BioWare brought Mass Effect: Andromeda to this year’s PAX East, and Polygon was able to get some hands-on time just as the show opened. It was extremely short — just 15 minutes on a single map — but the gameplay was fast, fluid and running at 4k.
I played as a female human soldier, armed with a Thokin assault rifle and a Carnifex pistol. With the left shoulder button I could toss grenades, while the right let loose a “concussive shot” that stunned enemies, then lifted them off the ground and spun them in mid-air. It felt a bit like a fast-acting biotic power, but with a very small area of effect and just a touch of homing. By pressing both shoulder buttons at the same time, I was able to supercharge my assault rifle for a short time.
The map I had access to was called Firebase Sandstorm. Perched on a rocky bluff, the square doughnut of a building had multiple vertical layers. Below, among the structure’s support columns, the map was tight and claustrophobic with short lines of sight. Inside the base itself, in the mid-level of the map, it was easy to lock down a single room or two so long as your team of four stayed together. On the roof it was chaos, with very little cover and long lines of sight.
Up top was where the enemy snipers had the advantage. They constantly moved back, distancing themselves from our powerful melee attacks and mid-range weapons. Down below, we were set upon by huge lizards that grabbed us by the arm, holding us in place. After fixing us, krogan berserkers and massive Hydra mechs moved in for the kill.
What struck me most about the game was just how fast it was. I’ve played my fair share of these kinds of horde modes in other games, but Andromeda seems to be keeping a completely different pace. Thankfully, characters are just as nimble as the enemies.
My soldier was able to take huge flying leaps with the jump button. Using evade in mid-air, I was able to quickly change direction, jetting out to retreat, flank or move up a level of the map and out of harm’s way. Good teams will have to work together, moving and fighting on the run, to be successful at high difficulty levels.
The cover and climbing system took some getting used to for me. It’s completely contextual. Simply move close enough to a piece of cover, and your character ducks down behind it. Leap towards a wall, and you’ll have the option to scale it. It will take some time to learn how characters take advantage of different pieces of scenery on their own, and use them to full advantage.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is the first game in the series since the original trilogy ended in 2012. It’s expected to launch March 21 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One, but subscribers to either EA Access on Xbox One or Origin Access on PC will get a 10-hour preview of the game beginning March 16.