Mass Effect: Andromeda is out in a week’s time. It feels like we’ve waited an eternity to jump back in to Bioware’s space opera universe. Sure, it’s essentially a new story in a new part of said universe, but it’s exciting to have Mass Effect back. Or at least it was.
When the first teaser for the game was shown, I was one of the many people squeeing with wide-eyed delight. But in the time since, my enthusiasm has softened. I’m not sure why, but there’s something in the pit of my stomach that’s gnawing at me, warning me that the game is going to ultimately be a disappointment.
I very much hope that something is wrong, and that my tempered excitement can be reignited. Comments from lead designer Ian Frazier, speaking at PAX last week, may just do that.
The multiplayer form Mass Effect 3 was excellent, but I hated the way that it tied in to the single player progression. While it wasn’t completely impossible, it was terribly difficult to achieve the required “Galactic Readiness” necessary for the best ending without spending hours in the multiplayer.
Mass Effect: Andromeda’s multiplayer will be more intrinsic, while also being wholly optional.
“There’s a tie that can exist between single-player and multiplayer–that’s the Strike Teams,” Frazier says.
“At a certain point fairly early in the plot, we say, ‘Hey, there’s this militia [that is] waking up from the cryopods from the Milky Way.’ They can do missions where the Pathfinder isn’t. When Ryder has more important things to do, you get the ability to assign AI Strike Teams to go do these missions. It’s all set in real-time, so it’s going to take an hour, five hours, or whatever for one of these missions to happen.
Your teams have a different percent chance to succeed based on their stats and equipment and everything. You can gear them up, you can train them up, you can send them to do these missions, but they’re going to take a while to do it.”
While that sounds to me like busywork, there are bits that tie together the single and multiplayer elements within the narrative.
“Some of these missions are called ‘Apex Missions.’ They’re generally a little harder.” Frazier says. “You can send your teams to do them, but it’s going be really hard for them unless you’ve really leveled up your teams. Or you can do it yourself in multiplayer. You can just hit a button, it’ll quick-save your single-player game [and] launch you directly into multiplayer where you can solo if you want, you can match-make with friends, [or] you can do a public game and match-match with strangers.”
Frazier says that the transition between single and multiplayer will be seamless, and will be contextualised within the narrative, and dish out the appropriate multiplayer and single player rewards.
“The idea is, if you’re really into multiplayer, you get all the things you already liked, plus it’s benefiting your single-player campaign,” said Frazier. “If you’re only into multiplayer, cool. If you’re only into single-player, cool. We tried to set it up in a way that there’s nothing you can’t get within the context of single-player. You don’t have to play multiplayer at all if you don’t want to.”
If the multiplayer is as engaging as it was in Mass Effect 3, while also being completely optional if I choose to skip it, I may be a little more interested.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is out on PC, PS4 and Xbox One next week, though a 10 hour trail for EA and Origin Access subscribers goes lie on Thursday.