Last week we looked back at ten years of Mass Effect and today, one week before the official release of Mass Effect: Andromeda, we look forward to what’s to come in a new game and a new galaxy.
14-03-2017 - by Iris Wijers
Mass Effect: Andromeda departs from the Milky Way and takes place in the Andromeda galaxy. The story of Mass Effect: Andromeda technically begins during Mass Effect 2, when a group of humans sets out to find a new home for humanity in the Andromeda cluster. The trip to the Andromeda Galaxy takes a whopping 600 years, however, putting the events in the game roughly 600 years after the events in Mass Effect 2. You play as a pathfinder waking up after these 600 years of cryostasis on a quest to find a new home for humanity. During this quest, you’ll have to discover planets, make peace with the other aliens making Andromeda home and fight a new nemesis hell-bent on stopping you called the Kett.
Mass Effect: Andromeda will be the first Mass Effect game without Shepard, and the new character will certainly have to work hard to rival the legendary status that Shepard has for many a Mass Effect player. The character taking up this task is Ryder. Like Shepard, Ryder can either be male or female, but this time something interesting is the case: the characters are twins, and both will be in the game regardless of whether you pick Scott or Sara. Alec Ryder, the father of the twins will also feature in the game.
Both Sara and Scott are regular recruits for the Andromeda Initiative, who you will guide as they grow into a hero. This is a departure from Shepard’s story, who started off in Mass Effect 1 as a character with a heroic past. Because Sara and Scott are both in the game, their backstories differ slightly: both were trained by their father and joined the alliance, but Scott was assigned to a military outpost, while Sara served a support role for Prothean researchers prior to being recruited into alliance military. How much the choice for Sara or Scott influencers how people interact with you, is unknown.
As the goal of the game is to find a new home for humanity, exploration is an important part of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Your travels through the galaxy take place in your brand-new ship: The Tempest. The Tempest is a state-of-the art scout ship focused on exploration rather than combat. As such, it doesn’t have a gun, but comes equipped with scanners and research labs. Inside the cargo bay you’ll find a good friend: The Nomad, the big brother of the dreaded, yet beloved, Mako from Mass Effect 1.
Exploration in Mass Effect: Andromeda takes place via the world map. Over a 100 planets can be discovered, and a handful can be landed on. A handful of planets might not seem like a lot, but when you realize that some planets have a map bigger than the entirety of Inquisition, you’ll quickly realize the scale of this game. Once you find one of the handcrafted planets that you can explore, it’s up to you to scout out the planet, help out the settlers already there and increase the viability of the planet. You don’t have to do this on foot, as you can call down the Nomad to take a drive through the untamed landscapes of Andromeda.
Exploring planets and making them more viable by helping settlers and clearing threats, will allow you to upgrade the nexus and wake up more settlers, which will give you perks to make your travels easier. Exploring a planet will also yield crafting materials and unlock blueprints, enabling you to augment your armor or weapons. You can also use materials and blueprints to upgrade the nomad, making your exploration just a bit more comfortable.
The galaxy would be an awfully empty place without a good crew to cruise it with, and luckily you don’t have to explore the galaxy alone. Mass Effect: Andromeda comes with six squad mates that can accompany you to planets, and some additional crew to keep your spaceship, the Tempest, up and running. Like in Mass Effect 2, the squad mates come with loyalty missions for you to complete and get close to them. Let’s meet the team!
Lieutenant Cora Harper
Cora is one of the first squad mates you will meet in the game. She joined the alliance to train her biotic talents, fighting in an Asari commando unit before eventually ending up Alec Ryder’s second-in-command in the Andromeda Initiative. Cora can kick ass with biotics or blast aliens in the face with her shotgun. She’s professional and loyal and will make an asset to any team. Her last name, Harper, is the same as the Illusive Man’s, which opens a world of speculation about this squad mate.
Liam Kosta was handpicked by Alec Ryder for the Andromeda initiative by Alec Ryder due to his unique set of skills. Liam originally studied engineering, but left university to become a cop instead. He was a crisis response specialist before being recruited into the Andromeda initiative. Liam is an idealist, willing to take risks for what he believes in. Liam boasts a headstrong fighting style, using his jump jet to get in range of his enemies and take them on in close-range combat with his omni-blades.
Pelessaria B’Sayle, commonly referred to as Peebee is your Asari squad member for Andromeda. She’s described as ‘pathologically independent’ daredevil with a thirst for adventure. For Peebee the Milky Way is old news, and she wants something new, doing everything she can to get on the Andromeda initiative. She’s a gunslinger and biotic destabilizer, relying on her sidewinder pistol to take down her enemies.
Of course your crew in Andromeda would contain a Krogan. Where would we be without these giant two-legged wrecking balls? Nakmor Drack is over 1400 years old, making him one of the oldest characters in any Mass Effect game. Drack has been a pirate, mercenary and a soldier in his life, and now adds explorer to that list in the Andromeda galaxy. ‘Drack the Nak’ as he is at times referred to, prefers to engage his enemies up close with his shotgun and with a body like that; who can blame him? Drack joined the voyage to Andromeda with his own clan. How he ends up in Ryder’s squad is unknown, but we’re keen to find out.
Mass Effect: Andromeda marks the first game that we can have a female Turian as our squad member. Vetra has managed to survive in a world of smugglers and mercenaries and is cunning, adaptable and loyal to a fault to her friends and family. She uses an assault rifle to take on her enemies and shields herself with her heavily upgraded custom armor.
Jaal Ama Garav
Jaal is an Angara, a new race living in the Andromeda Galaxy. He’s a member of the Angaran resistance against the Kett. Jaal comes from a high-ranking Angara family and is conflicted about his place in the resistance and the universe. Jaal is described as very ‘heart on the sleeve, cards on the table’, like many Angara are. He joins up with Ryder and the tempest team to foster trust with the Angara, and comes to see the Tempest as his own home in the process. His fighting style is described as ‘resistance fighter’, but his skillset or weapon of choice is not yet known.
The rest of the crew
Aside from the squad members, the Tempest needs a crew to function while you’re off stomping on planets or fraternizing with your squad members. Jallo Jath is your Salarian pilot and Suvi is your science officer. Lexi is your Asari doctor voiced by Nathalie Dormer and Gill makes sure the Tempest doesn’t fall apart in space
A staple of Bioware games is the interaction between the main character and the people they meet. In previous Mass Effect games choices and reactions were color-coded as either Paragon or Renegade. Mass Effect: Andromeda will move away from the paragon/renegade system, feeling it was tied to Shepard too much and took away an aspect of free choice from the game. Instead the dialogue options appear to be ‘head’, ‘heart’, ‘professional’ and ‘casual’. This dialogue system won’t lock players in a renegade or paragon playthrough like the old system tended to, making the roleplaying element to the game stronger.
Another key element of the Mass Effect franchise are the relationships you form with your squad members. Loyalty missions make their return in Mass Effect: Andromeda, allowing you to bond with your squad members and strengthen your relationship with them. You can also once again enter a romance and according to Bioware, the romance system is less formulaic. Some characters will be easy to woo, others will resist you for a while, or altogether depending on your gender or your actions. Some characters will want a long-term relationship, while others are perfectly happy with a one-time swing. Some romancable characters will be members of your crew, others won’t.
Two romance options have been confirmed for male Ryder: Cora and Peebee. Who Sara can romance is yet unknown (though Peebee has mentioned an ex-girlfriend). Same-sex romances are confirmed for Scott and Sara, as well as alien romances. For the authentic experience, you probably shouldn’t look up who you can romance before booting up the game. As still hurting from Cassandra breaking my heart. however, I won’t be following my own advice.
With all the talk of exploration and chatting up squad members, you’d almost forget that third-person shooting is still an important part of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Bioware has released a series of videos explaining how the combat and skill systems work in Mass Effect: Andromeda, and it promises to give us more freedom than ever.
Weapons and skills
Combat in Andromeda is fast-paced, allowing you to zoom around the battlefield with your jump yet to close in on enemies or avoid attacks. You can use weapons from one of five categories to take on your enemies: pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, assault rifles and melee weapons. Yes, Mass Effect: Andromeda has swords. Weapons are either ammo, laser, or plasma based with different weapon types functioning in different ways: laser weapons overheat but require no ammo, and plasma weapons are slow but heat-seeking.
There’s also three types of skills: combat, tech and biotic. Combat skills make your use of weapons more efficient and unlocks the use of additional weapons. Tech skills equip you with skills like energy drain and tactical cloak. Biotic skills allow you to control the battlefield, throwing your enemies around and setting your team up for combos. Skills can be upgraded to become more effective, much like in Mass Effect 3. You can have three of these skills in your loadout at a time, but you can switch between your loadout via profiles.
In addition to the dozens of skills available in Mass Effect: Andromeda, you’ll unlock eight profiles during the game. These profiles give bonusses to certain skills and the more skills you unlock for a certain profile, the bigger these boosts will be. The adept profile, for instance, powers up biotic skills. The adept profile can rank up as you get more biotic skills, making the boosts bigger.
There’s no need to pick one profile and tie yourself to a certain playstyle, however, as you can switch between profiles and skills on the fly to adapt to the flow of combat. This is done via favorites, which allow you to map three skills and one profile to an easily accessible slot (with a maximum of four slots). You can swap freely between these favorite sets during combat, giving you access to twelve skills during any combat scenario. Start off with a favorite loadout suitable for sniping, and switch to a close-combat suited one when your enemies close in.
Your squad mates are good for more than offering companionship and livening up the Tempest; they can kick ass in combat as well. Each squad mate has up to three active and two passive skills, allowing you to customize your squad mates and allow them to fulfill a variety of roles. You can order your squad around and work with them to use combos for devastating damage.
Mass Effect: Andromeda will be out in a week; March 21st. In Europe, we’ll have to wait for two agonizing days after that, with the Europe release being March 23rd. The game is available for Xbox, PC and PS4. You can pre-order your Xbox One version or get your PSN credit here at Startselect. You can already pre-load March 21st, so with a digital pre-order, you’ll be able to start exploring Andromeda as soon as the game releases in Europe. What are you still waiting for?