Mass Effect: Andromeda
Mass Effect Andromeda cover.jpeg
Developer(s) BioWare
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts
Director(s) Mac Walters
Producer(s)
  • Fabrice Condominas
  • Mike Gamble
  • Fernando Melo
Designer(s) Ian S. Frazier
Programmer(s) Julien Adriano
Artist(s) Joel MacMillan
Writer(s)
  • John Dombrow
  • Cathleen Rootsaert
  • Chris Schlerf
Composer(s) John Paesano
Series Mass Effect
Engine Frostbite 3
Platform(s)
Release
  • NA: March 21, 2017
  • EU: March 23, 2017
Genre(s) Action role-playing, third-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Mass Effect: Andromeda is an action role-playing video game developed by BioWare Montreal and published by Electronic Arts for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows. The game was released worldwide in March 2017. It is the fourth entry overall in the Mass Effect series and the first since 2012's Mass Effect 3. The game begins within the Milky Way Galaxy during the 22nd century, where humanity is planning to populate new home worlds in the Andromeda Galaxy as part of a strategy called the Andromeda Initiative. The player assumes the role of either Scott or Sara Ryder, an inexperienced military recruit who joins the Initiative and wakes up in Andromeda following a 600-year journey.

Mass Effect: Andromeda has a lighter tone than previous installments in the series, with open world elements and an emphasis on exploration. Many of the series' traditional gameplay elements remain, while others have been modified, such as combat, which is less cover-based and more mobile.

The game received generally mixed reviews from critics. Praise was directed at the game's improved combat and visuals, while it was criticized for its inventory system, side quests, animation, and technical issues. Its story, writing and characters received a polarizing response.

Contents

GameplayEdit

Mass Effect: Andromeda is an action role-playing game in which the player takes control of either Scott or Sara Ryder from a third-person perspective.[1] Both Ryders' appearances and first names can be determined by the player.[2] The appearance of their father, Alec, is automatically adjusted based on the appearance of the Ryder twins.[3] Upon beating the game, a New Game+ is unlocked, which allows the player to restart the game with certain bonuses and switch to playing as the other Ryder, if desired.[4] Players can also choose to continue playing with their existing character and complete unfinished missions.[5]

Unlike previous installments in the Mass Effect series, where players begin each new game by choosing from six different character classes that each have their own unique set of skills, players instead have free rein to assign any skills that they want and build towards a specialty over the course of the game.[6] For example, if the player chooses to invest solely in biotic skills, Ryder will unlock the Adept profile, which results in bonuses related to that play style.[7] Experience points for spending on skills are earned by completing missions, and there is no cap on the number of points that can be earned.[8] Points assigned to each skill can be constantly reallocated so that players can experiment with multiple gameplay approaches without having to restart their games and build up their skills from scratch again.[9]

Similar to its predecessors, the player can interact with characters in Mass Effect: Andromeda using a radial command menu where the player's dialogue options depend on wheel direction.[6] Around the wheel are four types of responses that shape each conversation: heart, head, professional, and casual.[10] In general, conversations are based on agreeing or disagreeing with participants.[11] During some conversations, the player is prompted with an "Impulse Action" that offers an additional choice to what is available on the dialogue wheel.[12] For example, an on-screen prompt to "shoot" might appear and be momentarily selectable.[13] By conversing with non-player characters, Ryder can develop friendships and, in some cases, romantic relationships with them over time.[14] During both dialogue and quest sequences, the player is sometimes tasked with making moral decisions that do not have a clear good/bad distinction but are intended to be more nuanced, marking a departure from the Paragon/Renegade morality system of prior titles in the series.[15]

Navigation and explorationEdit

In Mass Effect: Andromeda, the player explores the Andromeda galaxy by selecting destinations from the inside of a ship called Tempest.[16] By having Ryder stand on the ship's bridge, the player is able to overlook the stars using a galaxy map and seamlessly choose a navigation point.[17] The game features five primary planets and over a dozen hub worlds that connect the player to various quests that need to be completed,[18] such as taking out hostile enemy bases or hideouts,[19] scanning for objects with useful data,[20] or completing loyalty missions for Ryder's squadmates.[21] As quests are completed, the player earns "Andromeda Viability Points", which allow for certain upgrades, and planets increase their "Viability Levels", which allow for the building of outposts.[17] Each planet has a boss that the player may not be able to defeat at first and may need to revisit later once Ryder has sufficiently leveled up.[19]

Planets have open world elements and can be traversed using the Nomad, a six-wheeled, all-terrain vehicle.[22][23] While driving the Nomad, the player has the ability to scan the planet's terrain for resources and then deploy mining drones to collect them.[22] As new areas are explored, the player can find drop zones that serve as fast-travel points and allow for a loadout change.[20] To aid the player in managing quests, the game automatically logs available missions in a journal where the player can select a single quest to make active, which is then marked on the game's user interface.[24] Some planets have environmental hazards that must be accounted for, such as the planet Elaaden, where Ryder must avoid the heat to prevent taking damage.[25] Over the course of the game, the player can find blueprints and resources that are used for crafting weapons and armor.[4] All crafted items can be given customized names.[26]

 
The player can move around the battlefield by jumping into the air using a jetpack.[10] A compass at the top of the screen helps the player navigate around the map.[24] Health bars and skill buttons at the bottom of the screen are used during combat.[27]

CombatEdit

Combat in Mass Effect: Andromeda takes place in real-time, and unlike previous installments in the series, pausing the game to aim or use skills from a menu is no longer a feature.[28] During action sequences, the player has direct control of Ryder from an over-the-shoulder perspective, who can move around the battlefield in a variety of ways, including a side-to-side dash or vertical leap into the air using a jetpack.[10] When the player approaches an object, Ryder will automatically take cover, providing the player with protection in battle.[28] The game encourages players to keep moving during combat with large, open battlefields and enemies that attack from all angles,[10] but also allows for both aggressive and defensive strategies.[27]

Damage is dealt to enemies using gunfire, melee attacks, or specialized skills such as a flamethrower.[29] At all times, three skills are available for use, along with a profile that provides play style bonuses.[27] The player can rotate between up to four combinations of skills and profiles by setting up "favorite slots", which can be accessed on the fly. For example, one slot might have three biotic skills and the Adept profile while another has three combat skills and the Soldier profile.[30] A single skill cannot be deployed continuously; rather, after a skill is used, there is a cool down period during which the skill is disabled but other skills can be used.[31] Some weapons in the game have a finite magazine and require players to replenish ammunition after a certain number of shots, whereas other weapons operate on an overheating system where the player must wait for the weapon to cool down after a certain number of shots.[27]

PlotEdit

Characters and settingEdit

 
Clancy Brown voiced Alec Ryder in the game.[32]

Characters and player decisions from previous installments are not carried over into Mass Effect: Andromeda, and there is no canon ending which is referenced.[33]

Mass Effect: Andromeda begins in 2185, between the events of the second and third games in the original trilogy.[34][35] The four Citadel Council races and the Quarians are planning to populate new home worlds in the Andromeda Galaxy as part of a strategy called the Andromeda Initiative.[36] Each race sends 20,000 citizens on a one-way, 600-year journey to Andromeda aboard their own transportation vessel, called an Ark, and selects a leader, known as a Pathfinder. Once the races arrive, they help build the Nexus, a huge space station that serves as a center of government and diplomacy, a living area, as well as a base of operations for the Pathfinders.[37]

The protagonist of Mass Effect: Andromeda is, depending on player choice, either Scott or Sara Ryder (voiced by Tom Taylorson or Fryda Wolff, respectively). Both Ryder twins are inexperienced recruits who remain a part of the game's plot even if they are not selected as the main character. Their father, Alec Ryder (Clancy Brown), is humanity's Pathfinder, tasked with finding a new home for the species.[32] Squadmates in the game include Alec's second-in-command, Cora Harper (Jules de Jongh), a biotic specialist with intensive commando training; Liam Kosta (Gary Carr), a security expert who specializes in crisis response; Pelessaria "Peebee" B'Sayle (Christine Lakin), an asari gunslinger capable of biotic destabilization; Nakmor Drack (Stanley Townsend), a veteran krogan warrior of the Nakmor clan specializing in close combat; Vetra Nyx (Danielle Rayne), a female turian mercenary who excels in shielding and protection; and Jaal Ama Darav (Nyasha Hatendi), a resistance fighter of the newly-introduced angara race.[38] Ryder's crewmates include Kallo Jath (Garett Ross), a salarian pilot; Suvi Anwar (Katy Townsend), the human resident science officer with PhD's in astrophysics and molecular biology; Lexi T'Perro (Natalie Dormer), an asari medical doctor;[39] and S.A.M., an artificial intelligence that can communicate with all members of the team via implants.[40]

SynopsisEdit

Ryder awakens in the Andromeda Galaxy in 2819, following a 634-year journey on the Ark Hyperion. After having a checkup performed on them by Dr. Lexi T'Perro, Ryder meets SAM, an AI that is in charge of the Hyperion. While the crew are getting ready to awaken Ryder's sibling, the Hyperion strikes a dark energy cloud, knocking out its power temporarily and interrupting Ryder's sibling's wake-up protocol. Ryder, along with Cora Harper, is called to the bridge where their father, Pathfinder Alec Ryder, is arguing with the captain of the Hyperion. Ryder discovers that the planet that they were sent to scout out, Habitat 7, is drastically different from what the long-range scans told them. Ryder gets ready to be deployed as they are part of the Pathfinder team, led by their father. While on the shuttle down to Habitat 7, Ryder gets acquainted with Liam Kosta, a former security officer. The Pathfinder shuttles are suddenly struck by lightning, and Ryder and Liam end up separated from the crew. As they attempt to explore Habitat 7, they come into contact with an unknown hostile alien race, as well as many strange alien structures. After performing a search and rescue for other crew members, Ryder and Liam eventually reunite with Cora, and fend off another alien attack. They later join Alec, who previously went ahead to scout out the monolith. They storm in an alien structure, hoping to be able to shut it down and cease the lightning storm. Ryder and Alec find a hologram inside the structure, which Alec interfaces with to shut down the monolith. A large blast blow the two off an elevated platform, smashing a hole in Ryder's helmet. Alec uses his helmet to save his child, sacrificing his own life in the process. Ryder is later brought back to the Hyperion and saved, and in the process, also merged with SAM. Ryder also learns that Alec, before his death, has made them the new Pathfinder in his place.

The Ark reaches the Nexus only to find it incomplete and no other Ark in sight. The crew find out from the leadership of the Andromeda Initiative that all of the worlds, including Habitat 7, were not viable for living, and the Initiative had been stranded in space for fourteen months, with dangers of supply shortage and civil uprising. As the Pathfinder, Ryder is tasked with finding a suitable world for the colonists of the Initiative, while also finding out what happened to the other Arks. To aid in their mission Ryder is given a spaceship, the Tempest, piloted by Kallo Jath and accompanied by turian militia operative Vetra Nyx. Their first assignment brings them to the planet Eos, now a desert wasteland plagued by intense radiation storms. There, Ryder and the squad meet Nakmor Drack, who is hunting kett forces on the planet for sport; and Peebee, who is researching Remnant ruins on the planet. With Peebee's help, Ryder unlocks a Remnant vault, which houses a terraforming system that gradually begins to repair Eos' ecosystem to more hospitable levels. Ryder also uncovers a star chart pinpointing the location of other worlds believed to hold similar ruins. With the terraforming capabilities that the vaults display, Ryder deduces that these worlds could sustain the Initiative.

Meanwhile, during the quest to settle Andromeda, Ryder discovers via decrypted audio logs that the true project purpose was not only establishing new settlements outside the Milky Way, but in fact escape from the imminent Reaper invasion. Though both Alec Ryder and the Initiative founder, Jien Garson, tried to confirm news about the incoming war and launch arks as soon as possible, it was not successful until receiving help and additional resources from an agent of an unknown party, mentioned only as the mysterious "Benefactor". However, upon the Nexus's arrival to Andromeda, it is discovered that Garson has been murdered to prevent her from discovering the identity of the Benefactor, thereby causing a crisis in the chain of Initiative command. [41]

DevelopmentEdit

 
Mac Walters served as creative director for Mass Effect: Andromeda, following in the footsteps of Casey Hudson, who departed from BioWare in 2014.[42]

Mass Effect: Andromeda was developed by BioWare, the same company that also produced the original Mass Effect trilogy.[43] It was directed by Mac Walters, who previously served as lead writer for the series.[44][45] Casey Hudson, who directed the original trilogy, was promoted to the role of executive producer before leaving BioWare in 2014.[42]

The game required a team of over 200 developers.[46] In contrast to the original trilogy, which was spearheaded by the Edmonton team, Mass Effect: Andromeda was handled by a new team out of Montreal.[47] This was done in order to allow the Edmonton team to begin working on a new intellectual property.[48] BioWare's general manager, Aaryn Flynn, noted that many of the developers working on the project were fans of the original trilogy who came to BioWare specifically to work on a Mass Effect game.[49]

Creative strategyEdit

Early stages of development on Mass Effect: Andromeda began in 2012, following the release of Mass Effect 3.[50][51] One of the first decisions that BioWare made was not to include Commander Shepard, the series' original protagonist, in the game.[52] This strategy allowed them to make changes to some of the series' traditional gameplay elements, such as the old Paragon/Renegade morality system, which they felt was tied to Shepard and would not make sense without the character.[53] Instead of preparing for another trilogy, the company tried to avoid locking themselves into a specific plan with regards to future installments in the franchise, which they felt gave them more creative freedom.[54]

Although BioWare approached Mass Effect: Andromeda as a new beginning and wanted it to feel fresh and new,[55] the company still borrowed elements from previous titles. For example, the ability to drive a vehicle was inspired by the Mako from Mass Effect and the concept of loyalty missions was taken directly from Mass Effect 2.[56] The team also applied lessons that they learned from Mass Effect 3, which featured a controversial ending where some fans didn't feel as though their investment in the series' characters had paid off.[54]

For the first time in the series, BioWare decided to include open world elements and place an emphasis on exploration.[57] As a result, they also decided to lighten the game's tone compared to previous installments in the trilogy so that players could do side quests without feeling as though they were "letting the universe burn".[58] Producer Mike Gamble felt that the game was BioWare's biggest yet in terms of content, but also noted that the company made an effort to make every planet and area memorable.[57] To avoid the trap of making the player do side quests that felt tedious and insignificant–which was a common criticism of their previous title, Dragon Age: Inquisition–the company paid attention to what other games in the industry were doing, such as CD Projekt RED's The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.[59]

Move to FrostbiteEdit

Mass Effect: Andromeda was built using EA DICE's Frostbite 3 engine, which required that BioWare construct all systems, tools, and assets from scratch as the series was previously built on Epic Games' Unreal Engine.[60] BioWare tried to push the boundaries of the software, particularly in the area of character animation, which Mac Walters felt was at an "all-time high".[61] They would sometimes enlist the help of other Frostbite developers to assist them in using the engine. For example, to ensure that the game's driving mechanics handled well, BioWare invited the Need for Speed team to come onsite and offer advice and guidance.[62]

As part of the move to Frostbite, BioWare decided to unite the combat systems of the single and multiplayer modes. In Mass Effect 3, the single-player mode used a system tailored to a slower, cover shooter approach while the multiplayer mode used a system tailored to a faster-paced approach.[28] It was important to BioWare that, for all gameplay modes in Mass Effect: Andromeda, the player stay moving and have a strategy behind every action as opposed to remaining in one location for the entire duration of an encounter.[63] To encourage players to play this way, BioWare built open combat layouts, which required the programming of complex artificial intelligence so that enemies could understand space and know how to flank the player from all angles.[10]

MusicEdit

The original score of Mass Effect: Andromeda was composed by John Paesano, who was previously best known for his work on The Maze Runner films and Daredevil television series.[64] Scenes in the game that take place in nightclubs or other public venues were composed by Edmonton-based DJs and producers.[65]

Marketing and releaseEdit

Mass Effect: Andromeda was announced on June 15, 2015 at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2015.[66] The game was marketed with a wide variety of video content, including teasers,[a] gameplay reveals at various awards shows and conferences,[b] cinematic trailers,[c] and an instructional gameplay series.[d] It was also promoted with a set of action figures by toy company Funko, which consisted of Peebee, Liam Kosta, Jaal, Sara Ryder, and Archon.[74] One aspect of BioWare's marketing strategy was to avoid discussing certain plot points or making too many promises ahead of time, a plan which helped the company avoid disappointing players if they needed to cut content from the game.[49]

Leading to the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda, BioWare set up a promotional website whereby players could participate in a mock training program for the Andromeda Initiative, which included listening to recruitment pitches, reading the history of the Mass Effect universe, or watching mission briefings.[75] Briefings included an orientation video,[76] an introduction to the Arks and Nexus,[77] an overview of the Tempest and Nomad,[78] and dossiers on the game's main crewmembers.[79] As part of the program, BioWare also selected six fans to participate in an authentic astronaut training experience at the European Astronaut Centre.[80] Originally, BioWare planned a beta that would allow players to help test the game's multiplayer mode prior to release, but it was eventually cancelled as the company felt that it was ultimately unnecessary.[81]

Mass Effect: Andromeda was originally scheduled for release in late 2016,[66] but its official release date was eventually moved to March 21, 2017 in North America and March 23 in Europe.[82] In addition to the standard version of the game, players could also purchase a Deluxe Edition, which included in-game single and multiplayer bonuses, as well as a free soundtrack download. A Super Deluxe Edition was also made available, which added further multiplayer bonuses.[83] For a short time, players could also order two versions of a Collector's Edition, one of which included a model of the in-game vehicle, the Nomad, while the second version included a remote-control Nomad.[84] However, both versions of the Collector's Edition did not include the game or any other in-game bonuses.[85]

ReceptionEdit

Reception
Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic (PC) 73/100[86]
(PS4) 70/100[87]
(XONE) 77/100[88]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 6.5/10[89]
EGM 6/10[90]
Game Informer 8/10[91]
Game Revolution      [92]
GameSpot 6/10[93]
GamesRadar      [94]
Giant Bomb      [95]
IGN 7.7/10[96]
PC Gamer (US) 80/100[97]
Polygon 7.5/10[98]
VideoGamer.com 7/10[99]

Pre-releaseEdit

In the weeks leading up to the title's release, Mass Effect: Andromeda received criticism from players regarding the game's characters, facial animations, and rendering; with many noting that during cut-scenes, characters looked robotic and overall poorly animated, ranging from their movements to models. BioWare staff responded to the issue, saying that there were no current plans to improve animations but implied that it was in the realm of possibility for future patches.[100] BioWare later released a patch in April to address these issues, resulting in improved animations in certain moments of the game, in addition to fixing other bugs and technical issues.[101]

Post-releaseEdit

Mass Effect: Andromeda received "mixed or average" reviews for the PlayStation 4 and Windows versions,[86][87] and "generally favorable" reviews for the Xbox One version,[88] according to review aggregator Metacritic. The animations have been pointed out to be sub-par. The story of the game has been described by GameSpot as having problems that "stem more from delivery than from plot", with the vast majority of characters being described as dull. IGN also noted that the plot of Andromeda touched upon some of the same central concepts that were used in the original trilogy.[102] The dialogue agency compared to the previous games has been described as only "superficially different". The combat has been described as an improvement in Mass Effect: Andromeda, though the crafting system has been said[103] to be tedious and made so in part due to the clumsy user interface. Some were disappointed with Andromeda's romance scenes, including a lack of proper relationship cutscenes for several of the companions and player combinations, as well as animation glitches, model issues, and poor graphical fidelity in romance cutscenes themselves.[citation needed]

AccoladesEdit

Year Award Category Result Ref
2016 Golden Joystick Awards 2016 Most Wanted Game Won [104]
Global Game Awards 2016 Most Anticipated Game Won [105]
The Game Awards 2016 Most Anticipated Game Nominated [106]

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  1. ^ E3 2015,[66] N7 Day 2015.[67]
  2. ^ 4K PS4 Pro,[68] CES 2017,[69] The Game Awards.[70]
  3. ^ N7 Day 2016,[71] January 2017,[72] Launch Trailer.[73]
  4. ^ Combat,[27] Exploration,[17] Skills.[30]

External linksEdit