The Mass Effect trilogy remains one of my most treasured gaming experiences; each character still holds a special place in my heart. It’s hard to forget shooting bottles off the Citadel with Garrus or that special moment with Liara viewing the archive of your journey during the finale of Mass Effect 3. I was invested in these lives; I was hellbent on saving the galaxy. The trilogy got me to care, which isn’t something most games can achieve. Andromeda is the next chapter in the Mass Effect series, and with it comes higher expectations. This is the first Mass Effect game on this generation of consoles, and so much has changed since the trilogy ended in 2012.

BioWare has the difficult task of not only innovating and topping its trilogy, but also appealing to a new generation of gamers and keeping up with the demands of this new era of RPGs. I was fortunate enough to visit BioWare for the recent cover story and got an extensive look at the game. I could not be more excited to start a new chapter in the series, but if the game is to succeed, it needs to surpass some tough obstacles. Here’s what Mass Effect Andromeda needs to achieve to keep the series on track.

Create A Compelling, More Open World
The trilogy has its share of linearity, but one thing BioWare has been boasting about in Andromeda is how much freedom and exploration it holds with a more open world. Part of the fun of being on different planets is discovery, and feeling boxed in doesn’t really sell the adventure. With this, though, comes the challenge of filling these spaces with intriguing encounters, whether that be battles, side quests, or worthwhile items.

This will be Mass Effect’s first crack at creating larger spaces, and hopefully it learned from Dragon Age Inquisition’s successes and shortcomings. BioWare must ensure this world is, first and foremost, fun to explore, and that each planet has its own unique identity, but without too much to do that isn’t meaningful, like in Inquisition. Hopefully, the larger world opens up the opportunity to create even more intriguing side quests by having extra dungeons and hideouts around every nook and cranny. I’m most interested in seeing the different environments and how much more detailed planets can look with the advanced tech. I’ve always thought Mass Effect could do much more with its world; I’m hoping Andromeda delivers in that regard. 

The Series Can Move Beyond Shepard
We spent three games role-playing as Commander Shepard. Her (or his) legacy is strong, as we shared the highs and lows of being a hero. The series has been so ingrained in Commander Shepard’s plight that it’s time to make it about something else. To try and create a main character that measures up to her will be near impossible, so I’m glad Mass Effect Andromeda is going with younger and more inexperienced leads in the Ryder twins. I hope BioWare capitalizes on the familial relationships as well. Why haven’t we heard much about their mother? As we know, their father is part of the Andromeda initiative, and is integral for preparing our Ryder for taking on the Pathfinder role. We never heard much about Shepard outside of the people around her and the situation at hand. The family focus could add a different layer and intensity to Andromeda’s adventure. 

The New Characters Can Hold A Candle To Fan Favorites
BioWare’s strength is its characters, but now it needs to focus on creating intriguing personalities that don’t feel too close to past favorites, and they must be just as strong at that. Garrus or Liara 2.0 just isn’t going to cut it. While BioWare has opened up some doors by focusing on a younger cast, they need to have different dilemmas and bring unique perspectives. A cast can make or break a game, and this is one area where fans have the highest expectations. While BioWare hasn’t revealed too much about the ensemble, outside of some key traits to Peebee and Liam, I’m interested in meeting the new cast and learning what the dangers of Andromeda brings out in them. I just want characters that leave me with the fond memories like those I have about the trilogy. And let’s hope the party banter measures up as well.

The Shooting Mechanics Have Improved
The third-person shooting has been the series’ biggest criticism, but it has improved along the way. Mass Effect just always seemed a step behind in this department. Not to mention shooters have only gotten more refined and better since the trilogy. BioWare says it learned a lot from Mass Effect 3's multiplayer in this area, so I hope it can capture the intensity of those battles. Also, throw in smoother and more sophisticated gunplay than in past games. The encounters never felt like they had much variety or strategy (beyond taking cover). I play Mass Effect for its RPG elements and storytelling, but that doesn’t mean I have to just go through the motions of battle. 

Andromeda Can Stand On Its Own
Andromeda hasn’t been billed as a trilogy or an evolving narrative across games. BioWare has said it wanted to make a self-contained story with this entry, and it needs to do just that. Players must walk away satisfied and feel like the game provided a worthwhile conclusion to their journey, especially to wash away the bad feelings often associated with the Mass Effect 3’s ending. More importantly, the game can’t feel too much like what we’ve seen before. This is a new start for the series; this game needs to show Mass Effect can and should live beyond the trilogy. It can’t just rely on what’s worked in the past. Games have evolved since then, and while I want Andromeda to contain all the things we love about the series, I also want it to take it in new and interesting directions.