Mass Effect: Andromeda is less than a week away, and Bioware has launched pre-release access on Origin and Xbox One. PeeBee and Cora’s relationships with maleRyder have been highlighted, we know the Kett are interlopers (not unlike ourselves on the Nexus), and that our goal is to find a ‘Golden World’—a new Earth. All the Andromeda Initiative Briefings have been released, we’ve met the team, and all that’s left is getting our hands on the PS4 release of the game. Andromeda begins a new era for the Mass Effect franchise, and we hope that—though in a new galaxy—some of our favorite parts of the trilogy will be continued.
Mass Effect has always been defined—and driven—by its characters. The colorful cast that made up the team of the Normandy in the first three games were much of why players continued to come back. They were empathetic, creative, and made players care, to the point of initiating romances with them and wanting to know how their stories ended.
They also shaped the overarching narrative, chiming in with their thoughts and reactions to Shepard’s—the players—actions and decisions. Though not always forcing a choice from the player with their actions, the weight of their input held gravitas with the player, especially when one wanted to be their friend, or earn their trust. This became essential in the loyalty missions of Mass Effect 2, which often determined whether certain characters lived or died through the final mission.
Loyalty missions are back in Andromeda, though are built as character points rather than indicators of how likely a character is to survive the end of the game. We’re excited for this inclusion, as it provides an opportunity to get to know our team better, while also exploring Andromeda’s new moral system. There’s more grey area to play in as we get to know and bond with our teammates, and the relationships are expected to be less black and white. The romances will also follow this trend, we hope, as flirting options are not always the direct path to unlocking a character’s romantic relationship.
The characters are why we keep coming back to the Mass Effect universe, and they inspire us to explore more of the world with and through them. Be you eager to get to know your sibling, smooch a character in particular, or just want to be best buds with Vetra or Drak, the cast is something we’re hopeful for as we proceed into Andromeda.
The Mass Effect trilogy wouldn’t be what it is without the emphasis it holds on players choice. Particularly in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, the player dictated the outcome of their game (and the subsequent games) through the decisions they made. Virmire, which side quests one completed, the outcome of the loyalty missions in 2, how many ship upgrades one purchased—all of these things shaped the narrative, from minor correspondence to who one had to negotiate with to get Krogan support in Mass Effect 3.
Player choice has been a large part of RPGs in recent years, as it provides players with investment and helps them feel as though they have an impact within the game itself. When one determines the shape and narrative of the game they’re playing, even at a basic level, it helps them to care more about the outcome, and heightens the empathy they feel for the characters as well. Mass Effect did this particularly well in the first two games, as the choices made across Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 culminated in the majority of Mass Effect 3. The controversial ending of the final game aside, players built and shaped their worlds through the relationships they built and the choices they made, which they then had to face in the final installment. Some players had to end one relationship to continue another, others had to deal with Wrex and the outcome of their choices regarding the genophage. This level of choice, of impact, kept players returning and allowed them to be so deeply invested in the outcome.
The Mass Effect universe has always been vast, filed with a multitude of details most players don’t even have to think about to play the game, yet add an extra depth for those that pay attention. The Codex is filled with notes about Element Zero and the birth of human biotics, about the Relays and how they function; even each planet has a short history when you interact with it, something to share about why it’s named or who it was colonized by. These little details breathe life into the Mass Effect series, and build a consistent lore players can dig into and invest in.
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Though we’ve moved beyond the Milky Way galaxy, Andromeda promises new alien species, new technology, and new little details for players to delve into. Cryostasis is a new aspect of the game, along with its effects on the Council species who have traveled to Andromeda. There are new conflicts (why have the Krogan gone off on their own? What makes one defect from the Initiative?), new worlds, new lore to explore, along with resources to gather and old feuds to manage (not every one of the Council species got along).
Hopefully the plethora of details we found in the original trilogy will also appear in Andromeda, as it aids in immersion and provides those of us who love to delve a little deeper with more to explore. Crafting and the focus on exploration holds a great deal of promise, and we look forward to the lore Andromeda has to offer.
Mass Effect has come a long way from its original 2007 release. Three games, multiple books, comics, DLC, and now a new game mark it’s progress, good, bad, and otherwise. Mass Effect: Andromeda holds a lot of promise and a lot of fear for fans who have been with the series for a decade, as it’s the first game out of a new Bioware studio without Casey Hudson at the head. We’re eager to see what Andromeda has in store for us on the 21st, and hope to see some of the quintessential marks of the Mass Effect games continued in this new installation to the universe.