Finally, some good news about Mass Effect Andromeda

Kotaku Australia managed to get producer Mike Gamble on the phone before Christmas 2016 and he finally – finally! – dropped tiny clues about actual new stuff in Mass Effect Andromeda. You can read the entire interview (which is much shorter than I would have liked) here. Below is my take on the interesting bits.

Gamble confirmed that while Andromeda would ship with a “Strike Team” system that was a fundamental part of the multiplayer experience, progression in the multiplayer wasn’t required to progress the story.

“There’s a system that we use called the Strike Team system, and fundamentally it allows you to go between singleplayer and multiplayer within the game,” he explained. “And it’s packaged around a meta-story of what’s going on in Helios.”

The producer added that the multiplayer would feed into a deeper meta-story. The meta-story can be finished without playing multiplayer at all, but Gamble said “it’s pretty seamless” to switch between the singleplayer and multiplayer.

I really like the idea of Bioware doing something to focus on the sheer scale of Andromeda. Because it really is momentous. A group of people arriving in a new galaxy and deciding to set up shop is so enormous a story idea that it legitimately boggles my mind. I simply cannot comprehend the scale of something like that.

While the majority of the game will stay focused on Ryder and his/her exploits in finding humanity (and presumably the other assorted companion races) a new home, it’s nice to see that Bioware’s considering the broader story tied to the arrival of these alien refugees.

Just because protagonist Ryder is shooting space cows on some distant planet to harvest leather to craft new Boxers of Support +2 or whatever, it doesn’t mean that other important things aren’t happening elsewhere in the galaxy. This is good news.

It opens up interesting mini-story possibilities within the multiplayer experience as opposed to just some form of Horde mode – while remaining completely optional to the singleplayer side of things.

I’m all for this because it sounds to me like the Destiny strike system. You play a series of story missions, wrap up a quest line, and it culminates in a strike in which you’re matchmade with two other players for the duration of a single mission.

The opportunity to switch freely between solo and team-based activities is especially appealing to me simply because I’m fond of the system in Destiny and would like to see it in other games as well. Add Bioware’s storytelling capabilities to that gameplay experience and I can’t imagine anything I would enjoy more.

Players will be able to explore planets on foot or on wheels, and Gamble told me there would be a variety of little adventures – not necessarily quest-related – for people to uncover.

“We have designers going throughout these open worlds and placing small little adventures, small little bits of narrative and visual story telling that we hope the players will explore to find,” he explained. “They’re not career path stuff, they’re not even usually side quest stuff, they’re little self-contained things. They’re for the folks who want to go every square meter of a planet, they’re going to get a lot of enjoyment about that.

“You’ll see like a couple chrome corpses, a couple … corpses, you’ll look around that area, pull your scanner up, you’ll find out that, ‘Oh shit, something bad happened here’ and that was the result of that firefight is and this is why they did that. Maybe it’ll point you to somewhere else on the planet; maybe it’ll just end there. But we have those kind of things and we hope that players really enjoy those.”

Lots of tiny bits of Bioware world-building? Yes please. I love the idea of incentivising exploration because that was something I did a lot of in the first Mass Effect and ultimately the payoff wasn’t much to write home about.

Sure, I did manage to collect every single resource that a planet had to offer, I stumbled on the occasional side-quest or two, but for the most part the planets of the original Mass Effect were largely uninteresting. And while I enjoyed the tighter, objective-oriented spaces of Mass Effect 2, I did miss the exploration element of the whole experience.

Plus, this ties in very nicely with the concept of having a Pathfinder at the centre of the game. As a character whose function is, by definition, to blaze new trails and what not, giving players more reason to do so than the opportunity to find a random collectible is a very, very good plan.

So, in conclusion – more of this sort of thing please, Bioware. These are the reveals I want. Not more information on the shooting of things, but more on how this is going to be a Bioware game. More information is supposed to drop in Feb and, for the first time, I’m actually looking forward to it.

Trevor Coelho

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