Role Playing Game fans already know that the next must have for their gaming roster is coming soon from Bioware on March 21st, 2017. Mass Effect Andromeda is the next addition to one of the most celebrated sci-fi RPGs ever to make its way onto the gaming scene. Filled with action, exploration, interesting squadmates with deep backstories, and a compelling main story to boot, Mass Effect is and has always been a blueprint for epic RPGs. Andromeda looks to up the ante quite a bit.

Story wise, Andromeda is set in between the events of games 2 and 3. Not to worry though, the action within apparently doesn’t require you to have a previous game save or even a ton of knowledge of the previous titles. Instead, Bioware has Andromeda set as an all new adventure as you take on the role of a ‘Pathfinder’ sent to find a new home for the coalition of species found in the previous trilogy to populate in anticipation of a losing battle against the Reapers. Each ship is an ‘ark’ and you and your sibling are commanders of a ship. Of course, technically you are an invading force looking to populate a new galaxy already inhabited by life. As the alien, you will face resistance to your mission, and Mass Effect: Andromeda chronicles that. Excititing right?

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(by-jeffmcdowalldesign)

True to form, Mass Effect looks to have a dramatic story with lots of cinematics to push the story along. As you progress, you’ll meet, greet, romance, and fight allies and foes as was done in the other Mass Effect games. But the real question is, what is different? What was Bioware intent to focus on as they played other games and developed theirs? Apparently, The Witcher 3 (winner of countless game and RPG of the year awards) was in their library as it was stated that their ‘side’ missions were going to be ‘meaningful’. This essentially means going to explore that question mark on the map won’t lead to a simple ‘go beat up this beastie for me’ or ‘go and pick 20 of this kind of resource’ in order to get a quick bit of experience or money. Instead, the Witcher formula was to have a unique, fleshed out story that may or may not have implications on the main story. Each mission would have its own little twist and would allow you to feel a bit more immersed in the character of the world you were exploring. This is oh so important for games that invite you to spend hours upon hours on. Since most MMORPGs resort to this kind of gameplay, it is important that story based RPGs (that are good) do not latch on to that simplistic strategy.

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Bioware, always dedicated to healthy story based RPGs like Dragon Age: Inquisition, has also evolved their offerings to make combat less like a turn based die roll and more like a Gears of War frag fest. Mass Effect’s combat has become quicker and provided more options as the series has moved along and Andromeda is apparently adhering to that. A recent video displaying the combat and all the options for alien destruction at your disposal was released to showcase how fast and yet also tactical the action will be. Throw this element into a multiplayer experience that has ties to the single player mode (as much or as little effect as you want apparently), and you have an experience that Bioware hopes to be filled with a wealth of freedom for you to play as you want. Creating your own story within their lore is the goal. So far the results look to be quite impressive.

As for the multiplayer mode, Bioware unveiled their focus to Game Informer back in November. There it was discussed that the mode will function much like Mass Effect 3’s iteration. The evolution of this mode comes in a few different shapes. They hope to make it less of a ‘stationary defense horde mode’ where players pick a section of the map to post up in and protect. Instead, they’ve provided players with individual power cooldowns (they used to be global), a jetpack, prestige levels, and a bit more in hopes of improving the appeal of the mode. In truth, hardcore fans are curious as to how the mode will (or will not) affect the single player mode. The concern is that some players just want the single player experience and don’t want to feel like opting out of the multiplayer would ‘cost them’. Apparently the thought is that Bioware makes certain side missions available for you to ‘assign teams to complete’ similar to the way Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag handled side missions for your fleet. In Andromeda, though, there is yet another option. Once assigned that side mission will give you the option to complete it via the multiplayer mode. Either way, Bioware hopes that their framework for the mode doesn’t make the player feel cheated if they don’t try the mode.

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All of this said, there are concerns that are too much to ignore. RPG’s are often graded on their size and the length of expected gameplay moreso than the actual story. While Mass Effect 2 did a great job with the story and the crew interaction, many felt cheated that the length wasn’t adequate. Given that Andromeda is said to be about ‘exploration’, many fans will scrutinize how many planets are available to ‘explore’ and how long it takes to fully discover all that there is. Needless to say, Mass Effect isn’t going to have the nearly unlimited number of planets that No Man’s Sky has. Even still, Bioware assures that the planets won’t be a boring shell of ‘it-all-looks-and-feels-the-same-as-the-last-planet’.

Other hardcore fans have expressed concern over the quality of the released combat footage. At times they’ll catch animation flubs and proceed to criticize. Personally, I think these fans need to take a chill pill and be rest assured that the quality of a Bioware product will be up to par for core fan consumption.

Last of all, many feel that there just hasn’t been enough announced or shown about the game that is ‘different’ from the previous games. Honestly, that critique can go either way. Considering Mass Effect 3 was good (ending aside), I wouldn’t want to stray too far away from a winning formula. Let us not forget the controller rumbling resource mini-game in Mass Effect 2.

Without a doubt, the fanatics will have their microscopes out given the legendary status that this franchise has in the RPG and gaming community. Needless to say, Andromeda has a lot to live up to as they launch into a new chapter in the Mass Effect universe.