First Hands-on with Mass Effect: Andromeda

25 3
First Hands-on with Mass Effect: Andromeda

Bioware’s shaking things up for Mass Effect: Andromeda, the first PS4 installment in its spacefaring action-RPG series. The game’s setup represents a clean break from the original Mass Effect trilogy, taking place 600 years later in another galaxy as a crew of explorers searches for humanity’s new home.

First Hands-on with Mass Effect: Andromeda

Despite the shift in time and place, Mass Effect: Andromeda retains all the signature elements that propelled the series to fame. You’ll assemble an all-star team of adventurers; explore exotic locations both beautiful and hostile; pore over rich, detailed fiction; engage in thought-provoking conversation with an ensemble cast of colorful characters.

So what’s new, then? Much to my delight, I found Andromeda’s action to be faster and far more ferocious, with tighter gunplay and more responsive handling. Two new maneuvers — a boost jump (X) and an evasive dash (Circle) — lend a more kinetic feel and allowed me to quickly reposition mid-battle or move in for the kill as the situation dictated. Based on what I played in the first four hours of the game, I’m betting that this combat overhaul will greatly expand the game’s appeal.

Andromeda’s biotics also benefit from a more muscular approach. As series veterans will recall, biotics are superhuman powers that can drag enemies out of cover, unleash energy blasts, and so forth. Bioware has reworked how all the various powers and abilities interact with each other, creating a reworked “combo” system that proved to be one of my favorite additions to Andromeda’s gameplay.

Most offensive abilities are considered either “primers” or “detonators,” and Andromeda’s UI includes a handy graphical icon to help you tell the difference. Deploying a primer skill, then landing a follow-up detonator attack will trigger a combo and inflict more damage on your target.

That means you can grab an enemy with Lift (primer) and follow up with Concussive Shot (detonator) for a huge damage boost. Other interactions can unleash more exotic effects; detonating a Cryo Beam attack can trigger an icy nova effect that chills nearby enemies. Better still, combos can be primed or detonated by either you or your AI squadmates. There’s plenty of room for improvisation!

Some of the new abilities caught my eye, too. On the Biotics side, Lance fires a precise energy shaft that can inflict huge damage on enemy weak points and detonate combos, while Backlash can reflect some incoming attacks if properly timed. New Tech skills include a Flamethrower that can set enemies ablaze, and an Invasion ability that weakens enemies with a swarm of small robots. For Combat skills, the Flak Cannon and Tripmines add an extra offensive punch.

On a related note, Andromeda abandons formal character classes, instead adopting flexible skill “profiles” that empower players to adapt to individual challenges. Given the tighter action and new primer/detonator combos, this seems like a smart move to me.

I noticed a host of subtle gameplay refinements as well. Taking cover is now a smoother, contextual process that doesn’t require a button press. Healing and resupplies seemed to be handled by grabbing pickups located in the environments, versus fiddling in a menu to find that Medi-Gel.

Outside of combat, my experiences with Andromeda demonstrated plenty of promise. With Commander Shepard out of the picture, newcomers Scott and Sarah Ryder make for capable protagonists. A species of brutish tyrants called the Kett appear to serve as the core antagonists, with much of the conflict revolving around an ancient alien relic called the Remnant.

Later in the demo, I took control of the Tempest, Andromeda’s answer to the Normandy, and spent a few minutes bonding with its crew. My highlight was Jaal, a soulful alien with a mysterious past touched by the Kett. I’m betting he’ll quickly become a fan favorite.

True to Mass Effect form, the conversations were freewheeling, philosophical, and deeply fascinating. It’s worth noting that Andromeda replaces the Paragon and Renegade conversation options from prior games with new conversational “tones” — emotional, logical, and so on — that can influence the direction of conversation.

After my chat, I landed on a new planet and explored the Kadara Market, a seedy hive of villainy populated by spies and scoundrels. Then I hopped into an armored Nomad to explore the bleak surface of Kadara, carefully avoiding acid lakes and aggressive, raptor-like creatures.

These Nomad expeditions evoked the best parts of the Mako sequences from the original Mass Effect, but offered up far more environmental variety and interesting emergent combat encounters. At one point, I spotted a skirmish at a small outpost in the distance. I pulled up, jumped out, and helped some local fighters finish off a squad of Outcast Raiders. These scenarios aren’t quite open world, but they feel big, exciting, and brimming with possibility.

On a related note, exploration-minded players will love scanning objects in the environment, a new addition that’s used to solve puzzles, unlock new lore in the Codex, and earn research points for equipment upgrades.

For those wondering how much Andromeda will build on the story of the original Mass Effect trilogy, the answer appears to be: not so much. Since Andromeda is a major departure from the original trilogy, don’t expect to bump into Shepard or the Reapers. A Bioware rep did tell me, however, that eagle-eyed players may uncover a few narrative morsels that relate to that story. You won’t be importing past save files to carry on any narrative choices, either, as it doesn’t fit with the new protagonist and setting.

We also got a peek at the pre-release version of Andromeda running on PS4 Pro, where it will support higher resolutions as well as HDR features. The results were impressive — we’ll have more details to share there soon as we prepare for the game’s launch on March 21.

Have any questions? Let me know in the comments below!

Comments are closed.


3 Author Replies

  • Sounds great! There’s a typo in the second paragraph. Pore should be pour. (I think.)

  • Will there be a demo available to play?

  • Any news on when the tech test will be available? I know sign ups stopped about a week ago for it. I’m super excited!

  • The new combat sounds really great to me, but I wonder how many Mass Effect fans will disagree. I have a lot of friends who come at these games more from the RPG/Adventure side of things and they’re not really ‘action gamers.’ They play for the story and apparently to romance every alien they encounter. :) I hope they don’t wind up feel frustrated by this new combat system. Hopefully Bioware will put in a difficulty setting just for combat encounters for those folks that makes the combat pretty easy.

    • This doesn’t look that different than ME2 or ME3 in terms of complexity of the battle system. Both of those games were just 3rd person shooters with a Bioware RPG environment. If anything, it looks like Andromeda is going to be easier due to the devs taking the time to FULLY flesh out the battle system and creating environments that are conducive to that type of gameplay. All of the previous ME games suffered in overall quality because the battle systems were clunky compared to every other 3rd person shooter, and that was made even more glaringly obvious by the bad (sometimes terrible) environments you had to fight in.

      Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the ME series, but the battle systems in the previous games were always the low point. From everything I’ve seen so far, it looks like Bioware took the community’s feedback to heart and focused on making a compelling 3rd person shooter experience that players could actually enjoy as opposed to the previous games where the battles were something you just had to endure.

      I’m not sure what you’re seeing that’s so vastly different. All I see is a bunch of great tweaks to the previous games.

    • I don’t know what mass effect you played labeled as “clunky”. This isn’t army of two or c.o.d.. It was more focused on cover and pre planing. Now it looks like any other brainless shooter that has been made easier for the casual crowds.

  • After the disappointment that was mass effect 3 we need a demo to convince me to buy it up to now all the trailers look like nothing more then a arcade shooter nothing at all like a true RPG where is the game play videos of the storys and where is the RPG aspect of the game

    • Mass effect 3 is the best in that trilogy

    • disappointment that was mass effect ! seriously ?

    • @WickedDamage, you speak the truth. When I saw “streamlined conversations” beneath the headline, that translates to “dumbed down,” which Bioware games have consistently done. “Hey,” I imagine someone at EA saying, “that last game sold well. Let’s simplify it everything and make it more accessible to a wider audience. And throw in multiplayer so we can make more money from microtransactions.”

      And it wasn’t just the horrible ending of ME3, so bad EA greenlighted an emergency free DLC to reduce PR damage, but the entire story arc that caused me to hate most of Mass Effect 3.

      One reaper was a super weapon, yet we’re to believe that Earth can survive when dozens and dozens invade and wipe out every fleet between them and Earth. Why is Shepard trying to gather an alliance to save Earth when everyone else is being invaded by dozens of reapers. “Hey, let’s forget about our planet. We gotta save those humans.” Even the writing in Star Wars Episode 1 was better and more convincing than ME 3.

      For a trilogy that emphasized your choices matter, at the end they just threw all that under the bus along with Shepard.

    • tatanka it wasn’t a “pr” nightmare. it was whiny people that never touched mass effect confused by three simple endings. they cried so hard like most people do to companies anymore and they caved because master said so. Have you ever really played a “choose your adventure book” from back in the day? i know the answer from this generation is no of course. so i wont waste my time.

    • Definitely not an arcade shooter — it’s as deep or deeper on the RPG side than any of the original trilogy. The combat is just more fleshed out and interesting. I think ME veterans will approve.

  • Excited for this game!

  • So impossibly hyped for this game! I just hate how the trailers are a nice, smooth 60fps (or so it seems) while we know the ps4 will be locked to 30fps. Which will still be smooth, I’m sure, but man alive, Last of Us’s uncapped framerate spoils me a bit.

  • Butterface! Yikes.

  • ANY NEWS ABOUT THE GAME SIZE ? this is urgent

  • as for the pre-order does it gave an advantage to play the game before the release day ?

  • Looks really promising, but having not played the original trilogy, I’m gonna hold out for a remastered ps4 collection. I’m aware that the devs probably made this game in a way that newcomers won’t feel lost, but I personally prefer to get the full franchise experience from the beginning.

    I don’t mind playing the games on PS3, but the last 2 times I did that remasters were announced shortly thereafter: I bought all 3 Bioshock games for PS3 (with choppy frame rates and all) and beat the first 2 when suddenly the collection was announced for PS4 before I got to play Infinite.

    The other one was when I planned on replaying Arkham Asylum and City (which I already had on PS3) in preparation for Arkham Knight, but before I began playing, I purchased Arkham Origins and the GOTY edition of City so I could play the additional story content that I missed upon first release. However, before I began playing, the Return to Arkham collection was announced for PS4. Now, it’s just difficult to go back to the dualshock 3 and 720p resolution when you have the option to play enhanced versions on PS4.

    • So I really hope EA will release a remastered Mass Effect trilogy, which I think is likely to happen within the next year as I remember reading an article about how an EA rep made a comment regarding how they are reconsidering their stance on remasters.

    • It is VERY distinct – I think, personally, you’d be fine to start with this one.

  • Definitely a game on my watch-list. I’ll wait for reviews because I don’t trust EA and especially Bioware with pre-orders.

    I’m a big fan of the original trilogy, but the writing for Mass Effect 3 was horrible. For a trilogy in which Bioware emphasized your choices matter, the ending sucked, no matter what choices you made. Recall that the ending was so bad that they redid the cut-scenes, but it still sucked. The whole story arc for Mass Effect 3 was ridiculous. One reaper in the original Mass Effect was like a mini Death Star. Mass Effect 3 saw Earth invaded by dozens of them. The game revolved around Shepard trying to recruit allies to save Earth. Why? It was already lost. AND everyone else was being simultaneously invaded by Reapers, so why Earth so crucial. And then there’s the Citadel, where you spent so much time over the whole trilogy helping everyone. What kind of lame writing team decided it would make for good story material to kill everyone on the Citadel at the end when it turns into a super weapon.

  • Looking good! Smooth as frate rate in that video too. What was this shown on? PS4? PC?

  • Hello PSN fans and fan boys It’s alike! I’m siked about this release ‘exited just to play the new multiplayer. Last one ‘ME3’ I was clueless about the franchise as It was the first ME game I had ever played . I passed the entire game /story line. And then I discover the multiplayer . I use to get booted & I didn’t even realize y? No equipment usally or lv. 1 weapons or character ! A total train wreck. After I meet some cool gamers, they steered me inn the right direction! And then I was totally HOOKed! I still play ME3 co-op! Still fun ! So I just want to see it inn at least full 1080p/i anything else is extra ! I heard their will potentially 2 types of multiplayer ? Exited but also a bit worried that it will be worse than ME3 but I guess we will find out soon enough! 3/21

Please enter your date of birth.