Mass Effect: Andromeda

video game
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Mass Effect Andromeda cover.jpeg
Developer(s) BioWare
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts
Director(s) Mac Walters[1]
Producer(s)
  • Fabrice Condominas
  • Mike Gamble
Designer(s) Ian Frazier
Artist(s) Joel MacMillan
Writer(s) Chris Schlerf
Composer(s) John Paesano[2]
Series Mass Effect
Engine Frostbite 3
Platform(s)
Release date(s)
  • 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 upcoming action role-playing video game developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts for Xbox One, Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4. The game is scheduled for release in North America on March 21, 2017 and in Europe on March 23. It will be the fourth entry overall in the Mass Effect series and the first since Mass Effect 3 (2012). 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 Sara or Scott Ryder, an inexperienced military recruit who joins the Initiative and wakes up in Andromeda following a 600-year journey.

Mass Effect: Andromeda will have a lighter tone than previous installments in the series. It has open world elements and places an emphasis on exploration. Many of the series' traditional gameplay elements will remain, while others have been modified, such the combat, which is less cover-based and more mobile. While BioWare may develop a sequel in the future, the company has not made any official announcements regarding their plans for the series going forward.

Contents

GameplayEdit

Mass Effect: Andromeda is an action role-playing game in which the player takes control of either Sara or Scott Ryder from a third-person perspective.[3] Both Ryders' appearances and first names can be determined by the player.[4] 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.[5] For example, if the player chooses to invest solely in biotic skills, Ryder will unlock the Adept profile, which grants bonuses tailored to that play style.[6] 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.[7] Upon beating the game, a New Game+ is unlocked, which allows the player to restart the game with certain bonuses and switch to using the other Ryder, if interested.[8]

Navigation and explorationEdit

In Mass Effect: Andromeda, the player explores the Andromeda galaxy by selecting destinations from the inside of a ship called Tempest. By having Ryder stand on the ship's bridge, the player is able to overlook the stars and seamlessly choose a navigation point.[9] Over a dozen planets have hub worlds that connect the player to various quests that need to be completed,[10] such as taking out hostile enemy bases or hideouts,[11] scanning for objects with useful data,[12] or completing loyalty missions for Ryder's squadmates.[13] 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.[11]

Planets have open world elements and can be traversed using the Nomad, a six-wheeled, all-terrain vehicle.[14][15] 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.[14] As new areas are explored, the player can find drop zones that serve as fast-travel points and allow for a loadout change.[12] 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.[16] Over the course of the game, the player can find blueprints and resources that are used for crafting weapons and armor.[8] Some crafted weapons can be given customized names.[17]

DialogueEdit

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.[5] Around the wheel are four types of responses that shape each conversation: heart, head, professional, and casual.[18] In general, conversations are based on agreeing or disagreeing with participants.[19] During some conversations, the player will be prompted with a "narrative action" that offers an additional choice to what is available on the dialogue wheel. For example, an on-screen prompt to "shoot" might appear and be momentarily selectable.[20] By conversing with characters aboard Tempest, Ryder can develop friendships, and if desired, romantic relationships with specific characters over time.[21] During both dialogue and quest sequences, the player will sometimes be 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.[22]

CombatEdit

Combat in Mass Effect: Andromeda takes place in real-time, and unlike previous installments in the series, pausing the game to aim or select powers is no longer a feature.[23] 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.[18] When the player approaches an object, Ryder will automatically take cover, providing the player with protection from battle.[23] The game encourages players to keep moving during combat with large, open battlefields and enemies that will attack from all angles,[18] but also allows for both aggressive and defensive strategies.[24]

Damage is dealt to enemies using gunfire, melee attacks, or specialized powers such as a flamethrower.[25] A total of three powers can be equipped at one time,[24] but a single power cannot be deployed continuously; rather, after a power is used, there is a cool down period during which the power is disabled but other powers can be used.[26] 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.[24]

PlotEdit

Mass Effect: Andromeda begins in 2185, between the events of the second and third games in the original Mass Effect trilogy.[27][28] The four Citadel Council races are planning to populate new home worlds in the Andromeda Galaxy as part of a strategy called the Andromeda Initiative.[29] Each race will send 20,000 citizens on a one-way, 600-year journey to Andromeda aboard their own transportation vessel, called an Ark, and selects a leader, called a Pathfinder. Once the races arrive, they will 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.[30]

The protagonist of Mass Effect: Andromeda is either Scott or Sara Ryder (voiced by Tom Taylorson or Fryda Wolff, respectively), depending on player choice. Both Ryder twins are inexperienced Alliance 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.[31] Alec's second in command is Cora Harper, a biotic specialist with intensive commando training. The protagonist's squad also includes Liam Kosta, a security expert who specializes in crisis response, and S.A.M., an artificial intelligence that can communicate with all members of the team via implants.[32]

DevelopmentEdit

 
Mac Walters served as creative director for Mass Effect: Andromeda, following in the footsteps of Casey Hudson, who departed from BioWare in 2014.[33]

Mass Effect: Andromeda was developed by BioWare, the same company that also produced the original Mass Effect trilogy.[34] It was directed by Mac Walters, who previously served as lead writer for the series.[35] Casey Hudson, who directed each game in the original trilogy, was promoted to the role of executive producer before leaving BioWare in 2014.[33] In total, the game required a team of over 200 developers and utilized all three of BioWare's studios: Austin, Edmonton, and Montreal.[36] 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.[37]

Early stages of development on Mass Effect: Andromeda began in 2012, following the release of Mass Effect 3.[38][39] One of the first decisions that BioWare made was not to include Commander Shepard, the series' original protagonist, in the game.[40] 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 wouldn't make sense without the character.[41] 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.[42]

Although BioWare approached Mass Effect: Andromeda as a new beginning and wanted it to feel fresh and new,[43] 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.[44] 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.[42]

For the first time in the series, BioWare decided to include open world elements and place an emphasis on exploration.[45] 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".[46] 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.[45] 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.[47]

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.[48] 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".[49] 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.[50] 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.[23] 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.[51] 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.[18]

Marketing and releaseEdit

Mass Effect: Andromeda was officially announced on June 15, 2015 at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2015.[52] The game was marketed with a wide variety of video content, including a teaser trailer featuring the voice of Jennifer Hale as Commander Shepard on November 7, 2015,[53] a 4K demo for the PS4 Pro on July 9, 2016,[54] a gameplay reveal at The Game Awards on December 1, 2016,[55] and a cinematic trailer on January 26, 2017.[56] The game was also promoted with a set of action figures by toy company Funko, which consisted of Peebee, Liam Kosta, Jaal, Sara Ryder, and Archon.[57] 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 fans if they ever needed to cut content from the game.[37]

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.[58] Briefings included an orientation video,[59] an introduction to the Arks and Nexus,[60] an overview of the Tempest and Nomad,[61] and dossiers on the game's main crewmembers.[62]

Three different versions of Mass Effect: Andromeda will be made available upon release. In addition to the standard version of the game, players can also purchase a Deluxe Edition, which includes "the Pathfinder Casual Outfit, the Scavenger Armor, the Pathfinder Elite Weapon Set, a pet Pyjak, a soundtrack download, and one instant Multiplayer Launch Pack." The third version of the game is the Super Deluxe Edition, which adds 20 Multiplayer Launch Packs.[63] For a short time, players can also order a Collector's Edition, which includes a remote control Nomad.[64]

AccoladesEdit

Year Award Category Result Ref
2016 Golden Joystick Awards 2016 Most Wanted Game Won [65]
Global Game Awards 2016 Most Anticipated Game Won [66]
The Game Awards 2016 Most Anticipated Game Nominated [67]

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit