As Mass Effect: Andromeda‘s March 21 launch draws closer, let’s take a look at five of the biggest changes the game is introducing to the series. Developer Bioware has made it pretty clear that this new game will stand on its own. The game isn’t meant to continue a previous story and it will not be part of a trilogy. Players will start their adventure and end it, all within the same game, and that alone is a big change.
But what else is new? Let’s dive into it.
Mass Effect: Andromeda takes place in a galaxy far, far away — literally. As you can probably guess from the game’s title, that galaxy is the Andromeda Galaxy, roughly 2.5 million light years from Earth. Along with this brand new galaxy comes a whole new adventure. The story of the original three games revolved around Alliance Navy Commander Shepard. Shepard’s task was to protect the Milky Way Galaxy from waves of invasions: first the Collectors and then the Reapers.
Andromeda‘s characters are not war heroes, but rather space explorers with nominal military training. Their goal as Pathfinders is simple: Locate a suitable planet within the Andromeda Galaxy and colonize it. Founded in the year 2176, the Andromeda Initiative has the goal of finding a new home for many species. Not for fear of extinction, but instead “to boldly go,” as it were.
In other words, we are the alien invasion this time around. But unlike the Reapers they left behind, the Pathfinders’ goal is not total annihilation, but instead a peaceful co-existence.
Gone is the Paragon and Renegade system of the original Mass Effect trilogy, where your choices, while not always black-and-white, often felt that way. Players of Mass Effect will recall feeling forced to make specific dialog choices, despite how the character may have felt about a particular situation. Loyalty missions played into this system as well. Not picking the correct answers would cause a companion to become unreliable or distant, even to the point of getting killed or leaving the game.
Mass Effect: Andromeda does away with all that. Instead of two choices, there are four. And there are no wrong answers. Sure, not everybody will appreciate your incredible wit or insatiable sarcasm, but in the end, nobody walks away. At least not permanently. Companions will not lose face (or their heads) if a player decides to not tend to their every whim. Yes, loyalty missions are still important, especially for a budding romance, but they are no longer a critical part of the main story. This time, a player’s choices will truly determine the overall personality of their character as the story progresses.
The Combat System
So many things have changed with the combat system that it’s hard to fit them all in a couple of paragraphs. Instead, we’ll briefly cover the main differences.
One of the most noticeable changes for veteran players is mobility. The addition of the Jet Pack gives the player a freedom not seen in previous Mass Effect games. Use the Jet Pack to quickly move out of harm’s way or briefly hover in the air for a better angle of attack.
Along with this is a new cover system. Cover is completely dynamic this time around. No more awkward dodging and rolling about, unintentionally (or intentionally?) shoving your companions into the line of fire.
Beyond these, Mass Effect: Andromeda shakes up what have been some of the core foundations of the series. Gone are class restrictions for single-player, replaced with class ability loadouts that can be swapped on the fly. Also gone are weapon type restrictions and tactical pausing. Melee weapons are returning, but this time they will be available in both single-player and multiplayer modes.
So while companions will still have specific roles and preferred weapons, the player now has an amazing amount of freedom when it comes to playstyle.
Crafting and Mining
Crafting is another new addition to the franchise. We don’t have all the details on how crafting will work as of yet, but we do know that players will be able to make and upgrade weapons. They will discover blueprints during gameplay and then create the items on their ship. There may also be blueprints for other items as well.
Mineral resources are necessary for crafting and the method to obtain them has changed. Players will still be able to explore anomalies from their ship and send probes as before. They will, however, do a majority if not all of the gathering themselves, using an upgraded Omni-tool to scan and collect mineral elements while on a planet’s surface. Gameplay videos have also shown repurposed Remnant technology that may also have this ability.
So what does it take to travel over 2.5 million light years over a period of over 600 years? To carry and service thousands of travelers, the Andromeda Initiative acquired a small space station called the Nexus. Traveling with the Nexus are multiple smaller, yet still massive ARK ships, each housing a mass of cryo-napping sapients of a specific species. Good thing there is plenty of parking space in space.
The smaller, more mobile portals of transportation used by our Pathfinder are the Tempest, a Mass Effect technology spacecraft, and the 6-wheel Nomad ND1. While every Mass Effect game to date has had vehicles, one noticeable difference is that every vehicle also had weapons. This seems appropriate since the Mass Effect trilogy was primarily based on military warfare.
Mass Effect: Andromeda certainly has an element of warfare, but that is not its primary goal. The Tempest and the Nomad are built strictly for exploring, traveling long distances on less fuel and with no heavy artillery to lug along. In fact, refueling our smaller spacecraft is also a thing of the past. No more sudden unavoidable trips to the fueling station, due to Joker’s obvious inability to pay attention to a gas gauge. (Ok, so maybe that was our job, still blaming the pilot.)
All in all, Mass Effect: Andromeda is still one hundred percent a Mass Effect game. There will still be missions, companions, and battles to win. Bioware is well known for their ability to take us on an emotional rollercoaster ride. Mass Effect: Andromeda likely won’t be any different — just with a lot of new twists and turns.