How does the Mass Effect series hold up without the guidance of a Shepard?

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The answer – pretty darn well. Bioware have returned with Mass Effect after the trilogy came to a close with 3 in 2012. Five years later, Mass Effect Andromeda takes us to a whole new galaxy. Specifically, the Heleus Cluster in the Andromeda Galaxy, roughly 600 years after the events of Mass Effect 3.

Taking over from your father in the role of Pathfinder, you play as your choice of a male or female Ryder, scouring the galaxy for a new homeworld for humanity: no pressure.

The first thing you notice about Andromeda is how huge it feels. A noticeable departure from the arguably-more linear earlier instalments, Andromeda encourages exploration, falling only just short of a true open-world game; you can’t go everywhere, after all.

Your home ‘base’ is the Tempest, your ship, where the majority of your crew are housed. From the bridge, you can select which planet you’d like to fly to, and take on the galaxy as you wish. You may even find that there are some areas you can’t tackle at your current level and will have to come back for later. There is a definite illusion of freedom, even if there are some areas you can’t reach.

Finding a suitable homeworld for mankind involves negotiations with the locals who already live there. These locals may be glad to have a chat, may be slightly more reluctant, or may need a bit of ‘persuasion’. It wouldn’t be a Mass Effect game without the foundation of relationship building, and Andromeda is, of course, no different.

Your interactions with both planet natives and those aboard your ship will influence how your story plays out and how your Ryder is received by other people. The conversation wheel returns, but with less obvious morally good/bad choices, leaving you with an ultimately heavier conscience.

Of course, it won’t just be other AI you will interact with, but also the world around you. Your character now has access to a handy scanner, that Ryder can use to scan nearby environments – or corpses – to find out interesting info. It turns out to be extremely helpful – make sure to whip it out as much as possible.

The vastness of the game we mentioned earlier also applies to Andromeda’s combat. More often than not, you will find yourself engaging enemies in almost arena-like areas, with both plenty of cover to hide behind and an encouragement for staying mobile. Ryder will automatically enter cover if they go near something that can provide it, but you’d be kidding yourself if that’s how you’re taking on battles. It’s genuinely a ball to use the new abilities and fly around the battlefield and pelt enemies left, right, and centre.

These new abilities are thanks to the abolishment of ye olde class system; instead of the pre-set classes of the original Mass Effect trilogy, you can now choose which abilities you want to assign to your character, only adding to the freedom Bioware have clearly injected into Andromeda.

These new abilities reinforce the emphasis on mobility in Andromeda. From your newfound abilities as a Ryder, to the ability to move aboard the Tempest and the planets, the inclusion of the Nomad is a no-brainer. Those familiar with the original trilogy will remember the Mako as your dune buggy, and now you’ve got an upgraded version to cruise around in. It’s a fun little kart that can sometimes be temperamental to control, but is an overall helpful addition.

Mass Effect Andromeda is a welcome return to the Mass Effect series, paying its respects to the fundamentals of the franchise whilst simultaneously crafting an accessible entry point for newcomers. The character interactions and relationship building are a constant reminder of the universe you’re in, and the quick-witted Ryder is a welcome new protagonist. Andromeda is a fun voyage to a new frontier.