March is soon upon us, and there are many games to be looking forward to, but for me there is only one, Mass Effect Andromeda. The Mass Effect series holding a special place in my heart for its deep characters, meaningful choices and a storyline that I had personally never seen before. Building up this cast of characters, watching them grow and having your actions effect each instalment was amazing. Disappointed with the Mass Effect 3 ending of three colour palette swaps, Mass Effect Andromeda is a breath of fresh air that I have been waiting months for. As with any game series held close to my heart though, I expect a lot from Andromeda and I believe if Bioware nails these elements, we will have a showstopper.
If Bioware is known for one aspect of their games, it is their characters. Characters that like real life, have struggles, failures, family expectations and victories through great personal cost. Even in less successful games (Dragon Age 2) we all remember Varric and his crossbow Bianca or Isabella the pirate queen. Bioware thus far, had yet to fail on this front and I don’t expect them to now. From the Mass Effect Andromeda website, we can tell there are 5 companions or squad mates revealed thus far. The first of these squad mates is Nakmor Drack, a thousand year old Krogan with bone armour. “I don’t need an army, I have got a Krogan,” one of the memorable quotes from the first trailer. We also have to my delight, Vetra Nix, a female Turian Sniper who from the bio will cover your back like family. For those looking for the blue skinned Asari, we also have one here in the form of Peebee. A rebel who grew bored with the Milky Way galaxy and hitched a ride for something new. Of course, we also have our typical humans, the blonde biotic Cora and the tech man Liam. With all squadmates yet to be revealed, it is almost a guarantee that last spot will be for one of the new alien races that we meet on Andromeda. Overall thus far, I am liking the characters and I am sure once we have the final release, they will grow on me more in a similar way to the original Mass Effect trilogy cast.
Depending on your opinion, each Mass Effect had elements of gameplay that either people loved or hated. Playing through the original Mass Effect, I loved the RPG system with bonuses for a particular kind of weapon set that gave you more freedom to spec your character how you wanted. Although to be fair, the actual combat itself was clunky and lacked fluidity. On the other side of the fence, the combat in Mass Effect 3 was the most fluid combining space wizard powers, guns and cover into a seamless combination. With this change though came a stripping back of the RPG elements of the original.
Mass Effect Andromeda from the gameplay footage looks to be a blending of both worlds. With static bonuses that allow you to spec into weapon categories, profiles that allow power switching on the run and weapons separated into 3 broad categories. Milky Way weapons that are projectile-based that use ammunition. Remnant weapons firing beams but using the revamped heat system of the original that need to be cooled before refiring. Lastly the Helios cluster of weapons that are plasma based, so the longer you hold down the charge, the greater the impact.
Speaking of movement, Mass Effect Andromeda looks to improve the combat even more with the ability of a jetpack. This jetpack allowing you an variety of functions. To smash down on enemy targets from above, to hover in the air and lastly perform aerial dashes both backwards and forwards into cover. No longer set in stone to be on the ground, this feature will certainty change up combat. This jetpack feature comes alongside a revamp to the cover system which apparently allows you to use anything as cover. Even the tiny barrel in the corner or a wooden door.
The last significant combat change alongside some new powers to the single player, (annihilation field and flamethrower) is the design of powers. No longer class based like they were before but rather split into three broad categories. Tech, Biotic and Combat. Rather then sticking to one class, this system allows you to mix and match different combat, biotic, and tech powers. Allowing you to field a variety of powers you want. Say, Flamethrower for armour, Warp for Shields and Biotic charge for unarmoured enemies. Old powers have also been upgraded with new effects and uses. Pull from the original trilogy actually pulls an enemy towards you as a shield while throw can be used to slam explosive barrels from the environment at enemies.
3. Roly-poly Mako
Everyone who played the original Mass Effect knows about the Mako. The ghastly thing that manoeuvred like a fat slug, had the driving response of a lorry but was fun to roll down mountains. I mean that thing was a rolling tank. To be fair though, Mass Effect was let down by the Mako, Bioware doesn’t intend to make the same mistake twice.
Now with Mass Effect Andromeda, the Mako is getting a much deserved facelift. With bigger wheels, axis and more guns, the Mako looks smoother and nice to look at. From the pictures and gameplay, it looks that the Mako will finally be able to drive in a straight line, finally making those long segments of driving more bearable.
With a new universe to explore and alien civilisations to meet, I hope we get to at least touchdown on some of the more exotic alien colonies. To find out their way of life and culture in a similar way to Star Trek Voyager. Hopefully finding a habitable planet and an alien race that doesn’t want to kill us for a change. Seeing as we are explorers, this element should be utilised to the fullest. Negotiating with an alien race, offering trade between our ship and their planet, the works. It will be a missed opportunity in my eyes, if they don’t include ship and planet exploration in such an ideal setting and new universe.
From what they have shown us thus far, I am excited. The combat seems fresh, the characters dynamic and the Mako drivable. Mass Effect Andromeda releases on the 23rd of March this year for PS4, PC and Xbox One.