We are a few days away from the launch of Mass Effect Andromeda and what could possibly be the biggest game launch this year. Andromeda is the fourth game in the Mass Effect series and will the first not to follow the journey of Commander Shepard and the crew of the Normandy, in fact this will be the first game not to be set in our galaxy(hence the name Andromeda).
Along with a whole new cast, a new ship and new setting comes new game mechanics and features so I’m going to break down a few of the new things we can expect from this much awaited release.
Mass Effect Andromeda follows the Andromeda initiative which aims to colonize several golden worlds in the Helios cluster of the Andromeda galaxy by sending a gigantic space station known as the Nexus along with several Ark’s carrying colonists in cryogenic sleep. You take the role of either Scott or Sarah Ryder who is the child of the initiatives Path Finder, a skilled explorer who will lead the colonization effort in the new galaxy.
The game is set roughly 600 years after the events of the original trilogy and starts as you are awoken from cryo sleep. Quickly the crew realizes the so called golden worlds aren’t golden at all and you face a race against time to find not only a habitable world to settle on but also allies as you’ve lost communication with the other arks during the 600 year commute.
If that wasn’t enough you encounter a hostile alien race known as the Kett who, like you are not native to Andromeda and by the looks of it don’t like you looking into their business.
Along the with the main story you will of course also have the many side quests to keep you occupied and the return of crew loyalty missions like the ones in Mass Effect 2, a welcome addition if I do say so myself.
The Mass Effect series has been very good at refining the combat in each new outing. Mass Effect one was a clunky shooter with heavy RPG elements, Mass Effect 2 dropped a good portion of the RPG elements but greatly refined the cover based shooting and then Mass Effect 3 managed to strike a balance between the two along with better level design and close quarters action. This ended up making Mass Effect 3 a rival to any cover based shooter the market to throw at it.
In keeping with that tradition Mass Effect Andromeda has added several improvements to the combat system most notably by adding a jump jet to your character which allows for faster movement, defensive maneuvering, more vertical level design and even a platforming element not seen in previous series entries. Bioware has also thrown away character classes allowing you to change your character and skills mid battle giving you access to combat, Biotic and tech abilities throughout the game.
Andromeda also changes the series dialogue and paragon/renegade system. Bioware has gotten rid of the classic renegade vs paragon morality system in favour of what they like to call a more natural and fluid style of conversation. I for one welcome this as it should allow us to role play our character to our liking a bit more, saying that I do still hope there will be a reporter we can punch…
Following the story the aim of the game will be to settle your colonists on a habitable planet while completing the construction of the Nexus. This is accomplished by exploring a handful of planets to exploit for resources and allies which allows you to build up the Nexus and wake up more colonists from cryo sleep.
Andromeda also boasts the return of the horde mode style multiplayer from Mass Effect 3 which turned out to be a very welcome surprise success. In the past couple of weeks Bioware has released plenty of gameplay videos showing how the multiplayer works and how it ties into the main game.
Multiplayer will be available from the start of the game and can be accessed from a console on the Tempest. You can create a character from many Milkyway species and some Andromeda species, you can customise them with weapons, powers and then choose boosts to take into a match with you. These boosts will also be available as micro transactions in the game.
The matches are your typical horde mode style team up with three other players where you fight increasingly difficult and numerous waves of enemies. Enemies can range from the hostile species you encounter in Andromeda to the more known Milky Way species. At the end of a match you’ll gain experience for your multiplayer character and gain resources you can take back into the single player campaign with you.
Bioware have said that five maps will be available at launch.
P.S Addressing the recent animations issues
Mass Effect Andromeda has been playable for a few days now on Origin and EA access and there have been mixed feelings about the first ten or so hours of the game. Now I know I write reviews myself but in terms of listening to others unless i’ve heard a game has been unbelievably awful I like to take reviews with a large pinch of salt. You never know what sort of preconceptions a reviewer has taken into his or her writing with them for example Mass Effect is quite simply my favourite gaming franchise ever so when I write my Andromeda review I’ll be working extra hard to stay objective and unbiased.
In terms of what has already been said about the first few hours of a massive role playing game I can only say this. Bioware has a tendency to start of their games slow and the incredibly well received Dragon Age Inquisition did exactly that along with the first Mass Effect which until you took command of the Normandy several hours in was one hell of a grind to get through. Basically i’m saying with a launch like this and a game with Andromeda’s pedigree it might be best to try for yourself and make your own opinion.
Then we come to the facial animations controversy which has both become a huge joke to the launch of the game and a sad state of game development considering Andromeda has been in development for five years. I have played the preview and unfortunately some of the animations are simply not up to scratch especially when it comes to the human characters, the issues seem not to be as evident with the alien species in the game.
I have previously said that Bioware using its own in house Frostbite engine would be a big plus for Andromeda but that turns out to be a double edged sword in practice as while the environments look bloody stunning the engine has taken its toll on animations. Bioware has said that the day one patch already announced will not fix the animation issues one will more than likely be incoming in a later patch.
Again this is not the first time issues like this happen on Biowares watch I mean Mass Effect 1 had major issues along with plenty of bugs, same goes for Dragon Age Inquisition that had plenty of issues at launch. The animation issues do not break the game and if i’m honest I got use to them a few hours into the preview so I personally do not think it will break the experience maybe some immersion for the first few hours.