We’ve spent a whole day playing Mass Effect Andromeda and were incredibly pleased with what we’ve seen so far.
But for you, future intrepid Pathfinders, we’ve eked out some gameplay secrets and interesting tidbits to keep that excitement building until launch.
Here are 10 things we learned playing Mass Effect Andromeda:
1. There are still plenty of loading screens
This is by far the biggest Mass Effect game to date and because of that, it seems like we’re going to have to endure plenty of loading screens in Andromeda.
We played the opening mission of the game and then the fourth, but in one hub world even moving from one area to another caused a loading screen.
Heck, even opening a door with your Omnitool takes at least thirty seconds, which feels like a masquerade for loading in the next area without having to have a loading screen.
It’s not a major problem, it’s more of a niggle, but there’s certainly a little frustration to the slowness with which you move between different areas.
2. It’s the biggest Mass Effect yet
Just to highlight just how big the game is and how much dialogue it contains, BioWare gave us this little fact.
“If you just take one member with the fewest lines of dialogue in this game, that’s the same amount of lines that Shepard had in the whole of Mass Effect”, explained Fabrice Condominas, Mass Effect Producer at BioWare. “That gives you a sense of scale for the content that we’ve got here.”
That’s some serious dialogue going on there, especially as Shepard can be quite the Chatty Kathy at times.
3. The Nomad is better than the Mako
One of the least popular parts of the original Mass Effect was the all-terrain vehicle, the Mako. Derided by many fans as boring and tedious, the Mako got destroyed in the second game and became something of a joke. But now the exploratory vehicle is reborn as the Nomad, and it’s a massive improvement.
You can hop in and out of the Nomad at will, making it easy to hop out and get into a firefight or check out some strange building. The Nomad also handles itself much better, with smoother controls and faster movement.
Hopefully driving around in the Nomad will be just as fun on our twelfth planet as it is in the first.
4. The conversation options are far more realistic
The binary morality system of Renegade or Paragon from the original Mas Effect trilogy has been ditched in favour of a new system. BioWare calls it the tonal system, and instead of good, bad or neutral dialogue options you’ll have differently toned replies. There’s usually a more compassionate reply, a thoughtful one, aggressive or casual and being able to choose between them is about making your Ryder a little more human.
“We found that when you’re binary it pushes people to take a stand. A lot of the time they start totally ignoring the other side and just picking the options they want because they just want to be full Paragon, for example,” explained Condominas.
“What we wanted to do with this system was to allow you to feel free to make choices without judgement. It has its limits, but going away from binary systems with way more nuance, suddenly there is no obvious, explicit consequences to that. You don’t really know. What we want is for you to have the freedom to shape the personality you want for your Ryder.”
And from what we’ve played so far, choosing between these options makes you think a lot more about how you want your Ryder to be perceived. It’s not as clear cut as it was before, you don’t feel like you’re having to make as big a decision, but more like lots of smaller ones that you might not realise are having effects on your squadmates.
It’s incredibly clever, even from what little we’ve seen of the story so far and feels a universe away from the Paragon/Renegade days.
5. You can have one-night stands
With the conversation options and morality system getting an upgrade, so does the romance. Many people love the Mass Effect series for the alien romances you can have, or just the fact that it has always actually explored love, lust, sexuality and identity in non-binary ways.
Well, it’s going to get even more modern in Mass Effect: Andromeda as BioWare explains the whole system has been overhauled.
Because of that, it’s going to be a lot easier to get hot and steamy with your squadmates in Andromeda, to the point where one night stands are a strong possibility.
“We’ve tried to nuance the romances a bit. It’s not always about love or pure sexual intercourse,” said Condominas. “There are friendships and your family, but even with the squad you can flirt or have a one night stand. Both characters know it and that’s fine, you can have that kind of thing.”
“It’s more modern and closer to life. This is also because now we have the tone system and the trust relationship system that are a little more complex with more grey zones, it’s easier mechanically to unblock those things.”
Of course, one-night stands aren’t a first for the series – remember Jack? – but it sounds like your romances aren’t going to be too strictly monogamous.
6. You won’t unlock all the loyalty missions
Mass Effect Andromeda sees the return of the Loyalty Missions from Mass Effect 2, where you unlock side content that’s specifically tied to the relationship you have with certain squad members. The better your relationship, the more likely you are to be asked to help with a special mission. They’re usually much more personal than other side content and are a great way to form a strong bond with a character.
However, thanks to the new tone system that’s building a more advanced relationship system, it’s going to be a lot harder to keep everyone on your side all the time.
That means you’ll probably have to decide early on where your allegiances lie as BioWare revealed that you won’t be able to unlock all of the Loyalty Missions in Andromeda.
7. The Ryder family is complicated
Being the Pathfinder isn’t an easy job, so you’ve got to respect the patriarch of the Ryder family. But that doesn’t mean you have to like him, as shown in the opening. The elder Ryder is leading Andromeda’s search for new world’s alongside his children, and there’s some definite tension in the family.
Alec Ryder is quick to give orders and short on compassion, though what else would you expect from a grizzled N7 veteran? By the way, he’s played well by veteran actor Clancy Brown, famous as both the voice of Mr. Krabs from Spongebob Squarepants and Superman’s Lex Luthor.
The relationship can get even more strained based on your conversation choices during the Mass Effect Andromeda’s opening. And no matter which of the siblings you choose, your first expedition in Andromeda leaves your situation with your father even more complicated.
8. Jetpacks are a game changer
Mass Effect Andromeda’s on-foot gameplay feels traditional in the opening moments but gets much more complex once you’re introduced to your new jetpack. The ability to briefly fly through the air is a massive shift in both exploration and combat.
The levels are much more vertically designed now. Areas that once seemed unreachable now just take a carefully timed jump. Not to mention that you can now hop over deadly chasms, opening up world design to some substantial vistas.
The jetpack is also quite useful in combat. You can use it to quickly dash between cover, get to higher ground for an ambush, or even float in an advantageous (but vulnerable) position. After enjoying the freedom of the jetpack, it would be hard to go back to the gameplay of the original trilogy.
9. Cover is a lot more dynamic
Speaking of the shootouts, BioWare has learned a few lessons on shooter gameplay. Most importantly, the developers have figured out an improved approach to cover.
Instead of hopping into cover with a command, Ryder automatically gets into cover when near a surface that works. It makes the shootouts more dynamic and easier to navigate. The dynamic cover works even better in tandem with the jetpack letting you easily race between spots.
10. There are big beasts out in the wild
The Mass Effect games have had big bosses before, but they’re usually for special occasions. You wouldn’t come across some hulking beast in the middle of a random fight. But that all changes in the wildlands of Andromeda.
In our first real chance at exploration outside of the intro, a shootout with pirates is interrupted by a couple of giant creatures. They started battling both sides in the fight, which leaves players with an interesting choice. Do you attack this huge monster and hopefully kill it for loot? Or do you run away and avoid a potential death?
That new level of risk/reward action adds some extra tension to the standard fights. And who knows just how much of an impact those beasts will have on Andromeda’s multiplayer?