Mass Effect Andromeda is a beautifully constructed game, that is based on exploring and fighting your way through the Heleus Cluster in the Andromeda Galaxy. In the previous two instalments of the Mass Effect Gameplay series, combat was the main focus, but in this iteration, they have taken to exploring the vast and unconquerable galaxy we have arrived in.
Based on the trailer, it appears that the Heleus Cluster is truly vast, with many hidden secrets for us to uncover. Populated with dozens of star systems, and over a hundred planets to discover, with a handful of those being explorable, there is a lot to keep us occupied in Andromeda.
Your main port of call throughout your adventure will be your galaxy map on board the Tempest, where you select your next location and choose where you wish to travel to. In this regard, it provides you with a lot of freedom rather than guiding you on a linear story progression with little to no choice on behalf of the player.
Each planet in the Andromeda Galaxy is designed to challenge a vast array of the Pathfinder’s skills, from combat, to diplomacy and of course, exploration. Coupled with the unique environmental hazards each planet will inevitably hold, there are also unique characters, challenges and story lines to deal with that may or may not be incredibly hostile to you.
Speaking of hostile, the gameplay trailer visits a planet known as Elaaden to showcase the exploratory side of things. This planet features high temperatures, scarce supplies of fresh water and inhabited by the desperate and the mad…oh and the Krogans. Spoiler alert, they are not happy.
While on these new worlds, there are a series of discoverable story lines to undertake, which will in turn gain you new allies and friends, presumably some new enemies and just serve to make your time in Andromeda, worthwhile and hopefully a little easier. Despite this, as was mentioned earlier, there is no linear story progression, meaning you can travel wherever you wish to go when you want to go there. Handy enough, is the fact that your AI S.A.M will brief you with a key list of important locations scattered over the planet’s surface so you aren’t entirely left to your own devices.
If You Want To Travel…Travel In Style
Or if you know, you do not want to die time and time again from those environmental hazards. The all terrain Nomad is your go to vehicle when traveling around your unknown locales, protecting you from excessive heat, excessive cold and presumably some storms. Since you are going to spend a fair amount of time in this vehicle, the Nomad can also be upgraded to suit the Pathfinder’s needs. Specifically in relation to speed, thrust, jump jets, handling etc, the Nomad can be calibrated to be the perfect exploratory machine.
Unfortunately you cannot do all of your exploring in a single well-timed burst, so that is where Forward stations come in. These little bio-spheres are discoverable locations on each planet that can be established and provide a central hub for a fast travel network, loadout change station, enable you to call in your Nomad if you forget where you parked it and even protect you from the devastatingly hostile environment that surrounds you. The Forward stations, as seen in the gameplay trailer, can protect the Pathfinder and their team as well as the Nomad, which means all the bases are covered.
So, in case you were not aware, the main goal of Mass Effect Andromeda is to effectively discover a golden world that can serve as the base for the re-establishment of the Milky Way species. However, not all worlds, will be the perfect utopia the Pathfinder seeks. That is where Viability Level comes into play, showcasing how viable it is to establish a colony on that planet without horrific complications.
To increase the Viability Level of a planet you simply have to pacify threats, discover new locations, solve those pesky environmental problems, allying with the locals and effectively complete story-lines that relate to the planet itself. Once a planets Viability Level has hit the 40% mark, an outpost can be established which presumably will send some resource or material benefits to the Pathfinder.
Further sweetening the deal is the fact that accumulating Planet Viability Points will also add to your total of Andromeda Viability Points. These are gained by completing activities pretty much anywhere in the Andromeda Galaxy and reward you with unlockable upgrades to the Nexus, the most significant of which is awakening colonists from Cryo-sleep. Each colonist will provide the Nexus with a different type of boost, whether they be a scientist, merchant or combat specialist. In this way, you can sculpt your very own Nexus.
Time For Some Vault-Hunting
Of course there are creepy alien vaults! There had to be some form of massive secret. According to the gameplay trailer, there are a large number of vaults that are scattered all over the assortment of planets, each with their own challenges to overcome. If you can manage to open the entrance, you will need to rely on every bit of your Andromedan skill to get you through mostly unscathed. Puzzle solving, environmental navigation and threat neutralisation are all going to come into play before you can unlock the vault’s secrets so pump yourself up for discovering all the hidden secrets!
The vaults are most likely going to be central to the plot and could quite possibly have something to do with Archon and our race of angry antagonists that presumably are not too happy about our arrival in Andromeda.
This has been the third edition of the Mass Effect gameplay series thus far, and with the release date of March 21st (or 23rd if you are Australian) still the better part of a month away, it is fair to assume that we will be getting a few more instalments. Until next time fellow Pathfinders.