Bioware and EA have finally confirmed a release date for their upcoming 'sequel' to the Mass Effect Trilogy. Mass Effect: Andromeda will be released on the 21st of March in the USA, with the rest of the world catching up on the 23rd. This will be the first game in the series in five years as of the release date. So, inevitably, fans of the franchise are chomping at the bit, the team at Cult Geek certainly are. With this in mind, we decided it would be a good idea to round up what we actually know about the game so far.
No More Shephard
That's right - no more of that dancing we all know and love. Shephard and the team have been left behind and we have a brand new team to explore with. The game takes place 600 years after the ME: Trilogy and the human race has vacated the Milky Way for the Andromeda galaxy. The player can control a female or male character - Sara or Scott - known as Ryder. It has been confirmed that the two are siblings so will both feature in the story, although the one you control cannot be changed. The child of an N7 agent, Ryder takes control of the starship, Tempest and is given the role of 'Pathfinder'; tasked with exploring the galaxy for new planets for the human race to colonize. The plot hasn't been expanded on very much, in fact, at this stage very little has been leaked. We know that there will be a new 'bad guy' race named the 'Kett'. The Kett have been created to look fearsome and are completely different from what we have seen in Mass Effect before, the development team have also played with making the Kett look more human (especially their eyes) so as a player we can feel more empathetic towards them.
If you're anything like me, you're sad that you won't be seeing the beloved companions from the ME: Trilogy in the new game. But, we have been shown glimpses of the new companions that we can look forward to. The first is Liam, the best friend of the protagonist, he is supposedly a young, idealistic ex-cop (possibly filling Garrus' boots). Second is PeeBee, an Asari with a "sense of adventure" and according to the game's creative director, Mac Walters, with her sharp tongue and apathetic view towards authority, she is very different to Liara from the ME: Trilogy. We can assume that romance will be in abundance as always in Bioware's games. There has been hints that the romance will be less clean cut as the previous trilogy, with some just wanted a quick... rather than a long lasting romance. That's the characters themselves, rather than the players. Ahem. There may even be some rejection occurring in the galaxy, making some players feel right at home (we've all been there, myself included).
Out with the Old
Andromeda has done away with the Paragon/Renegade elements of Mass Effect, and has instead turned to "shades of grey". The Paragon/Renegade system is was very strict on being GOOD or BAD, and was a core part of how a player shaped their own version of Shepherd. The new "shades of grey" system should give players a bit more room to choose for themselves and will create different variations of Ryder for each person.
Mako returns! Okay, so it’s actually called the Nomad this time. But it's definitely Mako-esque. The difference being that there will no longer be weapons on the buggy, and it will purely be used for exploration. Bioware called on the team from Need for Speed to help make the buggy easier to control and more fun to use.
Bioware have changed the way the combat works in each Mass Effect game. The series has altered the gameplay slightly in each title, with Mass Effect one featuring a hybrid of more traditional 'click & kill' and aiming mechanics, while the later games introduced a cover based system, that felt very familiar to other games such as Gears of War. Long gone are the 'cookie cutter' templates of the previous games, as Mass Effect: Andromeda does away with the starting class templates, and instead allows players the freedom to develop their own class by choosing specific talents and skills along the way.
"From what we've seen, the team have pulled out all the stops to utilise Frostbite 3's features as much as possible in ME: Andromeda"
Mass Effect 3 was built and developed on using Unreal 3, however, EA have decided to move away from this engine, and instead use their in-house, and arguably very well received engine, Frostbite 3. While given the developers more creative freedom, the engine also boasts an impressive array of graphical fidelity, particularly where particles are concerned. This has been used to make gun-fights and explosions give that additional 'wow' factor in games such as Battlefield 1 and Star Wars: Battlefront, and introduce visually pleasing and impacting spell effects in Dragon Age: Inquisition. From what we've seen, the team have pulled out all the stops to utilise Frostbite 3's features as much as possible in ME: Andromeda, allowing for molten landscapes, barren planets, and sprawling city sights to fully capture the players imagination, and further their immersion into this bold new endeavor.
The marketing for Andromeda seems to be very vague. There has been little word on story, with the focus from Bioware being the technical development. Bioware and EA partnered with Sony in September at a Playstation 4 event to show off a small amount of Andromeda gameplay. The company then made a similar partnership with Nvidia, showing another gameplay trailer at CES 2017. Both the Playstation event and CES were there to show off the latest hardware so it seemed strange that Bioware had chosen these two events to release videos. Bioware's General Manager, Aaryn Flynn said that the company likes the “idea of playing around with the new hardware… All that stuff really makes Mass Effect come to life in ways we never had before.”. They seem to be embracing the PC community, with its release occurring at the same time as Xbox One and Playstation 4.
As a player, we only know vague details of where the game takes place and a few names of potential companions, but Bioware seem to be keeping their cards close to their chest. In recent times vague marketing has been a certain developers downfall, but Bioware seem to be just letting the Mass Effect brand name speak for itself and thus the game will develop its own ‘hype’.
Will you be joining the Mass Effect franchise in the unknown when it launches on the 21st March? Let us know in the comments below.