After being teased to the point of exhaustion with developer diary presentations, anecdotal trailers and drops of information here and there, gamers were finally treated to something more concrete at this year’s Game Awards that shows the potential of Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Your version of Ryder, either Sara or Scott, are tasked with inheriting your father’s position as humanity’s Pathfinder. Activated before Mass Effect 3’s Reaper invasion, Ryder has spent the past 600 years in cryo-sleep. Pathfinders are “part soldier, part explorer, part guide” and must find a new home for the human race. From never-ending deserts to harsh volcanic environments, and everything in-between, finding this ‘new home’ will be far from easy.
The footage soon kicks into gear by entering a cluster of planets – with a very similar look to Mass Effect 3’s approach – in the Govorkam system. We’ve been told that every planet, habitable or not, has its own story to discover and the trailer soon enters a planet called Kadara, under a story mission or side-quest titled “Hunting the Archon”.
Your ship, the Tempest, lands on Kadara, where “warring outlaw factions fight over every available scrap”. Based off that brief description, Kadara has a similar vibe to Mass Effect 3’s Omega space station – where crime was rampant with little regulation. Ryder enters Kadara with two squadmates – a male Krogan we know as Drack and a Turian whose name is yet to be revealed. Other confirmed teammates in the game such as fellow humans Liam, Cora, and an Asari called Peebee, play little-to-no part throughout the reveal.
While roaming Kadara towards her objective, ex-Alliance officer Sloane Kelly, Ryder communicates with a computer system called Sam/’S.A.M’ for some quick personal profiling. The earlier description of Kadara has deliberately shone through in the graphics, too, with a bloody sunset and the bright light of neon signs bouncing off the floors throughout the area.
The meeting with Kelly is the most awkward bit of the reveal, as the character interaction between Ryder and herself lacks that punch from the facial animations to result in a truly tense situation. However, it’s nice to see those snap Paragon/Renegade choices remain in some form, resulting in Ryder disarming a guard to assert some dominance.
Gameplay footage then jumps to a brief moment in the Nomad, the descendant to the Mako terrain vehicle. Beginning in a cave or secluded base, it zips around the semi-tropical/arid landscape with ease – whether this is still the planet of Kadara or not isn’t revealed. The Nomad’s HUD is a fairly simple one, which is good: a speedometer is shown in the bottom right corner along with a few abilities that aren’t triggered. There is also a prompt for the PlayStation’s L2 trigger, in the opposite corner, which may assist with fast descents or to dodge incoming fire. No weapons systems for the Nomad were activated for the reveal’s entirety.
The use of a new detective mode/scanning ability on your Omni-tool soon follows, with Ryder entering an office-like space. With a dead Krogan in her midst, this looks to be useful way of overseeing potential crime scenes, finding useful, hidden items or revealing potential motives for certain alien races or characters. Upon completion, the scanner projects the individual’s race data, their current status, as well as the most likely cause of death. However, much like Mass Effect 2’s planetary launching of mineral probes, this could prove to be a tedious mechanic – due to the line “keep scanning, we need hard evidence.” Only time will tell as to how dependent the scanner is on investigating an entire area for a set amount of clues in order to complete an objective.
Afterwards, Ryder then springs into action from the Nomad with some much-needed combat gameplay. A battle around an outpost or mining facility of some sort soon ensues and her short roster of weaponry and abilities are put on display.
Using a Carbine Shotgun, Ryder erupts with a chaos of biotic powers. She leaps into the fray with an impressive jetpack and biotic Slam ability that quickly dispatches Sharpshooters and Raiders. We also get a look at the Biotic Shield at work, which soaks up incoming damage in order to give Ryder’s own combat shield time to recharge – represented by a purple line above her health bar.
When a couple of large mechs drop, quickly identified as Hydras, Ryder switches to Disruptor Ammo to work on the Hydras’ shields. It’s clear Mass Effect: Andromeda will award players for stringing together complementary attacks, whether this is in the form of extra damage or experience points. This can be seen when Ryder is given a ‘Tech Combo’ for following up a melee strike with a massive Disruptor blast from her shotgun.
After finishing the combat section with an explosion or two, the game’s crafting system is given a brief mention. We see a small dropship come into view – similar to a ‘care package’ – that rests atop a hill overlooking some geysers. We don’t know whether this can be used as a portable crafting station while out in the field, but it sounds like a useful alternative to saving such micro-management tasks to complete back at your base. While out in the field, your jetpack seems like an invaluable tool in traversing each world’s environments to collect certain minerals or other objects of interest necessary for that next awesome set of armour.
Immediately we find out that encountering a planet’s wildlife is all part of the experience of exploration. Ryder is soon ambushed by a Fiend, a brutish creature that is surprisingly agile for its size. Needless to say, Ryder is chewed up and spat out by this adversary.
The closing stages of the reveal contain a montage of more environments, abilities and enemy types. Of particular note is a quick-fire ability reminiscent of The Witcher 3’s Igni skill, which soaks nearby enemies in a coating of fire, and a snippet of the loyalty mission of Vetra – who’s yet to be revealed to the public. Also interesting was the outpost standoff where Ryder blends in with a nearby boulder – all but confirming that the Infiltrator character class will make a return in some form or another.
With a more fluid combat system than any of its previous entries, Mass Effect: Andromeda has progressed very well in its production – despite mass paranoia. It’s gone back to that exploratory formula of discovery that made the original Mass Effect such a strong title to begin with. Here’s hoping the story is strong and the essence of Ryder’s discoveries aren’t overshadowed by a lack of interaction within each planet.
What did you think of Mass Effect Andromeda’s gameplay reveal? What would you like to see included in the game? Be sure to drop a comment!