The original Mass Effect trilogy was widely praised by critics and fans alike for its storytelling and the role-playing experience it offered to players, despite minor hiccups, like the controversial ending to Mass Effect 3. BioWare and EA have been suspiciously quiet regarding the next instalment in the franchise, Mass Effect: Andromeda, but fans of the series were eagerly awaiting November 7th, or N7 day, as it has become known.
N7 is significant in the Mass Effect universe as it refers to the military program which the original trilogy’s protagonist, Commander Shepard, was trained in. To quote the Mass Effect Wiki; “N7 is a vocational code in the Systems Alliance military. The “N” designates Special Forces and the “7” refers to the highest level of proficiency.” The N7 code was an integral part in Commander Shepard’s story and BioWare promised that new details on Mass Effect: Andromeda were to be released on November 7th.
And so, on N7 day, we received a new cinematic trailer and a plethora of new details on the upcoming title. Replacing Commander Shepard as the protagonist we have Ryder, or “The Pathfinder” as they are known. The Pathfinder is described as being “a blend of elite soldier, scientist, and guide who is tasked with finding a new home.” It is the Pathfinders job to venture to the Andromeda Galaxy to find a new home for humanity, a precaution to the events which take place in the original trilogy. As is stated on the official Mass Effect website; “The future of our species rests on your shoulders.”
The player character is not the only Pathfinder in the Andromeda Initiative however, as there are three other vessels leaving to travel to Andromeda, each of which harbours “a separate species.” So the humans are accompanied by, what I assume, are three returning species from the original trilogy, as they seek a new home in Andromeda.
An interesting dynamic is introduced as the protagonist’s father, Alec Ryder, was the original Pathfinder, but that mantle is now passed to the player. There is a choice, as in most RPGs, between playing as a male or female, but rather than having you exclusively choose one over the other, both the male and female character will exist in game as siblings. If you choose to play as a male Ryder, your sister will exist in the universe independently of you. Already, Mass Effect: Andromeda introduces a deep sense of personal involvement in the story thanks to the family oriented aspect of the characters.
As for how Mass Effect: Andromeda deals with the ending of Mass Effect 3, BioWare have decided to somewhat ignore it, possibly for the better. Thanks to the new information on N7 day we learned that the “Andromeda Initiative” was launched in the year 2185 in the game’s storyline; this is an important date, as it is set after the events of Mass Effect 2, but before Mass Effect 3. So what exactly does this mean? According to the Andromeda Initiative’s fictitious “founder,” Jien Garson, on a video posted on Mass Effect’s official website, “600 years from now you will awake from cryostasis on the outskirts of the Andromeda galaxy.” So our protagonists were put into cryo-sleep before the ending of Mass Effect 3, and were sent on a 600 year one-way trip to another galaxy. Is it just me, or do BioWare really not want to address that Mass Effect 3 ending?
Following the reveal on N7 day, BioWare creative director Mac Walters confirmed some details about the upcoming title on Twitter. The two protagonists, the male and female Ryder, are officially called Scott and Sarah respectively, but the player has the choice to rename them, as well as customising their appearance. This should come as no surprise to those that played the original trilogy, or indeed any of BioWare’s other RPG franchises. Walters also confirmed that both same-sex and alien romance options will be available in Mass Effect: Andromeda, another returning feature from the original games. Walters stated that, in regards to gameplay, they’ve “created a better balance,” between RPG and shooter than they’ve “had in the past, with more freedom to play the way you want to play.”
Fans were still worried at the release of this new footage, however, as it didn’t reveal as much as some had hoped. BioWare have promised to reveal more Andromeda gameplay during The Game Awards in December, although EA CFO Blake Jorgensen said the game could be delayed by another “three or four or five months,” if it makes the game better. Mass Effects: Andromeda has already suffered one delay, having been scheduled to release in 2016, it is now set for a release sometime in March 2017 and one can only hope that there are no more delays in sight.
For now, fans are happy to cling on to whatever information they can get, such as that Game Informer revealed that Alec Ryder, the protagonist’s father, is voiced by Clancy Brown, the man who also lends his talents to Mr. Krabs in SpongeBob, as well as appearing in The Shawshank Redemption. That man knows how to pick his projects, and that gives me hope for the future.