What to know before playing Mass Effect: Andromeda

Contributed by
Jun 16, 2017, 9:34 PM EDT (Updated)

Mass Effect: Andromeda is finally out, and it's a huge, complex game. In your role pioneering the Andromeda Initiative into a whole new galaxy, there are a ton of things to see and do both in and out of the central plot.

There are issues with the title, as review scores have shown, but for the person who puts in the effort, there is a diamond in the rough. We've put together a list of things we wish we had known before we started playing Mass Effect: Andromeda that would have made the whole experience much more enjoyable.

Keep in mind, these are just the basics. You may well discover things you want to come back and tell us about!


Be careful with the character creator

There are some issues with facial animation in Mass Effect: Andromeda that can make or break your immersion in the game depending on how you design your character. The male Ryder is hit way less by this issue, with the default Ryder and the custom preset faces all looking fairly decent. It's female Ryder that got the unfortunate end of this design issue, and you'll need to be careful if you want to create a character that doesn't look ultra-awkward when she talks.

The secret to avoiding female Ryder's weird mouth gestures is to go smaller with the lips and cheekbones. As a woman it sucks having to limit myself to an even smaller range of customization than the Mass Effect: Andromeda character creator already offered, but the difference between a properly customized female Ryder and the default can be the difference between night and day for your perception of the character and your play-through experience.


The story takes a while to get started

Like the first Mass Effect, Mass Effect: Andromeda takes a while to get the plot rolling. The first planet you explore, Habitat 7, is a lot like Shepard's mission to Eden Prime in the first game. There's a lot of tutorials, a lot of introducing the franchise's core lore and ideas, and a lot of the cliched tropes you see in the initial entry of a new franchise. In a way Mass Effect: Andromeda is a sort of reboot in that you're in a new galaxy and everything is different. I supposed BioWare meant for the game to be as welcoming to those playing an entry in the franchise for the first time as it is to longtime fans of the series. In any case, if you've played a Mass Effect game before, expect to feel a little coddled.

Once Ryder makes it to the Nexus and through the first portion of the second planet, Eos, the galaxy opens up, and you're finally allowed to explore and access the best content of the game. The only issue is that it takes about eight to ten hours of game time to get to this point. Unfortunately, the early pacing issues make it easy to lose interest in the plot entirely, but knowing that it does pick up considerably may make it simpler to keep moving forward.


Role-play your way

Your crewmates are people with their own stories and likes and dislikes, and you don't necessarily have to go along with whatever they say. Whether you want to make decisions that you would make in real life, or if you want to role-play as who you imagine Ryder is, you should never be afraid to tell it like it is to anyone in the game.

As Mass Effect: Andromeda progresses, your relationships build with your team based on the decisions you make. There's no way to go back and make a different conversation choice short of reloading an earlier save, so say what you want to when the opportunity presents itself. You'll have a much more enjoyable game, and you can make sure that if someone makes you mad that you get the satisfaction of letting them know what's up.

Unfortunately, sometimes you won't be able to say explicitly what you're thinking. Sometimes your Ryder will muddle their way through conversations and say bizarre one-liners when you chose the "Casual" option and looking for a completely different conversation. This is part of the game, much like with the previous Mass Effect titles, so don't be afraid to go back and try things again if you don't get the outcome you want.


The crafting UI is suboptimal, but you still have to deal with it

The crafting UI sucks and you have to deal with it. While there is a robust new crafting system available in Mass Effect: Andromeda, actually navigating it isn't very intuitive. You're going to have to learn to live with it though because some of the best gear is available through crafting. Andromeda also doesn't explain the way crafting works well at all. Here are some tips to make Mass Effect: Andromeda's crafting less of a chore.

a. There are three kinds of tech you can research: Milky Way, Kett and Remnant. To research these objects, you'll need a blueprint and research points. To get the three kinds of research points, you have to scan, scan, scan. Scan everything all the time and when you scan an object belonging to one of the three tech groups you'll get research points for that kind of tech.

b. To get the materials needed to craft items, you'll need to look all over the game. Some materials can be bought, others can be mined, some are dropped when you defeat enemies, and you'll find some in containers throughout the game. You can also get materials through strike team crates and you can unlock a Nexus perk that will result in a random assortment of minerals being delivered to you every once in a while.

c. Only bother researching rare and ultra-rare items. You'll pick up weapons, armor and other stat-boosting items fairly regularly in Andromeda. Most of these items are only common and uncommon grade, though. Don't waste time and resources on these items because you'll either find them or be able to purchase them through a vendor for cheap.

d. Weapons and armor upgrades can be researched, but you can't upgrade a weapon or armor you already own. Instead, you have to "develop" an entirely new version of that item by building it. However, you can get back some materials spent on an item and any mods you used in its construction by dismantling it via the inventory menu.


Romance isn't all it's cracked up to be

Like in real life, Mass Effect: Andromeda's romances don't always work out the way you want them to. They're also kind of boring in some instances. Much of your interactions are relegated to yawn-inducing and cringeworthy advances during dialogue scenes, and pressing buttons over and over at the right time until your potential partner is ready to take things to the next level. Granted, the prior Mass Effect titles didn't exactly make this an ingenious process or anything, but they felt a little more rewarding (and I'm forever Thane's siha).

Flirting feels a little more stilted in Andromeda, however, with some fairly eye-rolling interactions that are spaced few and far between. And if you're not careful, you might end up with Peebee on accident. Perhaps that's the most terrifying facet of it all. Just be prepared for a less-than-stellar alien sex experience. All those salacious images you've probably seen by now online? The scenarios are still super-tame, and in many cases kind of a letdown. But you don't have to have them to enjoy yourself.

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