After being in stasis for 600 years, the time has finally come for mankind to awaken and explore Andromeda – but nothing is as expected. It’s down to you, the Pathfinder, to guide your hibernating colonists towards a habitable world where humanity can not only survive, but thrive. You’ll come across new species, alien technology and unexplained phenomena, with the fate of the Andromeda Initiative on your shoulders. Read next:
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In the spirit of full disclosure, we’ve played Mass Effect: Andromeda for around 25 hours so far and we’re yet to complete the main story of the game, but we feel that it’s long enough to get a good understanding of what the game has to offer.
Mass Effect Andromeda UK release date and pricing
Mass Effect: Andromeda is now available to buy around the world after its 23 March 2017 launch. It’s available for PS4, Xbox One and PC, and you’ll be able to pick up Mass Effect: Andromeda from the usual places:
Microsoft Store (£60) and
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Mass Effect Andromeda: Story, discovery and exploration
In 2185, humans stumbled across a Martian ruin that projected their understanding of science and technology forward by hundreds of years, making space travel a reality. While humans were happy to explore the vast reaches of the Milky Way, some had another goal in mind, and thus the Andromeda Initiative was born.
Appealing to adventurers, scientists and those that wanted a fresh start, the Andromeda Initiative took thousands of humans across the galaxy on a 600-year trip to the Heleus Cluster, nestled comfortably within the Andromeda galaxy.
Of course, as many will have guessed, not everything goes to plan. While initial scans from the Milky Way suggested that the Heleus Cluster was home to several ‘golden worlds’ (aka worlds that can sustain human life), the reality is that it simply isn’t the case – and nobody is sure why. It appears that something is spreading across the cluster from planet to planet, consuming everything in its wake – and that’s not all either.
There’s also a mysterious alien race, the Kett, that seem to have an advanced understanding of the mysterious monoliths and ancient technology found on planets across the Heleus Cluster, and will challenge anybody – including the Pathfinder – that tries to go near them. That’s bad news for the Andromeda Initiative, but we won’t tell you why. Spoilers, and all that.
What we will say is that Mass Effect: Andromeda’s main storyline is intriguing, and keeps you coming back for more. In fact, it does more than that: it makes you want to understand why. The great thing is that in Andromeda, that’s entirely possible.
Whether it’s by accident or on purpose, NPCs (non-player characters) dotted around the Cluster will provide you with information via general chit-chat. Sometimes it’s completely random, but every now and again you’ll come across somebody with a snippet of information that gives you a greater understanding of why Andromeda is the way that it is – and it’s exciting.
It makes you want to go out into the world, talk to every NPC you see, read all the datapads that you find and wander away from the beaten track to see what you can find. The story, and all the characters within Andromeda are intertwined, you just need to find the connection that brings them all together. What we love is that you don’t need to do this to enjoy the Mass Effect: Andromeda story, but it brings a greater understanding for those that really want to get into it.
Choice plays a huge part in Mass Effect: Andromeda too, although not quite to the same extent as in previous games in the series. Still, you’re given multiple choices for many of the conversations you take part in, with your overall tone dictating how characters view the Pathfinder as the game goes on.
That’s not to say that your choices won’t affect the story: they just might not be as obvious as you first assume. This style of gameplay allows the gamer to channel their personality through the Pathfinder, helping to build a connection between the two.
Of course, being the Pathfinder in an open world game means that you’re free to choose your own path: you don’t have to follow the campaign to gain access to other planets. In fact, if you wanted to, you could explore the entire Cluster after the first few missions in the game. Of course, we don’t recommend doing this but it helps us make our point: do what you want.
Taking on side quest, errands and other missions will help the Pathfinder build relationships not only with his team, but the variety of alien species that you come across throughout Andromeda. It’s up to you and the choices you make that define how you’re perceived: if you make combat the focus of the Andromeda Initiative, you might find a little more resistance than if you concentrate on discovery and science.
The quality of the side quests and errands are impressive too, considering the sheer scale of the game: we spent one evening only working on side quests and errands, and didn’t feel like we were ‘grinding’ or performing the same tasks repeatedly. It’s all about variety in Andromeda, and that’s one of its charms: you never know what you’ll get when you agree to help somebody out, you just know it’ll be dangerous (and fun!).
As with any open world game, scavenging is key: if you don’t like scavenging for weapons, armour and materials, Andromeda isn’t the game for you. As you discover and scan new technology on your travels you’ll be awarded points that you can spend on the development of new items that can be used in crafting to completely change the function of a weapon.
Again, as with other elements of the game, scavenging encourages users to stray from the beaten path to find the best armour, weapons and modifications available in the Heleus Cluster.
The range of planets you come across is staggering, too: some may be highly radiated and inhabitable to humans, while other offer lush forests, waterfalls and even beaches – it’s the luck of the draw, but each looks stunning in their own way.
Unlike in other space exploration games, these planet-sized planets look and feel alive. Seeing individual snowflakes blow across the display in a blizzard, or hearing the roar of distant alien species on desolate, hostile planets areas provide a level of immersion not matched by many games.
When coupled with intuitive scripting that reflects the current situation (on arrival on a new planet, onlookers might remark about the appearance of humans, or make throwaway comments like ‘that thing should be locked up’), you’re left with an immersive, reactive galaxy that feels real. You can even eavesdrop on random NPC conversations if you desire: there are hundreds to listen to.
The only real issue in terms of graphics (and this should come as no surprise) is the questionable facial animations. Since the launch of Mass Effect: Andromeda on EA/Origin Access, players have been posting hilarious GIFs of in-game facial animations that look funny or downright weird. It’s not just facial animations, as walking animations also seem to be effective.
While it’s not as prominent in the game as some are making it out to be, it does break immersion when you see the Pathfinder awkwardly grimace instead of smiling.
Mass Effect Andromeda: Gameplay and mechanics
Story and graphics can only do so much: with poor gameplay and mechanics, it doesn’t matter if the game is the latest AAA title or an unknown indie game, it won’t be enjoyable. It’s especially important in big, open world games to nail the exploration and combat mechanics as it’s a game that requires hundreds of hours to complete – and thankfully, BioWare has hit the nail on the head when it comes to Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Walking, running, climbing, using my jump jets, evading and driving: it’s all so smooth. But why? By default, you’re in what we call ‘exploration’ mode with a wide angle and responsive movement. It’s easy to run, jump and climb up ledges using your jetpack, or as it’s called in Andromeda, jump jets, and makes spotting hidden caches and wandering off the beaten track much easier. It’s hard to understand without playing the game yourself, but player movement is fluid, smooth and an all-around joy.
However, it’s the combat mode mechanics that really perfect the gameplay. At the tap of a button, the camera zooms in to a tighter, over-the-shoulder shot as is standard in third-person shooters, providing hit markers for successful shots, headshots and kill shots and a navigation bar displaying the location of nearby enemies.
But unlike in other games, the cover system in Mass Effect: Andromeda is automatic and works incredibly well. As long as your gun is out, you only need to walk up to a structure to automatically take cover behind it. There’s no button to press or hold, and it doesn’t ‘snap’ you into place either – you’re free to move in and out of cover as you choose, ideal for a game where enemies can (and do) flank you effectively. If you need to get out of the firing line, it’s as simple as using a power, running or boosting away using your jump jets.
And that’s without even talking about the insane amount of biotics at your disposal, which are unlocked and upgraded as you level up. Like a standard RPG, there are many powers available to you with each falling into a different class – combat, bionics or tech – and each offering a different style of play. However, unlike with most other RPGs, users are free to mix and match the skills between the three classes to find the style of gameplay that suits them.
There are also different profiles available that give you the edge in battle, with each offering different enhancements based on your current loadout. For example: if you’ve got three combat-focused powers assigned, it’d be a good idea to combine that with the Soldier profile that provides extra damage, shields and melee damage. Profiles are developed further as you upgrade the different powers available to the Pathfinder, so it’s worth experimenting with them to get the most out of the game.
Gamers are encouraged to experiment with different classes and profiles, with BioWare providing a favourites bar. The favourites bar provides gamers with a way to access up to four pre-set profiles for the varying situations they’ll come across in the field. You could have a loadout that provides extra stealth for when you want to sneak past enemies, along with a combat-focused, aggressive loadout for when you need to take on multiple enemies’ head on.
However, while gamers can switch out their powers on-the-fly, the same can’t be said for your weapon loadout, armour, consumables or squad – those decisions are made at the beginning of a mission, or via Forward Stations that you unlock as you explore planets that you visit. Forward Stations are like supply drops, replenishing ammo, health and armour, providing access to the Nomad (a six-wheel drive car for exploration over large areas) and act as a Fast Travel beacon for when you really can’t be bothered to backtrack through 10 minutes in the middle of a blizzard with dangerous sub-zero temperatures.
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Mass Effect Andromeda: Multiplayer
Mass Effect: Andromeda has not one but two multiplayer modes, although you’d be forgiven for not noticing the difference between the two straight away. The standard multiplayer bands four players together with the aim of surviving wave-based combat with varying objectives, which helps keep the gameplay fresh and exciting.
The enemy? The Remnant, a sentient robot race tasked with protecting the monoliths throughout the Heleus Cluster. Instead of simply going up against the Remnant over and over again (which, admittedly you do), you’ll have to take our targets, protect NPCs and survive an all-out assault before you can be extracted.
The combat mechanics have a huge part to play in Mass Effect: Andromeda’s multiplayer: you get the same freedom to walk, run, jet-jump and dodge as you do in the main campaign. This makes online gameplay an absolute joy, especially when executing a perfectly timed combo with other members of your squad.
The use of biotics in the online multiplayer allows players to find the play style that suits them, and as with the main campaign, there are a number of ways to customise not only your loadout, but your character too.
Strike Teams offer a more objective-focused game mode with more difficulty than a standard multiplayer match, but for good reason: you gain access to special rewards and upgrades for your Pathfinder in the main campaign, along with upgrades to apply to your online character.
The gameplay is similar to a standard online match, with four online players facing waves of the Remnant with differing objectives, although it’s noticeably harder (especially Gold-rated missions).
Of course, you don’t have to complete every Strike Team assignment yourself: you also have access to NPC Strike Teams that you can send out on your behalf, although the effectiveness depends on the traits and level of the Strike Team.
While we’re impressed with Mass Effect: Andromeda’s multiplayer mode at the moment, we must admit that it’s fairly limited with only a two (very similar) game modes available. We’d love to see more objective-based online game modes in the future, utilising some of the incredible planets from the main Mass Effect: Andromeda campaign.
It also made us realise just how amazing the entire game would be if you were able to swap out your NPC squad mates for your friends; it’d make exploring the Heleus Cluster a much more entertaining and enjoyable experience.
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