At PAX East 2017 this last weekend I got the chance to play Mass Effect: Andromeda for the very first time. We weren’t building characters, exploring the galaxy, or trying to have sex with aliens though, instead I teamed up with three other players and took on wave after wave of alien enemies in the redesigned Mass Effect: Andromeda multiplayer mode. Taking the cooperative wave based structure from ME3 and making some subtle but important tweaks, Mass Effect: Andromeda delivers an experience that, so far, is looking like it could be better than the original classic.
I was actually fortunate enough to get in two different sessions of Mass Effect: Andromeda multiplayer, taking place on different days of the convention. Both times I played as an Asari female whose focus was on biotics. She was fully combat capable though, sporting a powerful shotgun and a backup pistol for those necessary long range shots.
Her abilities included an energy shield, which took me far too long to figure out how to use properly, a range attack that did fairly significant damage, and a charge attack that sent waves of biotic energy into clustered enemies. Combining these with the standard abilities of melee, a limited use rocket launcher, and health and ammo restocks, both of my teams made it through all seven rounds, extracting all players in one game, and three out of four in the last.
I never got too deeply involved in the multiplayer of Mass Effect 3, really just playing it enough to get the best ending possible in the single player. Luckily you won’t have to do this for Mass Effect: Andromeda thanks to the new Strike Team option, but with the multiplayer feeling so fun you might end up doing it anyway. This is because the team has taken the solid foundation that was laid in ME3 and layered on top of it with improvements and modifications based on how people played the game.
The biggest and most immediate changes include movement and the verticality of the map. Cover has been a hugely important part of the Mass Effect experience, especially in multiplayer. Now it is totally different though, allowing for fast and fluid entry into and out of cover. Simply stand near a wall or object and your character will stay behind it. Want to get out of cover? Just move away from it. It seems simple, but not having to actively press a button to enter and exit cover does make the game feel faster, allowing for those spur of the moment decisions like running away from attacking enemies, or making for a charge at their flank.
Players can also jump now, not just vault over things. The map that we played on was small in size, but the many layers allowed it to feel much larger. There were essentially three floors that we had to watch at all times, with enemies spawning on the ground, second floor, or roof, before taking up positions and causing us trouble. During standard waves, where we just had to eliminate all enemies, we could move about easily, taking out anything that we saw. If we wanted to get up high a simple jump would usually do it, with a couple jumps required for the higher areas, which can be vaulted to if your jump is just a little short.
Two waves offered objectives, which had to be completed before enemies would stop spawning. These included setting up some tech, which took one player out of the game for a few seconds, and holding areas of the map from enemy encroachment. Nothing too crazy or spectacular, but having the objectives pop up through the match waves kept things interesting up until the end.
As far as the combat goes, everything here is pretty much the same as before. The Mass Effect experience has been maintained well in its transition to a new engine for Andromeda. As a veteran player I was able to pick up and play without much thought to changes, other than my character being different from what I would typically build. Trying out the biotic abilities was fun, though the more enjoyable ones like telekinesis weren’t there yet.
Enemy AI seemed effective, though we were obviously playing on a lower difficulty. Enemies, which consisted of Turians, Krogan, Salarians, and some new races, kept to cover and moved around the map well. If we worked together we could eliminate waves rather quickly, though the later levels started to take their toll, knocking out a couple of our players every once in a while. A quick revive got them back into the game, but it got pretty hairy near the end.
So far, Mass Effect: Andromeda multiplayer is shaping up to be the same as ME3, but with some fantastic changes and additions to the formula for fans to try out. The movement and verticality make for a more fun and challenging experience for longtime fans, and newcomers will finally discover what all the fuss was about five years ago.
Mass Effect: Andromeda hits PS4, Xbox One, and PC on March 21st.