Mass Effect Andromeda: Gameplay and mechanics

Story and graphics can only do so much: with poor gameplay and mechanics, it doesn’t matter if the game is the latest AAA title or an unknown indie game, it won’t be enjoyable. It’s especially important in big, open world games to nail the exploration and combat mechanics as it’s a game that requires hundreds of hours to complete – and thankfully, BioWare has hit the nail on the head when it comes to Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Walking, running, climbing, using my jump jets, evading and driving: it’s all so smooth. But why? By default, you’re in what we call ‘exploration’ mode with a wide angle and responsive movement. It’s easy to run, jump and climb up ledges using your jetpack, or as it’s called in Andromeda, jump jets, and makes spotting hidden caches and wandering off the beaten track much easier. It’s hard to understand without playing the game yourself, but player movement is fluid, smooth and an all-around joy.

However, it’s the combat mode mechanics that really perfect the gameplay. At the tap of a button, the camera zooms in to a tighter, over-the-shoulder shot as is standard in third-person shooters, providing hit markers for successful shots, headshots and kill shots and a navigation bar displaying the location of nearby enemies.

But unlike in other games, the cover system in Mass Effect: Andromeda is automatic and works incredibly well. As long as your gun is out, you only need to walk up to a structure to automatically take cover behind it. There’s no button to press or hold, and it doesn’t ‘snap’ you into place either – you’re free to move in and out of cover as you choose, ideal for a game where enemies can (and do) flank you effectively. If you need to get out of the firing line, it’s as simple as using a power, running or boosting away using your jump jets.

And that’s without even talking about the insane amount of biotics at your disposal, which are unlocked and upgraded as you level up. Like a standard RPG, there are many powers available to you with each falling into a different class – combat, bionics or tech – and each offering a different style of play. However, unlike with most other RPGs, users are free to mix and match the skills between the three classes to find the style of gameplay that suits them.

There are also different profiles available that give you the edge in battle, with each offering different enhancements based on your current loadout. For example: if you’ve got three combat-focused powers assigned, it’d be a good idea to combine that with the Soldier profile that provides extra damage, shields and melee damage. Profiles are developed further as you upgrade the different powers available to the Pathfinder, so it’s worth experimenting with them to get the most out of the game.

Gamers are encouraged to experiment with different classes and profiles, with BioWare providing a favourites bar. The favourites bar provides gamers with a way to access up to four pre-set profiles for the varying situations they’ll come across in the field. You could have a loadout that provides extra stealth for when you want to sneak past enemies, along with a combat-focused, aggressive loadout for when you need to take on multiple enemies’ head on.

However, while gamers can switch out their powers on-the-fly, the same can’t be said for your weapon loadout, armour, consumables or squad – those decisions are made at the beginning of a mission, or via Forward Stations that you unlock as you explore planets that you visit. Forward Stations are like supply drops, replenishing ammo, health and armour, providing access to the Nomad (a six-wheel drive car for exploration over large areas) and act as a Fast Travel beacon for when you really can’t be bothered to backtrack through 10 minutes in the middle of a blizzard with dangerous sub-zero temperatures.

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Mass Effect Andromeda: Multiplayer

Mass Effect: Andromeda has not one but two multiplayer modes, although you’d be forgiven for not noticing the difference between the two straight away. The standard multiplayer bands four players together with the aim of surviving wave-based combat with varying objectives, which helps keep the gameplay fresh and exciting.

The enemy? The Remnant, a sentient robot race tasked with protecting the monoliths throughout the Heleus Cluster. Instead of simply going up against the Remnant over and over again (which, admittedly you do), you’ll have to take our targets, protect NPCs and survive an all-out assault before you can be extracted.

The combat mechanics have a huge part to play in Mass Effect: Andromeda’s multiplayer: you get the same freedom to walk, run, jet-jump and dodge as you do in the main campaign. This makes online gameplay an absolute joy, especially when executing a perfectly timed combo with other members of your squad.

The use of biotics in the online multiplayer allows players to find the play style that suits them, and as with the main campaign, there are a number of ways to customise not only your loadout, but your character too.

Strike Teams offer a more objective-focused game mode with more difficulty than a standard multiplayer match, but for good reason: you gain access to special rewards and upgrades for your Pathfinder in the main campaign, along with upgrades to apply to your online character.

The gameplay is similar to a standard online match, with four online players facing waves of the Remnant with differing objectives, although it’s noticeably harder (especially Gold-rated missions).

Of course, you don’t have to complete every Strike Team assignment yourself: you also have access to NPC Strike Teams that you can send out on your behalf, although the effectiveness depends on the traits and level of the Strike Team.

While we’re impressed with Mass Effect: Andromeda’s multiplayer mode at the moment, we must admit that it’s fairly limited with only a two (very similar) game modes available. We’d love to see more objective-based online game modes in the future, utilising some of the incredible planets from the main Mass Effect: Andromeda campaign.

It also made us realise just how amazing the entire game would be if you were able to swap out your NPC squad mates for your friends; it’d make exploring the Heleus Cluster a much more entertaining and enjoyable experience.

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OUR VERDICT

Mass Effect: Andromeda is a perfect example of what a space exploration game should offer: vast open worlds to explore, varying missions to take part in, huge decisions to make and of course, epic third-person shooter combat. The depth of the story in Andromeda is incredible, as you can coast by just taking on main missions, or you can wander off the beaten track, talk to NPCs and find out extra information to better understand the Heleus Cluster.

The movement and combat mechanics are some of the best we’ve ever seen, especially in terms of moving in and out of cover, and using jump jets. And last of all, it doesn’t feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over as each planet has its own problems, and different ways to help. Oh, and it’s a game that’ll easily take over 100 hours to complete so in terms of value for money, you get way more than you pay for.