4X your way across a "handful" of worlds in Mass Effect: Andromeda

by: Randy -
More On: Mass Effect: Andromeda No Man's Sky

The Mass Effect series is a space opera. So, yes, there will be romance, and yes, there will be pew-pew fighting. But this video gets into Mass Effect: Andromeda's exploration and discovery. Those words are magical to me. Exploration and discovery will keep me around longer than any other aspect of openworld gaming. It's arguable the biggest selling point of openworld gaming. As the video shows, you get to touch on some first-person aspects of 4X strategy games. The whole explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate pieces are, to a certain degree, all intact in Andromeda's gameplay, even though Andromeda is first and foremost a role-playing game.

The game begins in the Helios Cluster of the Andromeda Galaxy. You navigate the system via the galaxy map. There better be good looping music on that map screen, is all I'm saying. I've gotten through more than one long workday by hitting up the one-hour version of "Mass Effect map music" on YouTube. 

You can see, in real time, from planets and moons to asteroids and anomalies, the stuff on the map screen happening through the big bay windows of your ship. That is awesome. 

There are over 100 planets to discover, but "only" a handful of handcrafted worlds to land on. That's fine with me. After seeing what procedural generation does with 18 quintillion planets, maybe having only a handful that've been curated from top to bottom sounds very, very nice.

Something I find interesting, though, is that even though you're the "Pathfinder," you're only pathfinding for the human race, I think. I mean, on one planet you land on, the Krogan have already settled. I'm guessing plenty of other races have colonized many of the other planets.

Your six-wheeled land rover, the Nomad, is key to planetary exploration. The Nomad even has a Forza-like amount of upgrades you can make to it. Well, not a Forza-like amount. But you can mod its agility, shields, boost, etc. Heck, that's more than you can upgrade in Forza. But watch out as you explore. Even the Nomad overheats in extreme desert conditions. You'll have to drive from safe spot to safe spot in some instances.

Your objective, Pathfinder, is to get a potential planet's viability levels up. That means pacifying (shooting) threats from creatures (anything not bipedal), shaking hands with the locals (again, why am I the "Pathfinder" when there are already humans chilling on these planets?), solving environmental problems, and winding your way through story-based tasks specific to each planet.

It looks like this is all being done in the name of upgrading the Andromeda Initiative Space Station. I guess that's the base-building portion of our game, though the video doesn't hover over the topic for very long. You'll be waking up more colonists from cryosleep, and sending them down to these fresh-faced colonies. The type of people you wake up also provides certain advantages: scientists, soldiers, and merchants will change the scientific, military, and economic landscape of these planets.

There is also a vast network of ancient vaults. The task of unlocking and accessing them can take you across entire planets. Not sure what getting these vaults back online means for your colonization efforts, but any ancient alien technology is a staple in sci-fi worlds.

I wonder if you'll meet any primitive peoples. Like, what if you showing up with your spaceships and laser guns and armored exoskeletons starts to royally mess with some Cro-Magnon's cave paintings? What if you land on a planet that's all Far Cry Primal in its development? Ah, rampant speculation can be fun. It doesn't appear that Andromeda is that kind of game, though. Not from the videos I've seen.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is happening on March 21. That's like two-and-a-half weeks away, everyone.

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