With less than five weeks until the release of Mass Effect Andromeda, we’ve decided to gather all the important information about the game.

Andromeda is a fresh start – both for many of the game’s characters and for BioWare, the studio which underwent heavy criticism after the finale of the Mass Effect’s original trilogy. The upcoming title is set roughly 600 years after Commander Shepard’s fight with the Reapers.

To the Unknown

The latest story is based on the Andromeda Initiative, a collaborative effort of humans, Asari, Salarians and Turians, who decided to start an ages-long journey to find a new home for primary races and some other volunteers. This organisation was founded in 2176 and launched in 2185 – the year Shepard was resurrected in Mass Effect 2, but before the Reapers were known as a real threat.

That’s the base of the story – we are not playing as people fleeing from the Milky Way but rather as explorers, who want to discover new places. Everyone has its own reason to join the Andromeda Initiative and many of quests will focus on motivations of certain characters.

Leading the way to a new galaxy is the Nexus – a structure serving as a base and a precursor for four Arks, giant spaceships containing hibernated representatives of races mentioned above (with some exceptions). If you are wondering why Krogans and other races are present in the new galaxy, Nexus is the answer.

A Team of Explorers

You’ll play as either Sara or Scott Ryder – one of siblings, while the other will be available as an NPC. You are able to personalize their name (although there are some audio lines for the default ones) and looks in character creator. What’s even more interesting, there’s also Alec Ryder, their father, whose appearance will change a bit depending on your choices in the editor.

You will be joined by a group of six companions total (that’s the confirmed number, but we expect some surprises on the way). Cora Harper is a biotic that trained with an elite Asari unit. Her surname is interesting, because the Illusive Man’s original name is Jack Harper. Is that a hint that some Cerberus influence will be found in the Initiative? We’ll learn soon. The second human joining the team is Liam Kosta, a man responsible for the security, a former engineer and cop. Both characters will be your starting teammates.

But Mass Effect would be boring without alien races and some of these aliens will join your team. There’s Vetra, a female Turian that loves heavily modified and upgraded custom armors. No words on calibrations. There’s also PeeBee, a rather unorthodox Asari, who came to Andromeda eagerly somehow bored with the Milky Way. Finally, we have Drack. A Krogan. No need for an army!

It’s confirmed that each of our comrades will get a unique loyalty mission similar to those from Mass Effect 2. But fear not! This time they won’t affect the ending and, as the game has a much more open structure, you will be able to finish those quests after the final mission. There are romances, too – but without “deadlines” in story and very often they will happen on different levels, including non-sexual relations.

The dialogue system has been reworked for Andromeda – Paragon/Renegade system is no more and instead you’ll have speech options described with behaviour types: Heart, Head, Professional and Casual with additional interrupt decisions depending on situation.

Play It Again, SAM

Additional help in your adventures will come from SAM, short for Simulated Adaptive Matrix. It’s a construct created by Alec Ryder himself and you should take note that it’s a full AI. Scott’s and Sara’s father is the Pathfinder leading the human Ark Hyperion, but due to yet unknown reasons our young hero will take up his role. SAM is connected to the Pathfinder granting them some unique features (and a voice in your head).

Six classes known from the original trilogy are non-existent here. Instead, they were changed into Profiles. The full scope of those modifications is unknown at the moment of writing this preview but we expect a full reveal soon. Developers confirmed that there’s no level cap and you can keep leveling until you run out of skills available. Based on the abilities chosen (and their upgrades similar to the 6-tier system from Mass Effect 3) Profiles will be leveled up. You’ll be able to change them between missions and each will grant different bonuses – e.g. Soldier Profile granting additional weapon damage.

While in combat, you will be able to use three main skills. Additional abilities should be available, but it’s another case where BioWare’s marketing isn’t properly describing basic gameplay systems. Clearly, combat in Andromeda is much more action-oriented and works like Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer component. Powers have individual cooldowns. Movement will be essential and covers will be even less effective as almost every type of defense can be destroyed. There’s no active pause and you will be giving real-time commands for squadmates.

Nice to Meet You

As we are visiting a new galaxy, miscellaneous new races will be introduced, with at least a few of them technically advanced. One of them are Angara, a feline-like species with their representative Jaal joining our team later in the game. There are the Kett with halo-shaped bones on their heads. The Kett will serve as main antagonists of this Mass Effect, but there’s more to them than being evil for the sake of being evil. Andromeda is a story of a different tone. There’s no big bad similar to the Reapers and our focus will lay in exploration.

BioWare’s team doesn’t like to call the game an “open-world” experience and instead they prefer the “exploration-based” tag. At least a few planets will serve as story hubs, with their own plotlines and even some crucial decisions shaping the state of galaxy. Numerous activities are planned, with exploration and combat being the standard ones and others including puzzle-locked vaults and mining.

You’ll explore those planets on foot or inside the Nomad, the new vehicle available for Ryder and company. There will be some hazardous environments to visit and sometimes upgrades to our 6-wheeled “car” will be required. Traveling through unknown worlds we’ll find enemy bases (you can clear and capture them – this system has been introduced with many limits in Dragon Age: Inquisition), establish drop zones and outposts, and find additional side quests. The Nomad is capable of scanning zones and setting new mining points. And if you wish, you can go out and use your jetpack to explore.

Together We Stand

The game has a multiplayer component similar to the one from Mass Effect 3. You will play in four-player squads in a horde-like mode. Single player will be affected by co-op, but not like in the previous title. It won’t change the ending and instead will grant additional resources. The interesting aspect is the fact that it’s possible to freely go between the campaign and multiplayer as a “strike team.” No details from BioWare yet, sorry.

General notes:

  • There are five difficulty levels, including “Narrative” – very easy for those willing to enjoy only the story.
  • Crafting is included, allowing you to build your own armors and weapons. Later in the game you will learn how to create Kett items and even build hammers and swords. Yup, melee weapons confirmed!
  • Various teams from other Electronic Arts studios helped with the development process. That includes Need for Speed’s team for Nomad driving, EA DICE for Frostbite AI and even PGA Tour’s crew for environment and flora.
  • There are no plans for adding VR support.
  • At least three tie-in novels will be released including Nexus Uprising, a book introducing us to the events set before Mass Effect: Andromeda.
  • There’s no Season Pass planned for the game. As DLC for previous BioWare games is rather pricy, we aren’t sure if that’s a good info…

Mass Effect Andromeda is set to release on March 21st, 2017 in North America and on March 23rd in Europe for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Subscribers of EA Access and Origin Access will be able to play a 10-hour trial starting on March 16th. You will find future info about the game in our latest news section or via the title’s tag.

— Cover art by shalizeh, as presented on masseffect.com