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Approximately half a decade after Commander Shepard embarked on their final journey in Mass Effect 3, EA and BioWare have decided to expand the Mass Effect universe with Mass Effect: Andromeda, a game that will give you the opportunity to explore the Andromeda Galaxy (as the game’s title implies). Instead of playing as the most (in)famous N7 operative known to man, however, you get a chance to step in the shoes of Scott or Sara Ryder, the children of Alec Ryder, a Pathfinder of the Andromeda Initiative. Such a title may not carry the same weight as “Council Spectre,” but it does indicate that you are one of the 20,000 colonists that each of the Council races have sent to establish a new home on the most distant of shores.

Unfortunately, given that the Milky Way Galaxy is not exactly close to the Andromeda Galaxy, it is highly unlikely that you will run into any of the characters that you met in the previous Mass Effect games. In fact, Mass Effect: Andromeda takes place roughly 600 years after the events of the Shepard trilogy, truly isolating the events of Andromeda from any of the decisions that Shepard made. You will still get your standard assortment of alien (including an entirely new species, the Angara) and human squadmates, each possessing a wide range of abilities and mannerisms that may remind you of beloved characters like Garrus or Liara, but for all intents and purposes these are completely new characters who you may end up loving and or hating. As per Mass Effect tradition, you can also enter a romantic relationship with them, if you so desire.

Speaking of which, while Mass Effect: Andromeda will retain the series’ emphasis on dialogue, your ability to be a Paragon or Renegade will be gone. According to an interview with Mass Effect: Andromeda’s creative director, Mac Walters, for Xbox Magazine, the Paragon/Renegade system tended to influence players a bit too much, often creating scenarios where people would instinctively go for certain dialogue choices without really paying much attention to the dialogue itself. Instead, Andromeda will give you the ability to respond Emotionally, Professionally, Casually, or Logically to dialogue choices; you could theoretically still skip dialogue like a madman and end up aligning with your desired morality, but it’s probably going to detract from the intended experience.

Mass Effect wouldn’t be the same if you and your squad didn’t have to settle things with violence, however; thankfully, the core combat mechanics in Andromeda should be very familiar to fans of the series. You and your squad can use anything from bullets to Biotics to kill things, on top of the usual elemental effects that would allow you to incinerate or freeze people just because you can. A number of weapons from the Shepard trilogy will also be returning, such as the Black Widow sniper rifle and the iconic M-8 Avenger assault rifle. You can even find a wide assortment of melee weapons, including a set of Asari swords and Krogan hammers, that are presumably much more effective that simply slapping someone with the butt of your rifle. And yes, there is a multiplayer Horde mode much like the one in Mass Effect 3, so you and your friends/random people can use all of these weapons (if you are lucky enough to find them) to fight off enemies like the Kett, an enigmatic species that apparently loves the use of bones as an armor motif.

It wouldn’t be much of a colonization effort if all you did was talk to people and or shoot them, so to that end, you will be able to explore planets with the help of your ship, the Tempest. Fortunately, you don’t have to find a gas station every couple of seconds like in previous Mass Effect games. Once you find an interesting planet that won’t kill you upon entering its atmosphere, you can embark upon the Nomad, which is essentially a giant armored dune buggy, to travel around on the planet’s surface. To help you navigate terrain that your Nomad can’t access, you also have a jetpack (which can be used during combat), more or less confirming that there will be environmental hazards like lava, steep cliffs, and endless pits of death. If you do manage to find something useful, like resources or blueprints, you can put your discoveries to good use by crafting weapons and armor.

Of course, seeing as how Mass Effect: Andromeda is running on a new generation of hardware and software, you can expect everything to look and perform so much better than before (assuming that the game runs properly), which is presumably a huge benefit to those who spend hours painstakingly crafting their character’s face. For all of the improvements and tweaks that Andromeda will bring to the core Mass Effect experience, though, there are plenty of things that will remain reasonably intact, the most important of which is the gameplay; good news for returning fans or those who are looking for a solid third person shooter/RPG/dating simulator.

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Anson Chan

Staff Writer

You ever wonder why we're here? It's one of life's greatest mysteries, isn't it? Good thing games exist so that we don't have to think about it. Or at least I don't have to think about it. Instead, I'll just play Halo or something.