Mass Effect: Andromeda Features

FeatureHow to save Mass Effect Andromeda

"What's past is prologue."

The details of Mass Effect 3's ending controversy need not be recounted, as it remains one of gaming's most pervasive disappointments. The damage it did to BioWare's reputation is still, rightly or wrongly, part of the ongoing conversation about the developer.

Mass Effect Andromeda begins as a fairly slow-paced story of colonisation, but its plot soon blossoms into something far larger - a backdrop of warring races, an invasion force on a galactic scale, a missing colonisation ark broadcasting a warning signal and a giant conspiracy behind the Milky Way races even being in Andromeda at all.

It could totally have been them. Talk to game developers about the clips of Mass Effect Andromeda's dialogue scenes that have been circulating for the past couple of weeks and you'll get a thousand-yard stare. The kind you see from a soldier who's just been left unscathed by a shell that hit a platoon-mate right beside them. Many of Andromeda's dramatic issues are common to narrative-heavy games, and all developers know they could've equally been victim to the indefensible attacks that have been directed at BioWare and EA's staff.

There's enjoyment to be gleaned from Mass Effect: Andromeda, but in order to discover it, you might need a guide. No, not SAM, your cranially implanted AI assistant. SAM is awful - a toneless bore who doubles as a cautionary tale about leaving work notifications active on your phone, forever bleating at you to mine things, scan things, check your email, take vidcalls and spend your Andromeda Viability Points. As the vehicle for much of Mass Effect: Andromeda's more tedious content, he makes a far more convincing nemesis than the story's actual villain, who at least puts you through a few decent firefights en route to some scenery-chewing monologues about racial supremacy.

Performance Analysis: Mass Effect Andromeda

Digital FoundryPerformance Analysis: Mass Effect Andromeda

Digital Foundry's initial tests on PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game.

The latest episode of gaming's favourite space opera is mere days away from general release - and it's safe to say that the buzz surrounding Mass Effect Andromeda is mixed. As a game, acknowledging the issues its scope may bring, the response from Eurogamer has been positive. However, PC and Xbox One owners sampling the beginning missions via Origin/EA Access have encountered a number of glitches, bugs and issues that are receiving plenty of attention. For this article, our attention is on performance and scalability between PS4 and Xbox One, where BioWare has had to work a little harder to scale visuals between the two consoles' different levels of GPU power.

After the success of Dragon Age Inquisition, BioWare has chosen to continue development on EA's internal Frostbite engine, transitioning away from the Unreal Engine 3 powerhouse that formed the technical underpinnings of the last-gen Mass Effect trilogy. It's a good match: with Andromeda, there's a stronger emphasis on larger, more open worlds - bread and butter for Frostbite - while at the same time tapping into the engine's strong visual feature set. On top of that, BioWare is able to utilise the latest iteration of the engine. Of course, the brilliant physically-based lighting seen in Battlefield 1 and Star Wars Battlefront is implemented here, but new features - like Frostbite's full HDR support - are included in an EA title for the first time.

However, there is a curious sense that some aspects of the presentation are somewhat at odds with Frostbite's state-of-the-art feature set. Animation in particular looks very stilted, and almost last-gen in nature. Applying the very latest advances in motion capture (particularly facial) is going to be tough when you can define so many aspects of your character's appearance, but there's still a general sense that it's lacklustre across the game. The same can be said for character modelling as well.

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FeatureMass Effect's best mission

Curing the genophage.

Ask a Mass Effect fan to pick their favourite mission from the trilogy and you'll probably hear a range of responses. There's the Virmire level in Mass Effect 1, for example, where BioWare unexpectedly forced players to choose between two squadmates' lives. Then there's the superlative Suicide Mission finale of Mass Effect 2, perhaps the most intricately-plotted episode of the whole series. There are whole flowcharts to explain that one.

FeatureMass Effect Andromeda: the first five hours

What to expect from this week's EA/Origin Access trial.

Mass Effect Andromeda is an enormous game, and while we're not yet ready to share our final opinions, we can now get talking about its opening missions. Starting this Thursday, these will be playable to anyone with an EA or Origin Access subscription on PC or Xbox One.

FeatureMass Effect: the story so far

Get up to speed for the trip to Andromeda.

On the eve of Mass Effect Andromeda's EA/Origin Access trial and just a week out from the game's launch, we decided it was time to refresh our memories of gaming's greatest sci-fi trilogy.

FeatureFour hours with Mass Effect Andromeda

Far more than just Dragon Age Inquisition in space.

Mass Effect Andromeda has been in development almost five years but it's not until now, one month before release, that BioWare has let us play it. To say some fans are cautious is an understatement. Conspiracy theories abound as to Andromeda's shortened marketing cycle, or the reason why its release date was only set in stone last month. A product of BioWare's untested Montreal studio (albeit with help from the Edmonton mothership), Andromeda has been the subject of concerns over its lengthy development - not to mention the narrative leaps needed to continue the series after its original trilogy was so definitively tied off. And, while Dragon Age: Inquisition was generally well-received, Mass Effect fans want a proper Mass Effect game - not just a Frostbite-powered Hinterlands in space. Recently, fan suspicion bubbled over when a gameplay trailer included a small animation bug. BioWare's fans are some of the most loyal - but also some of the most critical.

FeatureWho's who in Mass Effect Andromeda

Ryder! Six squadmates! One mystery mother!

Mass Effect Andromeda takes the bold step of leaving behind an entire galaxy of characters in favour of a fresh start and all-new faces. So, who are your new space friends and enemies?

BioWare talks Mass Effect Andromeda squadmates, cut content and that missing release date

Just a few months from release, and despite a round of recent reveals we still know surprisingly little about Mass Effect Andromeda - despite it sounding like the biggest and most ambitious game in BioWare's beloved series to date.

We still don't know a firm release date, other than Mass Effect Andromeda's vague "spring 2017" launch window - why is that? Should fans be worried the game might slip?

How much has changed? What has happened to the Milky Way races not included in the game (quarians! geth!) and could they still appear? Then there's your squad members - essentially your family in Andromeda. How many will there be, and what's that we hear that one was cut?

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Mass Effect: Andromeda trailer scanned and analysed

Last week, EA finally revealed the full name and release window for Mass Effect 4 - which we'll now have to remember is actually named Mass Effect: Andromeda.

It's due out "holiday 2016" for unnamed platforms, but we'll take a guess and say that means November next year on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

EA opened its E3 2015 press conference with this in-engine look at Andromeda, which showcases some of the locations, characters, aliens and gameplay mechanics that you'll be exploring/meeting/shooting in just less than 18 months time. Take a look:

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