With the newly announced release date for Mass Effect: Andromeda (March 21 of this year), BioWare has been steadily giving gamers more information about the latest in the franchise. Yesterday, during the first day of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, BioWare promoted gameplay footage of Andromeda showing off the tech & combat skills. What caught my interest, in particular, was footage showing that, while not doing away with the previous classes entirely, it doesn’t appear that our Ryder is bound by classes.
In the gameplay footage, it shows that gamers will be able to switch between seven different “profiles.” Rather than players having to pick a specific class at the start & being relegated to that set of skills for the duration of their game, they can switch between all the classes & upgrade the abilities & skills for each class individually. I actually heard this mentioned during a developer commentary of the last footage, where they stated Ryder would have access to both tech and biotic abilities. I had assumed at the time that this meant no distinctive classes but rather you upgrade whatever skills you want, similar to something like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning‘s system.
It would seem that each profile has a unique set of perks & abilities. In the footage, we see both the Soldier & Engineer profiles. The Soldier profile shows bonuses to weapon damage, accuracy, clip size, & damage protection. It also shows a perk called Marksman’s Focus, where you gain a damage bonus for “every target killed in a short time.” The Engineer profile grants bonuses to “tech construct” stats & combo damage. It’s special perk is creating a drone that decreases the recharge time on your tech abilities & can damage enemies when it explodes. We only get to see the skills for the Engineer, which shows both some old familiars like Overload & Incinerate, but new ones, like Flamethrower. The footage also demonstrated that upgrading these abilities will work similar to Mass Effect 3, where the first three levels are standard upgrades, but from 4-6 you get a choice of two distinct upgrades per level, such as a damage upgrade versus a duration upgrade. Upgrading these abilities also increases your rank in each class, likely improving their specific bonuses.
The footage shows the six classes from the previous games, as well as one new one, titled “Explorer.” We don’t get to see this class, but I would guess it grants bonuses that help when Ryder is exploring new planets, such as improving resistance to potential environmental hazards or more resources.
Interestingly, there appears to be an in-game reason for this ability to change classes. In the Engineer profile, it reads “This Profile reconfigures Ryder’s implant…” This sounds to like the Pathfinders were implanted with experimental, cutting-edge tech that allows them to switch classes as needed. From a narrative perspective, this would make sense, given that the Pathfinders are meant to act as “elite soldier, scientist, & guide.” For people who are expected to lead the search for habitable worlds, this would be a useful ability to improve their chances of success in unpredictable situations.
There are still unanswered questions with this new information. Specifically, it doesn’t show if players will be able to change profiles on the fly, or if it’ll be limited, such as in previous games when you could only switch squadmates at terminals or upon exiting your ship.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this change. I guess it all depends on how smoothly it’s implemented. It doesn’t necessarily sound like a bad thing. You can probably ignore any classes or abilities you don’t like. It also probably means that there are more unique abilities & skills. In the first three Mass Effect games, there was some overlap in the skills. Each class had some unique abilities, but they also shared some. For example, I always played as an Infiltrator, which granted me bonuses to the sniper rifle, but also a Tactical Cloak in later games. It also gave me abilities like AI Hacking & Sabotage, which were shared with the Engineer class. However, if players can change whenever they want, this may mean there’s less, or perhaps even no, overlap. Each class may have its own abilities. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense to have you spend upgrades on the same skill twice, although there might be value in upgrading a skill differently for each class.
Be on the lookout for more updates as they catch my interest.