Legendary role-playing game developer BioWare hasn’t released a game in its Mass Effect series since 2012, which closed the door on the series’ hero, Commander Shepard, in epic fashion. The series’ next chapter, Mass Effect Andromeda, trades in Shepard and the nemeses, the Reapers, for a pair of new heroes and an unfamiliar corner of the universe as players search for humanity’s new home.
Though BioWare and publisher Electronic Arts have shown a minuscule amount of game footage from Mass Effect: Andromeda, a surprising number of details have been revealed, through both official sources and leaks. If you can’t wait until Mass Effect Andromeda comes out in 2017, then you can read everything there is to know about about the game right here.
In a new world…
The original Mass Effect trilogy featured plenty of planet-hopping and a diverse selection of playable locations, but its story still revolved around Earth. In Mass Effect: Andromeda, this is no longer the case.
Last year, a Reddit user revealed they took part in a survey for the then-untitled fourth Mass Effect game. According to the survey, Andromeda takes place after the events of Commander Shepard’s defense of Earth against the Reapers, at a time when humanity has begun searching for a new planet to call home. Andromeda will follow a new hero named Ryder, according to a tweet from BioWare producer Michael Gamble. Referred to as the “pathfinder,” Ryder is reportedly a novice explorer tasked with venturing into the Andromeda galaxy’s Helius cluster to locate a suitable planet for humanity.
Speaking to Polygon in June, BioWare creative director Mac Walters referred to the original Mass Effect trilogy as a “foundational background” for Andromeda, with “returning species and themes,” but the game would take time to explain these components to newer players, making Ryder’s adventure a good starting point for first-time players.
A next-gen universe for a next-gen franchise
With the power of a new console generation, it appears that Mass Effect: Andromeda will be substantially larger than Mass Effect 3. According to the same survey cited on Reddit, the game world will be more than four times the size of its predecessor, and feature “hundreds of solar systems that are seamlessly connected,” allowing players to fly through space, drive the Mako land vehicle, and venture on foot without noticeable load times. This was later confirmed, at least in part, by studio producer Aaryn Flynn, who told Game Informer back in June that the game would be moving to an open world structure. The same interview also confirmed the name of Ryder’s new ship: the Tempest.
During Sony’s 2016 “PlayStation Meeting,” publisher Bioware Montreal showed a brief portion of the game to show off the visual enhancements of the PlayStation 4 Pro. Electronic Arts later clarified to GameSpot that, while the Pro increase the game’s visual fidelity, Andromeda will be locked at 30 frames per second on both the PS4 and PS4 Pro.
Oh, the humanity!
BioWare is aware that the dialogue options and character development in the first three Mass Effect games could leave players wanting a little more, and the studio is taking steps to ensure that Mass Effect: Andromeda’s story feels more “human.” Speaking to Polygon during E3 2016, creative director Mac Walters said that the team “leaned into the more personal aspect” this time around, and that, though alien races have always played a large part in the Mass Effect series, the story is ultimately viewed “through human” eyes, and Ryder will only be available as a human character — or characters, we should say. BioWare revealed to PlayStation Access in September that the male and female character options for Ryder are actually siblings, and we’ve already seen their father during E3 2014.
Ryder won’t be a cookie-cutter character with a series of pre-picked “choices” to more the story forward. Walters stressed that the team wants “to embrace choice and diversity with what you can do in the game.”
Speaking to IGN during E3 2016, Walters cited the series’ romance and relationship system as an area the team hopes to improve improvement. In the past, the series tied the ability to initiate a romantic relationship with a specific character to completing “loyalty” missions and other key events. “In the past we’ve been very, eh, I’d say somewhat formulaic in the way we presented them,” Walters said at the time. “We’re trying to look at more organic ways to have those relationships evolve.” In Andromeda, the moments that affect Ryder’s chances at love aren’t quite as obvious this time around. How he or she interacts with the other members of the Tempest crew will also have an impact.
The Magnificent Seven crew members…
The previously mentioned Reddit leak also mentioned some of the Tempest crew members Ryder will have fighting by his or her side in the effort to save humanity. According to the survey, there will seven separate teammates to recruit in all, though the leak only makes mention of two specific characters.
The first is a Krogan named “Drack,” who has a strong affinity for his own people and wants no harm to come to them. By defending Krogan ships and settlements against enemy attacks, you can raise his loyalty and unlock new abilities.
The other teammate mentioned in the leak is named “Cora,” who has the ability to drop down a biotic shield to protect Ryder and your squad from enemy fire. This ability seems to fall in line with the Asari race, who we’ve seen extensively in the previous games, which has led avid Redditors to suggest she is the Asari visible in several of Andromeda’s trailers.
And other new friends
In addition to returning races such as the Krogan, Asari, and, of course, humans, Mass Effect: Andromeda will also introduce at least two new alien races. The Reddit leak called the first of these the “Remnant,” a “once powerful and mysterious alien race whose forgotten technology holds the key to gaining power in this region of the galaxy.” It is not made clear whether any members of the Remnant still alive, but their influence apparently still permeates several components of Andromeda. Special “Remnant Vault Raids” task Ryder’s team with locating “Remnant Monolith” structures that contain special “Remnant Artifacts.”
But you won’t be alone in your search. The second race the leak makes mention of is the “Khet,” a race that is also in search of the powerful items. Though details on the Khet are scarce, they appear to be the primary aggressor in Andromeda, and will attack humanity’s settlements as they attempt to gain more influence in the Helius cluster. Naturally, Ryder can venture into Khet outposts to limit their growth — these particular encounters reportedly play out as a sort of horde mode, with several waves of enemies defend against your attacks. It’s possible that these missions might eventually lead you to this location, which Eurogamer suggests may actually be the Khet’s home planet.
Time to strike
Side missions are a large part of what makes the Mass Effect series so special, and it looks like Andromeda will be no exception. The Reddit leak (the amount of information apparently revealed in this survey is truly staggering) details “Strike Team” missions, some of which will actually be available to play cooperatively. “Active” Strike Team missions can be tackled either by yourself, with your multiplayer characters, or with up to three other players, and have you fighting against “increasingly difficult alien attacks” while trying to complete objectives.
Should you not want to venture into the unknown, you can also order a “Deployed Strike Team” mission, where you can sent AI on “randomly generated, time-sensitive missions” to defend settlements or gather supplies. Placing these settlements in strategic locations will clear the “fog of war” effect from the space map, opening up even more Strike missions. Playing in the game’s dedicated multiplayer mode appears to follow the same basic blueprint, with additional gear rewards as well as “APEX,” a currency that can be used in the campaign.
The multiplayer component, will not, however, have any direct impact on Mass Effect: Andromeda’s story. Though director Mac Walters told Polygon he wanted the campaign and online mode to have “more positive ties” to the campaign, he said BioWare’s attempt to link the modes in Mass Effect 3 were met with a mixed reception. In Mass Effect 3, completing multiplayer missions could increase players’ “readiness” for the game’s final mission, affecting the fates of their campaign characters.
Take a look. It’s in a book.
Mass Effect: Andromeda’s gargantuan story won’t just be limited to a video game. A “Rights Guide” released by publisher Titan Books revealed that a set of four Mass Effect: Andromeda tie-in novels are in the works, and will hit stores over the next two years. The first book, Mass Effect: Andromeda Initiative — or Initiation, according to its cover — by N.K. Jemisin, was scheduled to arrive in August of 2016, but this release window has passed. The second, third, and fourth books are scheduled to arrive in March 2017, September 2017, and March 2018, respectively. They’ll “act as prequel and sequels to the events in the games” and will provide insight into the Andromeda chapter of the Mass Effect saga.
When can we play it?
According to publisher Electronic Arts, Mass Effect: Andromeda is on track to hit Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC in “early 2017.”
Mass Effect: Andromeda also looks like the only game in the series that BioWare is currently developing. Though fans have cried out for a remastered version of the original trilogy for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, executive Peter Moore said during an appearance on IGN Unfiltered that remasters are “not what we do” at Electronic Arts.”