The Old, the New, and the Stuff We Look Forward to in Mass Effect Andromeda

New footage of Mass Effect Andromeda was shown at The Game Awards last week. The four minute trailer finally showed us a proper look at a lot of gameplay that was teased by the Bioware team since the game was announced earlier this year.

For the uninitiated, Andromeda is set about 600 years after the previous trilogy’s Shepard saga. What we know so far is that we’re part of something called the Andromeda Initiative, a multi-species Noah’s Ark deal that contains all sorts of important military figures tasked on a one way journey to map out the Andromeda galaxy.

The game puts you in the space boots of a human ‘Pathfinder’, a “part-soldier, part-explorer” chosen one type whose job is to find habitable planets for humans to colonise. In traditional Bioware fashion, you’ll get a team of people to come with you to explore these uncharted planets – including a sibling side character ala Dragon Age II.

While a lot of the cut-scene facial animation seems still pretty etchy (not surprising since the rumours say that this was only alpha build), the entire trailer itself looks pretty darn fantastic. Here’s what we think of what’s been shown so far:

The Old Stuff

Despite the vast changes that it promises, it looks like existing gameplay that fans love is still going to be kept around.  It’s very much “don’t fix what isn’t broken” from what we see in the gameplay trailer. The ol’ Bioware conversation wheel is still in place, and the situational triggers we saw in ME3 are back as well. We couldn’t see much of how the morality system is going to play out yet, but the small icons on the wheel may signify something like Dragon Age II instead of the usual clear cut Paragon/Renegade binary.

Combat is still a third-person cover based shooter, but it looked like it’s going to play out cleaner and, simultaneously, a lot less linear than the previous games. The trailer only gave us a plateau as a combat stage to look at how they’re tackling it, which was a shame, but that sweet, sweet teleport/jetpack combo to a higher platform looks real good to play with. Imagine that kind of combat versatility combined with the moving platforms that we saw in the graphics showcase a couple of months back – ooh, jitters.

The New Stuff

The new gameplay mechanics introduced in the trailer are mostly linked to the whole explorer narrative the story tasks you with. Crafting is one of these new elements. The trailer shows a quick No Man’s Sky style scanner that picks up resources on the fly, and from those resources come the equipment you’d use in the game. The crafting menu itself looks a lot like Dragon Age Inquisition, but more broken up into individual stat boosting equipment parts. This is a huge boon for the Mass Effect series, because not only is it a fresher mechanic to use, but also because the economy within the previous games was always janky – and a bit useless because you don’t really get a sense of emergency with money. Changing equipment procurement to a crafting system is an inspired choice, and going forward, could only make the game better.

Another one of these new mechanics is, surprisingly, a detective mode. They’ve showed very little of it so far, but it’s reminiscent of the recent Batman games by Rocksteady. So far, the mechanic was shown in an enclosed space so we’re unsure as of yet if Andromeda also features combat marking like other games that feature the mechanic. I’m looking forward to where they’re going to take this, but here’s hoping it’s going to be featured in more things rather than standard footprint/handprint/blood trail marking that moves the story along.

The Stuff We Look Forward To

Exploration is a word that’s thrown out a lot in this trailer. They’ve done a good job so far of teasing the versatility and the openness of the worlds shown. But it’s another thing entirely to deliver on those promises. The game world is teased to be about four times larger than the previous game, but the question if those sections are completely explorable is yet to be seen. Hopefully Bioware can deliver, because as it goes, Andromeda looks like it’s going to be one of the best offerings in 2017.

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