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Mass Effect Andromeda: story, gameplay, release date and everything we know

Who the leads are, when and where the new Mass Effect saga will take place.

BioWare's highly-anticipated Mass Effect Andromeda - which many still refer to as Mass Effect 4 - has been in development for ages.

Now, finally, official information on the game is being revealed as its March release date rapidly approaches.

Andromeda will be a fresh start for the series, while retaining much of its past lore; the move to a fresh galaxy means BioWare can leave behind the decisions you made in the original Mass Effect trilogy. To put it bluntly: Mass Effect Andromeda won't acknowledge your choice of ME3 ending.

Here's Mass Effect Andromeda's biggest trailer to date from 7th November, the series' annual N7 Day celebration, with our commentary and highlights of things you may have missed:

Mass Effect Andromeda story - new setting, timeframe, leaks and leads

First, let's discuss the game's setting. Andromeda begins with you leaving the Milky Way galaxy right after the events of Mass Effect 2, but before the Reaper invasion. It's then a 600-year trip, during which time you're in cryo-sleep, before you wake up as one of the first humans in the Andromeda galaxy.

There will be major new races in Andromeda; an aggressive race named the kett, the neutral angara and a peaceful, ancient "guardian" people known as the Remnant, who were confirmed in September 2016's PlayStation 4 Pro footage, while the re-named kett appeared in the above N7 Day footage.

It's worth remembering that BioWare told Eurogamer at E3 this year that some information which had leaked is now outdated. However, other details from the marketing survey have also been proven correct, such as the name of your new Normandy-esque ship, the Tempest, and the generic name given to your hero - Pathfinder.

"You are a pathfinder," the leak stated, "a combat trained but untested explorer leading an expedition into the Helius cluster [in the Andromeda galaxy] to establish a new home for humanity. As you explore this sprawling series of solar systems (over four times the size of Mass Effect 3), collecting resources and building colonies, you will encounter the savagery of untamed lands in the form of cut-throat outlaws and warring alien races."

Shepard isn't returning in Mass Effect Andromeda - so who is the lead?

Andromeda's main character is named Ryder, and can again be played either as a male or female character. The female Ryder was revealed at E3 2016 and male Ryder at the PlayStation Meeting event, when it was also confirmed the two characters would be siblings - Sara and Scott.

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Meet the family.

For the first time, both male and female options will exist simultaneously, and the two will interact. You'll also meet their father Alec Ryder - he was the helmeted N7 operative spotted in the E3 2014 trailer and begins the game as Pathfinder until something happens which makes his . As for Ryder's own story, your main character will journey from a regular colonist to a hero, BioWare has said, as opposed to the story of Shepard - who began Mass Effect 1 as a hero already and ascended from there to Space Jesus.

Andromeda is set hundreds of years after Mass Effect 3 and in a different galaxy, so there will be no direct continuation of Shepard's story. We got a taste of this in a brief teaser for the game's N7 (November 7) announce, narrated by Ryder's father (via the vocal talents of Clancy Brown), discussing the mission to the new galaxy:

Who are your Mass Effect Andromeda squadmates, and what about romance?

Five arks carrying each of the major Milky Way races (asari, salarian, turian, human and krogan) are making the jump to Andromeda, along with a Citadel-esque central ship - the vast Nexus.

We know four major Milky Way races will be with you on your ship, and BioWare has confirmed there will be at least one from a new Andromeda race, for a total of six Mass Effect Andromeda squadmates.

You'll start with two human squadmates, a male and female. The male is Liam, an ex-cop. Early on, you'll also recruit an asari to your squad. She's named Peebee. Leaks named a couple of other squadmates: a biotic named Cora, who may be your other fellow human; and Drack, a krogan.

squad

Peebee, Liam, Ryder, Cora, Drack.

Andromeda, like all other Mass Effect games, will again let you engage in romantic relationships. BioWare has said players should expect this to work as other games in the series, and that same-sex relationships will of course be included.

As well as your squad and their races, we also know which races won't be returning for this fourth game.

Despite the new setting and cast, nods to past adventures will be included, along with plenty of fan service for players who want to go seek it out; one such example is the confirmation of one minor character making a return, for those who fancy spoiling the surprise for themselves.

Mass Effect Andromeda gameplay: How does it play?

Despite the new setting, Mass Effect Andromeda still features dialogue wheel conversations, big plot decisions and sci-fi gunplay with biotic "space magic". Loyalty missions from Mass Effect 2 will also return, but will not affect the game's ending.

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There are some big changes, however - the straight paragon/renegade (good/evil) choices have been replaced by a wider spectrum of responses and no overall 'gauge'. You also no longer pick a starting class - you'll simply assign the skill talents you want and build your way towards a specialty. You can, however, respec your character with different talents at specific times. Meanwhile, it's possible to craft and name weapons, including a new class of melee weaponry.

Expect a vast number of planets to explore, each of which will have one particular biome, according to BioWare. But these areas will be huge, and traversable both on foot and via the returning Mako buggy - renamed the Nomad. There's no vehicular combat this time around, so you'll be using your Mako just for exploration. Exploring planets and solar systems may sound familiar, but this time the focus is on doing so as an alien yourself. There's also a Normandy-style ship - the Tempest - which will take you from place to place, and with no loading screens either.

Multiplayer and mission types expected in Mass Effect Andromeda

Other information from the original leak revealed the kinds of missions you'll face, such as "Active Strike Team" missions that introduce multiplayer areas to players, - similar to ME3's N7 objectives - with these and a separate multiplayer horde for you and up to three friends, with rewards for use in the main campaign, having links to the campaign

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Dragon Age Inquisition's cut Keep defence system.

Meanwhile, there are "Deployed Strike Team" missions which take real-time to complete sound similar to Dragon Age: Inquisition's war table missions, where you send out resources to complete missions in real-time. These will allow you to gather resources and keep areas secure, which also sounds similar to a Keep defense system intended for Inquisition but then cut during production. Inquisition's creative director Mike Laidlaw previously told Eurogamer this was due to the problems of supporting last-gen consoles, something which Andromeda will not have to consider.

Other missions will task Ryder with exploring Remnant vaults, as we saw at PlayStation Meeting:

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Mass Effect Andromeda release date - when's it coming out?

Mass Effect Andromeda has a release date of 23rd March in Europe and 21st March in North America for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

In North America you can pre-order it from Amazon, and Best Buy, and in the UK, from Amazon, GAME and ShopTo. There's even a Ł280 edition with a remote-control Mako.

You'll be able to 10 hours of Mass Effect Andromeda five days before launch as part of Origin Access on PC and EA Access on Xbox One, and will allow you to carry on your progress to the full game upon release.

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