Mass Effect: Andromeda is finally on the horizon, with BioWare’s launch protocols set for a spring 2017 debut. For months we knew very little about it, with any knowledge made up of scraps from teasing tweets and flashes of video. But recently BioWare turned on the intel taps and we’re gradually learning all about our next leap into the beloved sci-fi universe. Will Andromeda be full of hope and flirting? Or of dark prophecy and genocide (and flirting)? Well, probably both, since it’s a BioWare game. But let’s not speculate: let’s look at everything we know about Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Related: blast beyond the atmosphere with our favourite space games.
Mass Effect: Andromeda release date
Mass Effect: Andromeda is releasing in North America on March 21 and in Europe on March 23, meaning the previous leak via Amazon was actually accurate.
That leak came from a listing for The Art of Mass Effect: Andromeda, an artbook set to release "simultaneously with the game", according to its Amazon listing. The description has since been changed to omit that claim, but here's a screenshot from the original US version:
"Mass Effect: Andromeda is our most ambitious Mass Effect game to date," said BioWare general manager Aaryn Flynn. "We’re telling completely new stories, creating new characters, new planets, new species, and introducing new gameplay systems.
"And for the first time, we’re bringing Mass Effect to the Frostbite game engine, an incredible engine that’s delivering a tremendous graphical jump from the trilogy to Mass Effect: Andromeda. To deliver on this, we’re taking all the time we can to make sure you’re getting the best possible experience."
Mass Effect: Andromeda system specs
BioWare have tweeted that they expect to release the system requirements for Mass Effect: Andromeda "sometime in February". Also on the technical side, it's been confirmed that Andromeda will support controllers on PC.
Mass Effect: Andromeda pre-orders and editions
Pre-orders are now live on Origin for Mass Effect: Andromeda, alongside the requisite incentives. If you pre-order any edition (the standard edition costs £49.99, or $59.99 US), you’ll get access to the Deep Space Explorer armour set, a new skin for the Nomad vehicle, and five +50% XP boosters for the game’s multiplayer mode.
Paying extra for the deluxe and super deluxe editions will get you more toys. The deluxe edition costs £54.99, only £5 more than the standard, and will include: the Scavenger armour set, the Pathfinder casual outfit to wear outside of combat, the Pathfinder Elite weapon set, and a pet pyjak (that’s a space monkey who will have his own spot on the Tempest, like Shepard’s pets in previous games). The deluxe edition will also give the game’s digital soundtrack and a ‘multiplayer deluxe launch pack’, including weapons and equipment to ‘kick start’ your progress in the game’s multiplayer mode.
The super deluxe edition will set you back £69.99, and includes all the items in the deluxe edition. On top of this, for 20 weeks, you’ll also get a weekly premium pack for the multiplayer mode which will give ‘an ongoing boost to your progression’. It’s unclear what this pack will contain, but if it affects progression it might be an XP boost of some kind. Again, pre-ordering any edition will get you the pre-order goodies.
Note that none of these bundles contain a season pass, because Andromeda will not have one.
Mass Effect: Andromeda story
The fourth Mass Effect game will focus on the Andromeda Initiative. Founded in 2176 and launched in 2185 (the year Commander Shepard was revived in Mass Effect 2), the Andromeda Initiative is a civilian, multi-species project created to send scientists, explorers and colonists on a one-way trip to settle in the Andromeda Galaxy. The Initiative’s ultimate goal is to establish a permanent presence on the seemingly resource-rich frontier of Andromeda, and eventually create a reliable route between it and the Milky Way Galaxy.
You play as one of the Ryders, a brother and sister who are on one of these intergalactic arks, along with their father, Alec Ryder, the leader of the human ark. These leaders, called Pathfinders, are responsible for the people aboard their ship. After waking from cryosleep, something transpires and you end up taking the Pathfinder title, becoming responsible for the thousands of lives aboard your ark. Of course, the ark carrying the humans, the Hyperion, arrives in the wrong drop point, far from your forward command centre, the Nexus, and cut off from contact with both it and the other arks.
Where the adventure takes Ryder from there is unknown. We do know who they’ll be fighting, though: the main enemies are a race called the Kett. A more humanoid styled race than the monstrous Reapers (giant sentient spaceship lobsters are so last decade), they no doubt have something equally terrifying in their planning books. They’re naturally armoured, but thanks to strong art design you should easily be able to identify their weaker, fleshy spots when lining up a shot.
Andromeda’s story will wrap up in a single game, so don’t go expecting a new trilogy. “At the end of this, we want it to feel like a story has completed,” said BioWare creative Director Mac Walters. “Yes, for the universe, there’s much more you could explore, and we want to tease that, but it feels like its own story.”
That said, Walters has said that BioWare think of Andromeda "as a series", and further, more loosely connected games in the same galaxy seem all but certain. "Key elements" of Andromeda, such as the Ryders and the Pathfinder(s), will appear in some form in the next game, so keep your save file.
Mass Effect: Andromeda universe
Andromeda is a clean break for the Mass Effect series. Whilst in the same universe as the original trilogy, this is not a story about Commander Shepard or the Reapers. The setting for Mass Effect: Andromeda is a completely different area of space than we’ve explored before - the Helios Cluster - which is “really big” and much larger than the previous games.
Since we’re in a new galaxy, don’t expect any familiar faces to turn up.
@_Anderzzz story wise, it wouldn't make much sense.— Chris Wynn (@The1Wynn) August 10, 2015
Of course, there will still be elements of the previous Mass Effect games in Andromeda to forge the link between the trilogies. Expect to see returning races - Turians, Asari, Salarians, and Humans are already confirmed - armour courtesy of N7, and the new Mako rover, called the Nomad.
The Mako is making a big comeback in Andromeda. It was universally hated by players of Mass Effect 1, but the new Nomad rover is promised to be a big improvement. The Need For Speed team advised on its creation, so expect it to go like a bullet. It’s also critical to your survival; it can travel through planets with hostile ground, like sulfur pools and magma.
The Nomad will be stowed away on the Tempest, your home-base ship. It’s a lot smaller than the Normandy due to it being a scout rather than a warship, but will still house your crew and take you where you need to go. As you travel through space the view through the windows will change and reflect your location. The crew will move around too; none of that endless standing and doing calibrations nonsense. Check out the video below for a tour of the Tempest, courtesy of your new salarian pilot, Kallo Jath.
As you can see, your new ship is slick, quick and stealthy. Facilities include a research lab, where you'll bring back minerals and technology for analysis; an armory, where you can upgrade and equip weapons; a conference room, where you will get plot exposition; and the usual starship amenities such as engineering, sick bay, cargo bay, crew quarters, a galley and the bridge. And then there's your personal quarters, where you'll be doing at least some of your banging.
Andromeda's planets will vary not just by obvious qualities like flora, fauna and climate, but also by their role in the narrative and the type of gameplay that goes down there. Some will be more violent and action-focused, while others will feature more exploration and lore. Planetary zones may be bigger or smaller depending on whether you're intended to explore them on foot or in the Nomad.
Should you be a massive lore buff, you'll be able to read more about Andromeda in the upcoming official tie-in novels, which act as prequels and sequels to the events of the game.
Mass Effect: Andromeda characters
We know that familiar faces are not likely to turn up in Mass Effect: Andromeda, which means we get to be introduced to a whole host of new cast members. The first will, naturally, be our main character. You play as either Scott or Sara Ryder (above), the children of Alec Ryder, the human ark's Pathfinder. They are in their mid-20s. You can change your first name, but if you keep the default, NPCs will occasionally refer to you as Scott or Sara in voiced dialogue. This is Scott Ryder:
If you'd like to meet the voice actors for the Ryder twins, BioWare put out a video in which they discuss their characters and bicker like a real-life brother and sister.
One of your first two starting squadmates is Liam, a former police officer with a "light attitude", who brings levity to situations.
Peebee is the nickname of the Asari squadmate who keeps popping up in videos (her full name will be revealed later). She goes off on her own after arriving on the Nexus and is described as being smart and not concerned with social norms and "niceties", though she will have a bubbly personality in contrast to Liara, the pensive Asari from the first trilogy (this is a deliberate attempt by BioWare to shake up species conventions). Here she is:
It looks like you'll also have a female Turian squadmate, for which many fans have been hankering. Her name is Vetra, and if BioWare are deliberately running against type for alien species, she'll presumably be a happy-go-lucky klutz who hates guns and the calibration of them. Creative director Mac Walters has said that old tensions between the Milky Way's species remain, so perhaps there's some beef between her and the human Ryders.
No news on the Quarians yet, but for Krogan fans, we'll get to hear more about what's going on with the Genophage. This comes as a bit of a surprise since I didn't think there was much ambiguity - the Genophage is well understood during the original trilogy.
As for how you develop Ryder, Bioware have stated that they're going to ditch the paragon/renegade system for Mass Effect: Andromeda. Instead, players will be able to select responses based on "shades of grey" rather than black and white (or rather blue and red). This will hopefully create a deeper and more complicated sense of morality.
Dialogue choices will be broken down as answered from the heart, head, as a professional or casually. Interruptions return, but they won't be signalled by paragon or renegade prompts.
The big question, though: who can Ryder smooch? Well, romances will be present and correct, but they’ll play out in a different manner to traditional BioWare dating. There won’t be any of that ‘show interest, say the right things, have sex before the final mission’ structure here. Some characters will be up for flings, others deep relationships, while some may not be interested in love at all. There may even be polyamorous characters.
Mass Effect: Andromeda combat
Chris Wynn, formerly Andromeda’s development director, took to Twitter in August 2015 to differentiate Andromeda from BioWare’s last title, Dragon Age: Inquisition. If you found Inquisition’s tactics-heavy battling a little too finicky for your liking, then you’ll be pleased to hear that Mass Effect: Andromeda’s combat mechanics draw more from its predecessor than its sister franchise.
@Linkenski your assumption is a safe one. There are some new elements that make it more dynamic, but overall similar feel.— Chris Wynn (@The1Wynn) August 11, 2015
Wynn’s words fill us with confidence that we’ll be seeing a slicker version of Mass Effect 3’s battles, which were already well-constructed. Less tactical than Dragon Age’s party management approach, but suitably sci-fi with plenty of fizzing lasers.
We got our first proper look at Andromeda's combat in a trailer which dropped at CES 2017 in January, and it looks as Wynn described: reminiscent of Mass Effect 3, but more dynamic thanks mainly to the addition of the jetpack. This will let you boost a short distance upwards or from side to side, jump up to a higher storey, dash into (or out of cover) and so on. Jetpacks also have a dash function, so you can perhaps charge into an enemy with one of the new melee weapons like a sword or hammer.
We got our first glimpse of the jetpack in the video above, which shows it in a more sedate setting. As seen in the footage, the pack is enough to boost jump onto the top of buildings, providing a new angle for planet exploration, or a new escape route in the middle of combat.
Cover has been overhauled too - now it's a dynamic and Ryder will take cover as you move near it, rather than sticking to it rigidly. BioWare want to switch up the pace of combat encouraging players to move around the battlefield, rather than hunkering down.
Elsewhere, powers now have individual cooldowns, instead of global timers, which should hopefully lead to more experimentation. In fact, that seems to be the focus of much of the changes - BioWare clearly want to encourage players to try everything. That's why classes have been scrapped too.
You can now mix and match skills from all classes, creating a biotic sniper, or an engineer with a love for heavy weapons, for example. Once you pump so many points into a certain discipline, the game then applies a bonus to you based on your build, so you get to experiment before you're locked in. We saw a little bit more of this in the CES 2017 trailer, and we discussed its likely implications in detail on our YouTube channel.
This is confirmed by the game’s official gameplay trailer which shows off a number of new abilities that should make Mass Effect: Andromeda’s combat quicker and more fluid than anything the franchise has offered before. The below trailer shows Ryder using dashing abilities allowing her to zip across the combat area as well as up to a raised platform. Also on display are shields, strafe-dodges, enemy grab attacks and wrist-mounted flamethrowers.
Mass Effect: Andromeda side quests
The Mass Effect games have traditionally relegated side quests to non-combat busybody work in one of the hub worlds. Fetching things for people on the Citadel at worst, exploring a creaking spaceship hull at best, they never felt as expansive as they could. Andromeda aims to change that.
“Imagine that side content in a place where you’re not limited to keeping your weapon holstered,” said producer Mike Gamble in an interview with Game Informer. “There are so many different elements we can bring in by putting it on those planets with exploration areas. It makes the number and the type of side quests that we can do that much more interesting, whereas before if you’re on the hub you’re kind of limited to a fetch quest type of thing.”
It sounds like Andromeda will be talking a more Dragon Age: Inquisition approach to the way it structures its quests, then. “There are combat-related encounters, puzzle-related encounters, narrative-related encounters, and a lot of things will happen that add more depth to the critical path,” says Gamble.
The numerous planets in the Helios Cluster need to be explored to find all their secrets. When landing on the surface you’ll need to discover the Drop Zone in order to unlock fast travel, and optional boss fights and enemy bases can be found if you look hard enough. As you tame each planet, your presence there will be reflected in an outpost for your colonists. It's not totally clear how this will work, but don't expect a Fallout-style modular construction system. Our guess: outposts will be created, and possibly expand, in a fixed way as you complete quests.
Each planet will have its own unique story, with side quests intertwining through it and/or the main narrative. Creative director Mac Walters has said the team is specifically addressing feedback from Inquisition, and taking inspiration from other games including The Witcher 3, to reduce the grind and make side quests feel meaningful and contextual within the story.
Mass Effect: Andromeda loyalty missions
Loyalty missions were one of the best things about Mass Effect 2 - optional side quests that flesh out the cast. Unfortunately, these were dropped in Mass Effect 3 due to time constraints, but luckily they're back for Andromeda.
“I loved the loyalty missions,” creative director Mac Walters told Game Informer. “As a writer, one of the things I loved was the freedom to say ‘I know this character is coming along,’ so they can carry a lot of the narrative.
"That made my job easier, but it also made it more fun, because I could tell a more specific story in one of those missions.”
As ever, it'll be up to you if you want to tackle them in Andromeda, with the big incentive being a chance to get to know your (hopefully) interesting squadmates a bit better.
Where Mass Effect 2's loyalty missions impacted the ending, here they're apparently "much more optional", so you won't be punished for missing them. In fact, you can even tackle them after the main story, says Walters, suggesting squadmate death may not be a thing this time around.
Mass Effect: Andromeda multiplayer
Mass Effect 3’s co-operative multiplayer will be returning in Andromeda, as confirmed by Wynn in a comment on Twitter. Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer was rather well received, tasking groups of players with holding off against waves of enemies.
For Andromeda, each player will take on the role of a soldier in a group called Apex Force. A class-based system, with different loadouts and abilities, will allow you to select the right soldier for the job. The classes are grouped, and playing with them earns ‘Prestige XP’ for that specific group. “Let's say you play these tanky characters - it could be three different ones - you earn enough prestige XP to level up. Now you get a health benefit to all of your characters, not just the ones of that type,” explained lead designer Ian Frazier.
Multiplayer will be set in the narrative context of the single-player campaign, and you'll even be able to switch between the two modes without quitting out to the menu, which should make multiplayer feel more like an integral part of the experience. That said, you won't be forced to play either mode to get everything you want out of the other; no multiplayer maps are gated by campaign progress, the multiplayer mode contains no plot spoilers, and it's not required for anything in the campaign (like, say, a good ending).
Multiplayer will feature real-money microtransactions that can unlock card packs, but an in-game currency can also be used.
There's a multiplayer beta coming, but unfortunately it's only for console.
Mass Effect: Andromeda trailers
The cinematic trailer from N7 Day 2017 gives us a good look at the blockbuster-like story at play in Mass Effect: Andromeda. There’s always been a bit of Star Trek about Mass Effect, but this trailer really evokes the modern films in the series.
For a closer look at some of the game’s new gameplay additions, from Batman-esque detective scanners to the six-wheel Nomad you’ll be using to traverse planets, check out the official gameplay trailer:
Here's the orientation for the Andromeda Initiative, an in-universe introduction to the key group in the game:
A closer look at part of an Andromeda mission can be seen in the below 4K demonstration taken from Sony’s PS4 Pro event. While mostly scripted cutscene, it offers a good look at how pretty the universe looks running on the Frostbite engine:
Finally for an in-depth, guided look at Nexus, the space station you’ll be calling home Mass Effect: Andromeda, head to this page where a virtual intelligence hologram called Avina will talk you through the various features and modules it houses.
That's all we know of Mass Effect: Andromeda's brave new frontier. What are you hoping to find in the Helios Cluster? Let us know in the comments.