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Six Fun Activities To Pursue In Mass Effect Andromeda

by Kimberley Wallace on Nov 23, 2016 at 08:01 AM

Mass Effect Andromeda features the series’ largest universe to date. Previous games let us take on small side quests and visit planets for specific missions, but Andromeda is raising the stakes with less linear planets and hub cities, opening them up for greater exploration and more to do than ever before. “If you look at the trilogy, you see all the hubs we created and the side content that came off the hubs,” says producer Mike Gamble. “That’s one place to put it, but imagine that side content in a place where you’re not limited to keeping your weapon holstered. There are so many different elements we can bring in by putting it on those planets with exploration areas. It makes the number and the type of side quests that we can do that much more interesting, whereas before if you’re on the hub you’re kind of limited to a fetch quest type of thing.” 

The planets you explore come in a variety of sizes. According to BioWare, some are bigger than anything it’s done before, so much so you’ll have to drive across them using the Nomad (the new Mako-like vehicle). Other planets are smaller and won’t require getting the Nomad packed up. Planets house a bevy of different discoveries, as you’ll find colonies, hidden dungeons, minerals, and other secrets to unlock on your journey. “This is the biggest we’ve ever gone, in terms of the number of pieces of content,” Gamble says. “Although we have a lot of different areas to go to, we want to make it so whenever you go to those areas, you remember them.” Some planets are on the critical path; others are completely optional. BioWare is providing a lot to do when you’re out exploring, but wants to keep a fair amount optional so the player can choose how much they want to invest in the experience. 

When we visited BioWare for our cover story trip, we asked what we’d be able to do in these larger spaces. “There are combat-related encounters, puzzle-related encounters, narrative-related encounters, and a lot of things will happen that add more depth to the critical path,” Gamble says. While BioWare wants to leave some surprises, it discussed some of what you’ll find as you search planets. Here are our biggest takeaways.

Loyalty Missions
As we reported, loyalty missions, which were a highlight of Mass Effect 2, are back. These narrative-focused quests allow you to learn more about the allies around you, having you decide if helping them is worth it to improve your relationship. If you’ll remember in Mass Effect 2, loyalty missions often brought moral dilemmas, such as when Zaeed is willing to let innocent people die to ensure he can get his revenge on an ex-business partner. In Andromeda, these will be completely optional, but are worth pursuing if you want to get to know the people around you better. This is the only time individual characters have the spotlight entirely on them, and these missions can provide interesting backstory into how and why they became who they are. “Because they veer off of the critical path, it just allows you to tell very different stories,” says creative director Mac Walters. During our trip, we saw a loyalty mission related to the Krogran and it brought us to a new planet that we wouldn’t have encountered if we just stayed on the critical path. So doing them not only unlocks new story beats, but can lead to interesting, new places to explore. 

Navigating With The Nomad
Planets are much more expansive than previous entries. You need the Nomad to make the most out of searching the majority of them. In fact, most planets have some sort of biohazard obstacles, such as sulfur pools and magma flow. The Nomad is essential for protection from some of these threats. With the Nomad, you can boost and jump to get past hazards or fit into nooks and crannies to find hidden items. “A big focus for us is making sure that the Nomad handles better, drives better, cascades better – that it has all the nimbleness that the original Mako did without any of the frustrations,” Gamble says.

Tracking Down Drop Zones
Whenever you enter an area, you’ll want to scour to find drop zones for forward stations. Using this tech, you can reveal all the points of interest on the map. This is also how you establish a fast-travel point, and you can change your loadout here. While the points of interest give you a hint of where you want to explore, BioWare also wanted some surprises along the way and to encourage you to go off the beaten path. “We don’t want to just give you map markers to follow,” Gamble explains. “We want you to explore, and find things, and stumble upon them. We really wanted to do that for players because it teaches them to go outside of the roads, and that is what the game is all about and why we give you the Nomad.”

Taking Out Enemy Bases
As can be expected, not everybody is going to get along and want the same thing in Andromeda. Danger can always be lurking around the corner. As you explore different planets, don’t be surprised if you stumble upon an enemy hideout. “On most planets there is some level of hostile force, and usually that will be represented by enemy bases or hideouts or whatever you want to call them specific to that planet,” Gamble explains. The majority of the planets you visit will feature at least one of these to take down and obtain some worthwhile items. “These bases are pretty lengthy to take out, so if you approach one, you want to be prepared before you into it,” Walters explains. It’s fun, because there’s a combination of systemic and scripted stuff in there. If you tip off too many enemies, the alarms start going off and you have to shut them off. And there’s usually narrative tied around it.” The bases all play into your role as the Pathfinder, but they're an optional activity. “As a Pathfinder the whole idea is exploring and creating viability in this cluster, eliminating those hideouts is a part of that,” Gamble says.  

Epic Optional Fights
For those who want plenty of experience and goodies, intense battles are around you to make the most of. Sometimes it won’t just be enemies attacking you. Two factions might be fighting and you can join in, knock them both down, and reap the rewards. Even more enticing is that planets also contain their own super-bosses, which are massive creatures that you can often spot from a distance, always enticing you to test out your skills. These aren’t just battles you can expect to win at a low level or without some serious practice and upgrades. “You’ll find creatures and encounters that are so far overleveled to where you’re at naturally on these areas and you can tell right away,” Gamble says. “We have a lot of other things like that, where you’ll know that you’re not ready for this, but you’ll know you want to come back.” Gamble said the team worked hard to make sure players had some cool things like these to return to after they beat the critical path.

You’ve traveled to the Andromeda galaxy, which is completely foreign to you. Part of your task as Pathfinder will be to learn more about every planet you visit. As you explore, you might stumble on technology or rocks that you can scan, allowing you to send the data back to your ship. The more objects you scan, the sooner you have access to better technology, so this will be essential. “Scanning is one of the most important exploration tools you’ll have in the game,” says producer Fabrice Condominas. “You’re in a new galaxy; there are a lot of things where you just have no clue what’s going on. The scanner is a way to capture what is in your environment, send the information back to the Tempest to analyze it, and find those clues that we add to the codex, which might also give you access to crafting pieces, for example.” Crafting allows you to make better weapons and armor. 

So far it looks like BioWare is giving you plenty of options for how you want to spend your time in Andromeda. Another thing you’ll encounter is Vaults, which we saw in the PS4 Pro trailer. These are more puzzle-based and tired closely to the narrative, so BioWare is keeping their purpose and function mysterious for now. 

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