Mass Effect: Andromeda
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. It was released worldwide in March 2017. It is the fourth major entry 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 634-year journey. Events transpire that result in Ryder becoming humanity's Pathfinder, tasked with finding humanity's home world while also dealing with an antagonistic alien race called Kett.
|Mass Effect: Andromeda|
|Designer(s)||Ian S. Frazier|
For Mass Effect: Andromeda, BioWare incorporated a lighter tone than previous installments in the series, utilized open world elements, and placed 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 is the largest in the series, and offers the player the freedom to focus on either the main quest or side quests. The game's score was composed by John Paesano and aims to match the game's mood by capturing the adventure of space exploration. In response to critical feedback, several patches have been released for the game in an effort to improve player experience.
Mass Effect: Andromeda received generally mixed reviews from video game publications. Praise was directed at the game's improved combat and visuals, while criticism was aimed at its character animations and technical issues. The game's story, writing, and characters received mixed opinions.
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. Both Ryders' appearances and first names can be determined by the player. The appearance of their father, Alec, is automatically adjusted based on the appearance of the Ryder twins. 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. Players can also choose to continue playing with their existing character and complete unfinished missions.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. Around the wheel are four types of responses that shape each conversation: emotional, logical, professional, and casual. In general, conversations are based on agreeing or disagreeing with participants. During some conversations, the player is prompted with an "Impulse 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. By conversing with non-player characters, Ryder can develop friendships and, in some cases, romantic relationships with them over time. 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.
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 using a galaxy map and seamlessly choose a navigation point. The game features five primary planets and over a dozen hub worlds that connect the player to various quests that need to be completed, such as taking out hostile enemy bases or hideouts, scanning for objects with useful data, or completing loyalty missions for Ryder's squadmates. 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. 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.
All the planets have open world elements and can be traversed using the "Nomad", a six-wheeled, all-terrain vehicle. 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. As new areas are explored, the player can find drop zones that serve as fast-travel points and allow for a loadout change. 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. 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. Over the course of the game, the player can find blueprints and resources that are used for crafting weapons and armor. All crafted items can be given customized names.
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. 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. When the player approaches an object, Ryder will automatically take cover, providing the player with protection in battle. The game encourages players to keep moving during combat with large, open battlefields and enemies that attack from all angles, but also allows for both aggressive and defensive strategies.
Damage is dealt to enemies using gunfire, melee attacks, or specialized skills such as a flamethrower. At all times, three skills are available for use, along with a profile that provides play style bonuses. 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. 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. 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.
Characters and settingEdit
Mass Effect: Andromeda begins in 2185, between the events of Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. 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. 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.
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. 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. Ryder's crewmates include Kallo Jath (Garett Ross), a salarian pilot; Suvi Anwar (Katy Townsend), a human science officer; Gil Brodie (Gethin Anthony), a human mechanic; Lexi T'Perro (Natalie Dormer), an asari medical doctor; and S.A.M. (Alexia Traverse-Healy), an artificial intelligence that can communicate with all members of the team via implants.
In 2819, following a 634-year journey on the Ark Hyperion, Ryder awakens in the Heleus Cluster of the Andromeda Galaxy, and is greeted by SAM, an artificial intelligence in charge of the Ark. Hyperion strikes a dark energy cloud called the Scourge, knocking out its power temporarily and sending Ryder's sibling into an induced coma. Pathfinder Alec Ryder, Ryder's father, informs Ryder and Cora Harper that the planet they were sent to scout out might no longer be viable for colonization. The Alec-led team (including Ryder and Liam Kosta) heads down to the planet, coming into contact with an unknown hostile alien race (later to be called the kett) as well as strange structures of another alien race, the Remnant. Ryder and Alec find a terminal inside an alien monolith, which Alec activates in an attempt to stabilize the lightning storm-stricken planet. A large blast throws the two off the elevated platform, damaging Ryder's helmet and exposing them to the toxic atmosphere. Alec saves his child by giving them his helmet, sacrificing his own life. Ryder is later revived and merged with SAM, learning that Alec has made them the new Pathfinder in his place shortly before his death.
Hyperion reaches the Nexus, the intended hub for the Andromeda Initiative, finding it incomplete and no other Ark in sight. The crew learn from the leadership that all of the worlds have become inhospitable, and that the Initiative has been stranded upon arrival, suffering from supply shortage and civil unrest. As the Pathfinder, Ryder is tasked with finding a suitable world to colonize, as well as finding out the fates of other Arks. Ryder is also given a spaceship, the Tempest, piloted by Kallo Jath and accompanied by Vetra Nyx.
Ryder visits Eos, a desert planet plagued by radiation storms, where Nakmor Drack and Pelessaria B'Sayle (Peebee) join the crew. With SAM's help, Ryder unlocks a Remnant vault, which houses a terraforming system that gradually repairs the planet's ecosystem to more hospitable levels. As a result, the first successful outpost is established on Eos. Ryder also discovers a star chart pinpointing the location of other worlds that might hold similar structures. It is deduced that these worlds could sustain the Initiative after all.
On the way to colonize another system, the Tempest runs into the massive kett fleet, and is forced to escape through the Scourge, suffering substantial damage. The ship lands on a planet named Aya, coming into contact with a new alien species, the angara, who are mounting a resistance against the invading kett. Ryder proves the Initiative's good intentions by aiding the angara on two other planets, in addition to recruiting Jaal Ama Darav. Ryder also rescues high-ranking angara Moshae Sjefa from a kett facility, discovering in the process that the kett have been turning the angara into their own through a genetic modification process known as exaltation. The Moshae takes Ryder to Aya's vault, learning that the kett leader, the Archon, is chasing after an object named "Meridian", which has the capacity of controlling all vaults and in turn the worlds they are connected to. Ryder tracks down the Archon's flagship, finding out that the kett have captured the salarian ark and have been experimenting with the Initiative species. Ryder frees the ark and learns the location of Meridian.
Ryder then proceeds to the presumed location of Meridian, which turns out to be an ancient Remnant city. It turns out that Meridian, a Dyson sphere-like constuct, was brought away from the city, disconnecting the vaults and rendering the planets uninhabitable. The Archon launches an attack on Hyperion, severing SAM from Ryder, while also capturing Ryder's sibling, through whose SAM implant he intends to take over Meridian. Ryder manages to activate the Remnant fleet and, together with other allied forces, makes an assault on the kett fleet guarding Meridian. The Ryder twins work to defeat the kett, disconnecting the Archon from Meridian's system, killing him. Ryder is hailed as a hero, having activated Meridian and made the cluster more suitable for settlement. Hyperion, after crash-landing onto Meridian, settles on the planet as humanity's new home.
In a post-credit scene, the Archon's second-in command, Primus, is seen observing Meridian, hinting at a possible future threat.
Mass Effect: Andromeda was developed by BioWare, the same company that also produced the original Mass Effect trilogy. The game was initially directed by Gérard Lehiany, who was previously best known for his involvement in Beenox's Spiderman games. Casey Hudson, who directed the original trilogy, was promoted to the role of executive producer before leaving BioWare in 2014. That same year, Lehiany also departed from the project; he was replaced by Mac Walters, who previously served as lead writer for the series. The game's lead writer, senior editor, and other members of its leadership team departed from BioWare during development as well.
In total, Mass Effect: Andromeda required a team of over 200 developers. In contrast to the original trilogy, which was spearheaded by BioWare's Edmonton studio, Mass Effect: Andromeda was handled by a new team out of Montreal. This was done in order to allow Edmonton to begin working on a new intellectual property (IP). The company's Austin team assisted in development as well. 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.
Early stages of development on Mass Effect: Andromeda began in 2012, following the release of Mass Effect 3. One of the first decisions that BioWare made was not to include Commander Shepard, the series' original protagonist, in the game. 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. 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.
Although BioWare approached Mass Effect: Andromeda as a new beginning and wanted it to feel fresh and new, 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. 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.
For the first time in the series, BioWare decided to include open world elements and place an emphasis on exploration. 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". 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. 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.
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. 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". 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. Scenes in the game that take place in nightclubs or other public venues were composed by Edmonton-based DJs and producers. In general, the game's soundtrack was inspired by films such as Blade Runner and aimed to combine organic and synthetic sounds, an approach that BioWare used to "represent the triumph of space exploration and the fear of the unknown."
A week after Mass Effect: Andromeda's North American release, BioWare announced that they were planning on making improvements to the game in response to critical feedback from fans. In April, the company unveiled a patch that focused on bug fixes and improvements to the player experience, including better lip-syncing and faster movement around the galaxy map. The following month, another patch was released which focused on improvements to cinematic scenes.
Marketing and releaseEdit
Mass Effect: Andromeda was announced on June 15, 2015 at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2015. 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, Marilynne Ryder, and Archon. 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.
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. Briefings included an orientation video, an introduction to the Arks and Nexus, an overview of the Tempest and Nomad, and dossiers on the game's main crewmembers. As part of the program, BioWare also selected six fans to participate in an authentic astronaut training experience at the European Astronaut Centre. 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.
Mass Effect: Andromeda was originally scheduled for release in late 2016, but its official release date was eventually moved to March 21, 2017 in North America and March 23 in Europe. 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. 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. However, both versions of the Collector's Edition did not include the game or any other in-game bonuses.
A week prior to Mass Effect: Andromeda's official release, players and journalists began releasing first impressions of the game. Early reaction was generally mixed. The game's facial animations became a topic of controversy, with players taking to the internet to post clips, images, and memes poking fun at its character movements. One group of players took their complaints a step further, incorrectly identifying an Electronic Arts employee as a lead developer and taking to Twitter to verbally abuse her. In response to the incident, BioWare released an official statement, saying, "We respect the opinions of our players and community ... But attacking individuals, regardless of their involvement in the project, is never acceptable."
Upon release, Mass Effect: Andromeda received generally mixed reviews from video game publications. The game was not as well received as its predecessors; in his review for Forbes, Paul Tassi wrote, "I have a feeling that Mass Effect fans will enjoy the game, but I don’t think anyone will claim it outclasses the original trilogy, outside of maybe the very first game." Many outlets described the game as a disappointment, with Eurogamer noting that it "launched to mixed reviews and polarised fans". However, despite the criticism, many reviewers still awarded the game with a positive score, and the Xbox One version of the game received generally favorable reviews on the review aggregator Metacritic.
The combat in Mass Effect: Andromeda received high praise. IGN observed that it felt more energetic than previous games in the series, although they criticized the automatic cover system and some of the UI. COGconnected described the combat as "a thing of beauty" and emphasized its focus on player choice and strong shooting mechanics, which they felt held up to other shooters. In a lukewarm review for GameSpot, Scott Butterworth relented, "The core shooting mechanics feel stronger here than anywhere else in the series, and the flexibility of the progression system let me cherry pick cool powers rather than locking me into a set character class. I ended up building, well...a space ninja, basically. I enjoyed nearly everything I experimented with."
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. 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 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.
|2016||Golden Joystick Awards 2016||Most Wanted Game||Won|||
|Global Game Awards 2016||Most Anticipated Game||Won|||
|The Game Awards 2016||Most Anticipated Game||Nominated|||
Although Mass Effect: Andromeda was not designed with specific plans for future installments, BioWare's original intention was to continue adding to the series. However, following the game's release, reports arose that BioWare would be taking a break from the franchise to focus on their new IP, Anthem, and other games under the Electronic Arts umbrella, such as Star Wars Battlefront II. In August 2017, BioWare Montreal was merged with EA's Motive Studios.
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