Mass Effect: Andromeda will launch on March 21, 2017, and a steady stream of info about the latest entry in one of the biggest role-playing franchises has begun to come out as it approaches release.
BioWare General Manager Aaryn Flynn revealed the launch date for the newest Mass Effect game in an official blog post, along with “a little bit of context” in response to fans’ “patience” and “lack of patience,” alike. He calls Andromeda the “most ambitious Mass Effect game to date,” promising new stories, new characters, new planets, new species, and new gameplay systems. This newest iteration of the franchise will use into the Frostbite game engine developed and used for the Battlefield franchise, “delivering a tremendous graphical jump,” according to Flynn.
What players have actually been shown of the game so far, however, hasn’t been quite so exciting. Despite the promise of so much that is “new,” all of the footage released leans heavily upon past games in the franchise. Somehow, most of the alien races older Mass Effect titles seem to have made their way to Andromeda’s new setting. While seeing familiar faces isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the entire conceit of Andromeda is a new and alien galaxy.
We’ll be driving around new planets in a vehicle updated from the first game, with what appears to be identical third-person shooter gameplay to both Mass Effect 2 and 3, wearing armor that is virtually indistinguishable from past entries, employing powers that closely resemble — or are nearly exact duplicates — of the same abilities we’ve had before. Despite boasts about the Frostbite engine, nothing we’ve seen so far suggests a dramatic advancement beyond the visuals of the first trilogy’s finale.
BioWare has mentioned features like destructible cover and the ability to draw powers from multiple classes, but neither look to really shake up the essential formula. We’ve also gotten a bit of a preview of The Kett, Mass Effect: Andromeda‘s central antagonists. Their aesthetic isn’t especially impressive — another bipedal humanoid race with odd facial structures — but hopefully their narrative is intriguing enough to compensate.
This isn’t to say the game won’t be great — the original trilogy was a powerful sci-fi epic, despite some missteps along the way. But so far, we’ve seen nothing to suggest that Andromeda will be the massive leap forward that its developers have promised, despite a nearly five-year wait. Players have already expressed unhappiness at the shoddy animation shown in previous trailers, publicly putting BioWare on the defensive, and the newest footage out of the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show is just two minutes of generic robot-blasting:
Finally, snagging a copy of this game will run you anywhere from $60 to $260, with multiple “Collector’s Editions” that will include everything from bonus weapons to virtual pet space monkeys, to a remote-control version of the in-game “Nomad” land rover. It’s frankly one of the most ludicrous pre-order initiatives we’ve seen in the industry, but almost certain to siphon a lot of cash from the pockets of especially eager consumers.
I’m determined to reserve judgment until the game is released, but like many fans, I’m feeling pretty skeptical at the moment. Let’s hope that all of the most compelling parts are being kept under wraps, that Mass Effect: Andromeda is the beginning of another epic saga, and that the faces of the characters don’t give us nightmares by the time the game releases in a couple of months.
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