I paid absolutely zero mind to The Game Awards last night, save for being excited about the inevitable slew of trailers & gameplay teaser videos that would follow shortly thereafter. They did not disappoint, with tantalizing new information on titles like Prey & Death Stranding. But most importantly, at least to me, was a bit more to the trickle of information on BioWare’s upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda. We got a double-dose, with BioWare releasing both their gameplay premiere trailer as well as the next orientation video for their Andromeda Initiative.
The new Ark orientation video offers further insight into the proposed structure of society for the Initiative once the Ark & Nexus reach their destination in the Helios Cluster. The main hub of society from the Milky Way is actually a smaller version of the Citadel, where the other Nexus will converge together. According to the AI Avina, once citizens are awakened from their century-long cryosleep, they will eventually be assigned a new world to help colonize. However, it will be up to the Pathfinders to make first contact with these various potentially habitable planets.
It’s the gameplay premiere that most interests me, however, as it highlights both the similarities & differences between this game with its predecessors.
I don’t want to go frame-by-frame with the trailer, but I did want to discuss some of my observations & potentially concerns about the game.
- The galaxy map screen in identical to those from the previous Mass Effect games, but what caught my attention is the “Activate Scanner” command in the bottom. This suggests resource gathering similar to that of ME2 & ME3. Also, I’m curious how the game will handle or justify travel between systems. Thus far there’s been no mention of mass relays in this galaxy, which was the means by which inter-systems instantaneous travel was possible. As these were created by the Reapers, it would make no sense canonically for them to be present, especially given that it’s taking the Initiative such a long time to reach their destination. Does this mean travel will be perhaps more manual this time around?
- We get to see a bit more of our crewmates. There’s a lot of speculation about what species will round out your party members. So far BioWare has revealed PeeBee, an asari, a female human biotic, Cora, a male ex-cop, Liam, & a Krogan, Drack. The new trailer reveals a female Turian joining Ryder’s shore party, who based on her visor I’m guessing is some sort of tech. Many people are speculating that the final spot will be filled by one of the new races, & assuming we’ll have six squadmates to match the first & third game. However, it’s entirely possible there will be more squadmates, given that ME2 had ten, not counting downloadable ones. We also hear from a male named Sam, whose voice sounds a bit like an AI to me. Perhaps this is the new EDI?
- One questionable thing I noticed in the trailer, & something that has me a little concerned, is that in the section of gameplay showing Ryder interacting with a small outpost, it’s mostly the races we’re already familiar with. I did notice some aliens I didn’t recognize, but I found it odd that humans & the other familiar races had already made themselves at home. If the Initiative just reached this galaxy, how could they have already taken over?
- In the scene, Drack mentions that these people at the port were exiled from the Ark. I can see three hypotheses for this. One is that more time has passed than we initially suspect. In the previous trailer, I speculated that an accident occurs upon reaching Andromeda, resulting in the Ryder we control being separated from the rest of the Initiative. With the lack of mass relays & other resources, it’s entirely possible a fair bit of time has passed between the start of the game & the scene in question. Another hypothesis is that the people exiled joined up with a civilization already present. And a third is that who’s to say there weren’t other groups of people traveling to Andromeda. Sort of like Cerberus, a secret program. Of course, it’s also entirely possible, humanity being what it is, they simply barged in & took over.
- A related point not directly brought up in the trailer but something I’ve been pondering is the question of how the familiar races will deal with the local races. We are the aliens this time. The invaders. Perhaps that will be a big crux of the game; Does the player try to form alliances with the new races or take a dominant stance?
- The dialogue system appears to be similar to that in Dragon Age: Inquisition, with a dialogue wheel showing the tone of the responses. Although it didn’t explicitly show it in the trailer, it’s likely some type of Paragon/Renegade system exists. The trailer shows a timed action very reminiscent of a Renegade Interrupt.
- Andromeda seems to be going back to its exploration roots, which the series lost over the course of the trilogy. Expect a lot of scanning, collecting & crafting. This might irk some gamers, but given the game’s emphasis on you being out on the frontier by yourself, with the safety net of civilized society, it at least makes sense.
- It seems likely the classes will be the same as before, though slightly tweaked. The trailer demonstrates Ryder in a Vanguard loadout, based on the Biotic Charge power. We also see other classes toward the end, including one with the ability to shoot fire out of Ryder’s hand. There will still be cover-based combat, but the jetpack can allow for more aggressive, run-&-gun style action for those that prefer it. I’m a little disappointed that ammo is still a thing. In ME1, the guns had unlimited ammo, they would just overheat if you fired them too much. It’s a downgrade to go back to limited ammo, even with the excuse that all guns use the same ammo. I’ve always felt that was a concession to trick people into thinking Mass Effect was a shooter to give it a broader appeal.
Still no official release date other than “Spring 2017”, but the pre-orders are already out. Expect more information as it comes out.