Attention, Pathfinders – Mass Effect has re-entered orbit. It is time to return to the vast reaches of space in search of a new home for humanity.
BioWare’s last instalment in the action-adventure RPG space series was Mass Effect 3 back in 2012. The game concluded a trilogy and left many fans wondering where the series would go next.
Fortunately, five years later we finally have an answer. Mass Effect Andromeda (MEA) takes players away from the Milky Way, heading to the Andromeda Galaxy instead. Playing as either Sara or Scott Ryder, it is your job to join ranks with your father Alec – the lead Pathfinder – and scout new planets in the Andromeda Galaxy to find humanity’s next homeworld.
Being an entirely new galaxy, BioWare recognised it was essential to retain the feel and the essence of the original trilogy.
“As a franchise, we’ve never wanted Mass Effect to be realistic – we just want it to be credible,” offers producer Fabrice Condominas. “The distinction between those two is important. Of course, we’ve added our own races and politics and things like that, but we do spend a lot of time and research on what the atmospheres and habitats of these planets would be like, to make them as plausible as possible.”
This level of environmental detail in MEA – now powered by EA’s Frostbite engine – is immediately noticeable. We had the chance to go hands-on for a few hours last month, and the graphics on the planets’ surfaces and in the character models are truly impressive. Condominas notes the switch to the more powerful Frostbite was a welcome one.
“We had definitely reached our limits within the old engine [Unreal], and with Frostbite being shared amongst the other EA development teams, it meant we could use assets and animations from their games. But, being one of the first RPGs on the engine [BioWare’s Dragon Age: Inquisition used it first], it was also something new and exciting.”
It wouldn’t be a Mass Effect game without the fast-paced combat. You’ll have no limit to the ways you can dispose of your enemies in Andromeda – a fact we found out first hand. MEA disposes with the class system, instead allowing players to assign their skills through one of three perk trees – combat, tech, and biotics. This, according to Condominas, removed the “restrictions” placed on players in the previous games. These skills include everything from grenades to flamethrowers, and that’s without even touching on the multitude of sniper rifles, pistols and other weapons you will have at your disposal. The most appealing part of MEA’s combat is its reliance on mobility, with the dash and cover system meaning you’re either on the move or dead.
You won’t have to take on the new alien baddies alone – you still have your trusty squad with which to boldly go, and of course the Mako (your trusty vehicle) is making a return (as the Nomad). Cultivating relationships and character stories has always been a cornerstone of the Mass Effect franchise, and this game is certainly no different.
If you still aren’t sold, Condominas’s take on the Mass Effect games will change your mind: “If you like space, if you’re keen on emotional bonds and character relationships, if what matters to you is creativity and discovery, if you love Star Trek, you’ll love Mass Effect.”