Mass Effect: Andromeda: release date, setting, combat, story - everything we know

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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 release date leak

 

"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". We have got a little taste of them early, though, as producer Mike Gamble sought to reassure an anxious fan that he'd be able to run it. Gamble says, if you've got an Nvidia GTX 745, "you should be OK, I think." Perhaps not the most confident statement, but it suggests that anyone with a mid-range 700 series card or better will meet at least the minimum requirements when it comes to their GPU.

Also on the technical side, it's been confirmed that Andromeda will support controllers on PC, and that we'll be able to adjust the game's field of view.

Mass Effect: Andromeda pre-orders and editions

Mass Effect: Andromeda

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 Origin Access trial

If you're chomping at the bit to get into Andromeda before anyone else, you can subscribe to EA's Origin Access service for £3.99 (or $5 USD) per month, and play ten hours of the final game as early as March 16. That's five days before the game launches in the USA, and a full week before it's available in Europe.

Mass Effect: Andromeda story

Mass Effect Andromeda EWK

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

Mass Effect Andromeda EWK

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. 

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.

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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 (below) 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. 

Mass Effect 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.

We know that character interactions are more complex in Andromeda, with the simple paragon/renegade moral alignments scrapped and dialogue wheel actions moving towards Dragon Age: Inquisitions 'tonal' system instead of a simple 'nice/neutral/nasty' structure. Lead designer Ian Frazier says "it's possible to have Flirt + Investigates or Flirt + various tone options".

But who will you be talking with? Here's a quick summary of your fellow squadmates, but for absolutely all the details we have so far, both on these and the supporting cast, check out our in-depth Mass Effect: Andromeda character guide

Squadmates:

  • One of your first two starting squadmates is Liam, a human and former police officer with a "light attitude", who brings levity to situations.
  • Cora is your second starting squadmate, another human who, according to a leaked marketing survey which may or may not be accurate, is a biotic.
  • Peebee, an Asari squadmate who goes off on her own after arriving in Andromeda and will cross your path later. She's described as being smart, bubbly and unconcerned with social "niceties".
  • Vetra, a female Turian squadmate about whom we don't know much for certain. 
  • Drack, a male Krogan squadmate who shows up alongside Vetra in a trailer from The Game Awards 2016. If you're a Krogan fan, we'll apparently get to hear more about what's going on with the Genophage.

That's all the squadmates that have been revealed so far, and BioWare have said the squad will be smaller than it has been in the past in order to give each character more focus. This would still be true if we got one or two more, however. 

The big question, though: who can Ryder smooch? Surprising no-one, romances are present, correct and "strong" according to the Australian Classifications board. They’ll play out in a different manner to traditional BioWare dating, however: 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.

For everything we know about how love has changed in the new galaxy, check out our Mass Effect: Andromeda romance guide.

Mass Effect: Andromeda combat

Mass Effect Andromeda EWK

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.

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. 

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The jetpack

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. That's right; melee weapons now have their own dedicated slot, and there are several to choose from. The trusty omni-tool is your starting option, and can be upgraded to stay relevant throughout the game, but who wouldn't want to replace it with a sweet krogan hammer?

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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

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.

Powers and cooldowns

Elsewhere, powers now have individual cooldowns, instead of global timers, which should hopefully lead to more experimentation. Equipment weight still affects cooldown times on abilities, like in Mass Effect 3, "but the mechanic works a bit differently". 

Classes

This ability to experiment 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.

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If you're worried about the apparent limit on three abilities - as we and many others were - Ian Frazier has since tweeted that there will be a way to access more than three abilities while in the field, but he's not saying more just yet. Also, there's no level cap.

Mass Effect: Andromeda crafting and weaponry

Since we'll be bringing a lot of gear with us from the Milky Way to Andromeda, you can expect to get your hands on many old favourite weapons. What we've heard of specific weapons so far is limited, and doesn't mean much - we know Peebee favours a Sidewinder pistol, and in the New Earth trailer, your squad can be seen with a new assault rifle that looks halfway between an M-8 Avenger and an M-96 Mattock, with a white Andromeda Initiative paint job.

What's a bit more exciting is that Ian Frazier has all-but confirmed that you'll get your hands on more exotic fare. When a fan pointed out that the gun on Ryder's back in the deluxe edition box art is the N7 Valiant, a rare sniper rifle, Frazier essentially agreed. This could mean that Mass Effect 3's N7 weapons will be in the game, which is news.

Mass Effect: Andromeda deluxe edition box art

The bigger news, though, is the crafting system. In keeping with the idea that you're an explorer, having to scavenge to survive, it seems that Andromeda's crafting system will be integral to the game, particularly when it comes to combat. As in Dragon Age: Inquisition, you'll be able to craft and name your own weapons, but we're advised that the two systems will be "quite a bit different" from one another.

When you're crafting, you'll be able to steal and use technology from the Kett, which apparently makes plasma weaponry. The gun you're using will affect such things as how much mileage you get from ammo mods, such as incendiary rounds. There are also ways to "maximise your combos" using scavenged tech, so it seems the crafting system will have quite a broad reach.

Mass Effect: Andromeda side quests

Mass Effect Andromeda Nomad

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

Mass Effect Tali sex scene

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.

A leaked marketing survey suggests that loyalty missions will "unlock a brand new skill tree", similarly to how loyal squadmates in Mass Effect 2 would gain a powerful new ability. What other benefits come from loyal squadmates are unclear. 

As for the details of the loyalty missions, we only know how Drack, your Krogan squadmate, needs help. Again, that marketing survey suggests you have to help him track down a crew of outlaws who have stolen a ship, and return it to its rightful owners.

Mass Effect: Andromeda multiplayer

Mass Effect: Andromeda combat

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. It's also confirmed that the multiplayer mode will drop rewards that can be used in single-player, but it's not quite clear what they are or how they're earned.

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 also a multiplayer beta coming, but unfortunately it's only for console. 

Mass Effect: Andromeda trailers

There have been a lot of trailers for Mass Effect: Andromeda so far, but we're not complaining: they do give a pretty great taste of the setting, and of your mission. 

That's why we've bundled every single trailer into one handy post. Click here to watch them all.

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. 

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Richie Shoemaker avatarHtorne avatarLolssi avatarChopstick Chica avatarNihlusGreen avatarSteveCrook avatar
Richie Shoemaker Avatar
125
1 Year ago

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that it won't be available on Steam.

2
Htorne Avatar
497
1 Year ago

To be honest Orgin is pretty decent these days. Not that I love EA in any way, but it has improved a bit, considering it could be a lot worse.

2
NihlusGreen Avatar
585
10 Months ago

An Elcor crew mate would be nice

2
Htorne Avatar
497
1 Year ago

Thanks for bringing us this article :) good read.

1
Lolssi Avatar
256
1 Year ago

I bet there will be lots of crystals to collect and discover all those important spots on all the planets...

I was hoping going more open world would help with that boring hide behind boxes and wait for next wave to enter room combat but guess not according to that tweet :(

1
Chopstick Chica Avatar
1
1 Year ago

I was under the impression that the creators specifically (verbatim) did not want us to call or refer to Andromeda as Mass Effect 4, and to try and avoid labeling it that as much as possible.

1
SteveCrook Avatar
71
2 Months ago

> though she will have a bubbly personality

I want to kill her already.

1