise, is one of the most highly anticipated games of 2017. The vast ‘open galaxy’ adventure promises to take fans on an exciting new adventure across unexplored worlds with fresh characters.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The fourth game in Bioware’s sci-fi RPG Mass Effect franchise
- When’s it out? March 21 in North America and March 23 in Europe
- What systems is it coming out for? Xbox One, PC, PS4, and PS4 Pro
- What will it cost? Pre-order prices start at £49.99
Andromeda was officially revealed to be under development at E3 2015, where fans were treated to some early concept footage, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting more solid information on the game for a while now.
The game was originally slated for a 2016 release but was delayed to early 2017 instead, with Bioware stating that it needed more time to make sure it could deliver “everything the game can and should be”.
What’s the story?
In its feature Game Informer has cast some light on the Mass Effect: Andromeda’s back story, which has been summarised on NeoGAF.
The Andromeda Initiative was set up as a multi-species, civilian missions which would send scientists, explorers and colonists to the distant Andromeda Galaxy where they would settle. The overall goal was for these explorers to establish a permanent base in the galaxy and create a reliable route between it and the Milky Way Galaxy so that the many species involved could travel between the galaxies and transport resources.
Each species embarking on the mission travelled on its own ark captained by its own pathfinder, with 4 arks in total.
From what we understand, these events take place before the Reaper invasion and those travelling on the arks towards Andromeda have no idea of the events taking place in the Milky Way Galaxy after they depart as they’re deep in cryosleep.
The game begins with humanity’s ark, Hyperion, becoming separated from the rest and getting trapped in a dangerous location faced with a frightening enemy called the Kett.
Events lead to the protagonist, Sara or Scott Ryder depending on the player’s choice, becoming the pathfinder of their ark and responsible for the safety of those on board.
Being dubbed “the new pathfinder” in the game’s cinematic trailer, it seems the main storyline will revolve around the player taking charge of navigating this hostile and unfamiliar galaxy in order to lead their crew to safety or find the other arks. No doubt they will be faced with many difficult choices in the process.
There’s a sense of desperation and urgency in the trailer which will give the series a completely different tone. With a whole new galaxy, ship, and the competent Commander Shepherd gone, Andromeda will certainly stand far apart from the rest of the games in the series as a fresh and complete story.
Combat and customisation
We know the story is supposed to be different from the rest of the games in the Mass Effect series, but how will the gameplay differ? Apparently there will be some similarities but some big changes to contend with.
The biggest change is the abandonment of the class system which is being replaced by a Skill Tree. This will allow players to access abilities from all classes though they’ll absolutely still be able to specialise which is encouraged through specialisation bonuses.
As far as combat is concerned, it’s not just guns anymore; players will be able to wield melee items such as swords and hammers and even use their jetpack to give their approach to combat more variety.
In a gameplay trailer released by BioWare at NVIDIA’s keynote speech during CES 2017, we got a better look at the game’s combat. The footage showed the player battling a hoard of robot foes.
The combat appears to be fast paced, with the player constantly having to move around an open play area to land hits and dodge attacks. It also shows how players will be able to change their class type mid-battle thanks to the decision to focus on skill tree instead.
Forging relationships with companions is one of the most enjoyable aspects of playing a Bioware title and companion loyalty missions are a big part of the way the player is able to actively invest in these relationships and delve into NPC backstories.
To the disappointment of many these loyalty missions were absent from Mass Effect 3, but they’ll be making a return in Andromeda, though they’ll be slightly more detached from the main storyline than they were previously. That said, there will apparently be more relationship options in Andromeda than any previous Mass Effect Game.
Whereas in Mass Effect 2 the loyalty missions were inexorably tied up with the main plot and could effect the game’s ending, in Mass Effect: Andromeda they’ll be “much more optional” and players will be able to complete them even after the game’s main story ends.
Apparently the game will feature a host of optional side content that players will be able to explore, including a variety of exploration activities and a mystery surrounding the protagonist’s family.
Detaching the loyalty missions and side content from the game’s critical path could be a good decision as while it retains these aspects of the series that many players love, it doesn’t force them on players that just aren’t interested.
We hope, however, that separating these different aspects of the story doesn’t lessen the impact of player choices and their consequences. There is the risk that making players able to access all of these character storylines after the game’s critical path is complete could reduce replayability and result in a more shallow story.
Perhaps in an attempt to balance this out, decisions will apparently be less clear cut between “good” and “bad”. Say goodbye to the Paragon/Renegade system. Instead each choice the player makes will have pros and cons which should make settling on a choice a more nuanced and difficult process.
We don’t have any solid details on who exactly the companions will be in Andromeda but Bioware says that interacting with them will involve more dialogue options.
These dialogue options will also be about more than romance. Some will be interested in long-term romantic relationships, some won’t be interested in romance at all. It’s nice to see Bioware making character relationships about more than reaching a sexy cutscene.
The player’s ship will be called the Tempest. Apparently moving through the ship will not trigger any loading screens which is part of a larger effort to make travelling through the galaxy feel seamless.
Players will select which planet they want to travel to through a Galaxy mini map and though you won’t get to manually pilot the ship, the game will apparently attempt to give you a sense that you’re travelling towards a planet. No doubt this will be achieved through a skippable cut scene.
Once you land on a planet, you’ll jump into a smaller vehicle called the Nomad which is a throwback to the Mako of Mass Effect. Thankfully, the Nomad is a big improvement on the rather volatile Mako.
Mass Effect: Andromeda waves goodbye to the Normandy ship of previous titles and introduces The Tempest.
In Mass Effect, the player’s ship serves a variety of purposes; it’s where you plan missions, get to know your companions, decide upon your character’s progression, and feel safe and secure from the terrifying galaxy around you. Since so much happens here, it’s important that gameplay on the ship be as enjoyable as possible – it’s your new home for tens, perhaps hundreds, of hours.
The Tempest is planned to function much as The Normandy did in previous titles, though it’ll have a few additions that set it apart.
According to Game Informer, players won’t encounter any loading screens when exploring The Tempest. Players will handle the ship’s navigation from the bridge, looking out into the stars rather than accessing a galaxy map.
The galley will become the place where the players is able to change Ryder’s abilities and skill-point distribution between missions.
Ryder will have their own personal quarters, the decor of which players will apparently have some control over and they’ll also see small souvenirs and markers of their journey appear here.
As you’d expect, you’ll also find your crew scattered around the ship performing various activities and, though efforts have been made to make these NPCs look more active than in previous titles, they’re essentially waiting for you to interact with them.
To make walking through the ship a more immersive experience, the view out of the windows will change to reflect the player’s location in the game world. Exploring the game world using The Tempest will also be a more seamless experience and the developers said they’ve made a big effort to reduce load times and make the process of flying to a planet, landing and leaving the ship much smoother.
You won’t, however, be able to fly the ship yourself at any point. According to the game’s developers, this would just have been too much to include alongside all of the other new features
The multiplayer feature of Mass Effect 3 is back in Andromeda, though Bioware says it’s more refined and improved.
According to Game Informer’s recent report, Mass Effect: Andromeda’s multiplayer mode has been designed to feed into the game’s single player mode. How exactly this is going to play out has been left unclear, though we do know that mission funds from the multiplayer campaign will have “tendrils going out into the rest of the campaign.”
The hope is that it will leave players feeling that the two are connected without making them feel forced to play multiplayer to make the most of the game. “If you feel cheated, we’ve done something wrong” said lead designer Ian Frazier.
That sounds like a difficult balance to strike, but Bioware’s plan should work. Apparently, in the single campaign for Andromeda the player will have the ability to send teams of people across the map to complete side missions – perhaps like securing bases or perimeters. If the player would rather do these missions themselves, they can do so in multiplayer mode where they’ll be part of the mission team.
It sounds slightly like how the War Table missions from Dragon Age Inquisition or the assassination contract missions work in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. Except this time rather than being restricted to giving out these missions for unseen NPCs to complete over a set amount of play time, players will have the option to jump straight in and do the job themselves.
This should allow players to complete the necessary task of expanding humanity’s presence in the Andromeda galaxy but doesn’t force them to be too involved in the task unless they wish to be.
Bioware says that playing multiplayer will create advantages for the player in the single campaign, however it’ll have no impact on the game’s final ending.
The end game
According to Game Informer, Mass Effect: Andromeda’s ending will leave the door open for future games. As for details on the ending itself, fortunately those are sparse but Bioware do say “it’s different than the trilogy” which wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Fans of Mass Effect who know without a shadow of a doubt they’re going to purchase the game will likely consider pre-ordering the title, especially since it’s been revealed there will be some neat pre-order bonuses on the Origin Store.
No matter which edition of the game is purchased, customers who pre-order will receive Deep Space Explorer Armor, a multiplayer booster pack containing five 50% XP boosters, and a bonus skin for the protagonist’s ship, The Nomad.
The standard edition pre-order price is currently listed as £49.99/US $59.99.
Those who pre-order the Deluxe edition for £54.99/US $69.99 will receive the game and the previously mentioned bonuses as well as more outfits and armours, four unique weapons, a pet space monkey that will be your companion, a digital download of the game’s official soundtrack, and the Multiplayer Deluxe Launch Pack which includes more weapons and equipment for you to use on co-op missions.
Then, there’s the Super Deluxe edition. At £69.99/ US$99.99 it’s much more expensive but it’s also much more deluxe as the name suggests. In this edition you’ll get everything previously mentioned and more multiplayer booster packs which will provide one co-op premium pack every week for a period of 20 weeks to help boost player progress.
It seems like the Super Deluxe edition might only really be worth buying for those who plan to be highly invested in the game’s mulitplayer mode.
As November 7 is N7 day (the official Mass Effect celebration day) fans were certain that new Andromeda details would drop.
EA began teasing announcements on Twitter, posting that we’d learn about the “new characters” and “new worlds” of the game on N7 day:
Adding fuel to the fire, the official Mass Effect Twitter account confirmed that there would be a whole new trailer drop:
As recently as November 1 we were treated to a teaser trailer which involved the Andromeda Initiative, a group tasked with travelling outside the Milky Way galaxy.
In the trailer a narrator, who was later revealed to be the father of the game’s main character, said “The time has come to prepare ourselves for a future beyond the Milky Way; a future that begins 600 years from where we stand, in a time and a place among unknown stars and unseen dangers.“
The cinematic trailer for the game officially dropped on the Bioware YouTube channel and you can watch it right here:
It’s another cinematic trailer and it doesn’t appear to feature much (if any) gameplay, but the visuals are certainly impressive and it confirms that the player is indeed “the new pathfinder.”
Probably the biggest thing to take from this trailer is that it gives us a glimpse of the main enemy of Andromeda, the Kett. As you’d hope/expect they look threatening and frightening.
Fans eager to stay on top of the latest announcements are able to sign up to the Andromeda Initiative on the game’s website which states that “Registered recruits will be among the first contacted to receive critical mission information, special training opportunities, and will also be eligible for reward upon program completion.”