Mass Effect Andromeda Preview – New Beginnings (PS4)
While we know a few details about Mass Effect Andromeda based on the info that’s been trickling out as we near the game’s March 21 North American release date, that still pales in comparison to actually seeing the sci-fi RPG in the flesh, and even actually getting to play the latest BioWare saga.
Thankfully, EA invited us earlier this month to the publisher’s Redwood studios to get a sneak peek, and get our grubby mitts on Mass Effect Andromeda. While we do document what we’ve seen and played, we aren’t allowed to talk about character romances, codex entries and how the story progress. This is understandable given how much the Mass Effect games rely on their stories, and Andromeda is no different.
The Mass Effect series has seen some great games over the course of its lifetime, with players guiding Commander Shepard through the Mass Effect universe, completing a trilogy of titles that had the Commander creating tricky alliances and taking down enemies to save our planet. All of the previous titles were tied together, creating one long story arch.
The latest title in the series, Mass Effect Andromeda, breaks away from Commander Shepard and launches us 600 years into the future, on a search for an inhabitable planet that can replace Earth and allow civilization a fresh start.
The game’s story is centered on the “Andromeda Initiative,” a project that created four large spaceships that can each carry thousands of one specific race of people, sending them on a one-way trip to the Andromeda Galaxy in search for a golden planet that can support life. Our limited game time started out on arrival to this far away galaxy, and we are awoken from our 600-year nap. While thousands of other volunteers remain in cryosleep on the ark, it is our task to travel to the different planets within the galaxy and see if they will work as a livable world.
The protagonists for the game are a set of twins, Sara and Scott Ryder, with you getting to choose which one you’ll be playing as. After some character customization, you’ll meet your team and your leader, or Pathfinder, who also happens to be your dad, Alec Ryder. Each ship has its own Pathfinder and this is someone that is the best-of-the-best of that given race, with extensive training and unique abilities, and chosen for their role with these things in mind. It is the Pathfinders job to search out new worlds, testing the boundaries of the galaxy to find the edge of the map, and lead the way to the future.
Fans of the Mass Effect series will feel right at home with the third-person style of gameplay, as the controls are very similar. Your character can run, side dash, or jump with boot boosters for extra lift, and the movements looked and felt very fluid and lifelike. We only got to use a few weapons, so it wouldn’t be fair to try to judge based on that limited amount of shooting. The weapons were effective, though, and being able to command your teammates to make a stand and defend certain spots gave us an idea as to how the overall combat will fare. It felt well-balanced, but as this is early on in the game, it’s hard to say how things will feel tens of hours later. From what we did play, however, it was an enjoyable experience.
If Looks Could Kill
Upon visiting a planet, the game had an open world feel to it (even if we know it isn’t really that kind of game), with you being able to travel around either on foot or by using your Nomad. The Nomad vaguely reminded me of the huge Batmobile from Batman Begins (or the Mako from the first Mass Effect), but without the rocket on the back and the ability to jump, and with six wheels instead of four. The ATV had two gears: one for high speed, and one that seemed to kick in the all-wheel drive, which was great for climbing steep grades. Side missions popped up as you traversed around in this awesome machine, and we found ourselves doing more side-work than main work.
The graphics were, no doubt, impressive. But just to be clear, we were playing on some high-end PC hardware, so we can’t really judge how the game looks and plays on the PS4 or the PS4 Pro. If it matches these PCs, we are all in for a visual treat. Character detail and animations were lifelike enough that I was able to read the lips of the characters, and as someone who is very hard of hearing and an avid lip reader, having the mouth movements match the spoken word in a video game is a rare feat.
Mass Effect Andromeda is set to release on March 21 in North America, followed by its European release on the 23. Developer BioWare has taken a risk by taking a well-known franchise and creating new characters and a new story arch, all the while sticking to what fans of the series have come to love. It seems like the risk may have paid off and this is one space adventure that should be on your radar.