Diving back into the Mass Effect universe, and the first new game since Mass Effect 3 launched back in 2012, Andromeda will be set far from the events of Commander Shepard and the Reapers. Andromeda takes place after the events of Mass Effect 3, and is a time that humanity is searching for a new planet to call home.

Andromeda will follow a brand new hero, Ryder, a novice explorer venturing into the Andromeda galaxy’s Helius cluster. Bioware creative direct Mac Walters called the original Mass Effect trilogy “a foundational background” for Andromeda, with returning species and themes. However, the game will take the time to explain the components to newer players, making Ryder’s adventure the perfect starting point for newbies in the Mass Effect universe.

The most surprising change that will be coming in Andromeda, will be the lack of the Paragon and Renegade system, used to gauge the players morality throughout the story. There will still be moments to make choices, but these choices are more morally ambiguous.

Andromeda is not yet confirmed, nor even planned to be, a new trilogy just yet. Bioware does expect to make a series of it, and Walters emphasized that major concepts could likely carry over to future games. He also stated that it would not be a bad idea for players to hang onto their saves after finishing Andromeda.

Reportedly, Bioware has been aware that dialogue and character options in the original ME games left players wanting, and the studio is taking steps to make the new story feel more human. Mac Walters stated that the team “leaned into the more personal aspect” when speaking to Polygon at E3 2016. Ryder will only be available as a human character, male or female. Ryder is not just a single character though, the male and female counterparts being siblings. Their default names are “Scott” and “Sara”, though they can be changed by the player.

The old method of creating a Commander Shepard, the cookie-cutter method, isn’t applied to Ryder. Walters said that the team “wants to embrace choice and diversity with what you can do in the game.”


The Crew

A few of the cast members have been introduced as well. Liam, a youthful, enthusiastic follower, is a former police officer that is present on the same Ark as Ryder.

Peebee, an Asari researcher that can be recruited as the galaxy is explored, is not an echo of Liara. Rather, she is completely different character that can be “very bubbly.” She will buck the norm at any given time, and doesn’t care about rules or culture. She’s not even about teams or teamwork.

Then there’s Drack, the krogan. Drack has a strong affinity for his own people, and wants no harm to come to them. You can raise his loyaltly by defending krogan ships and settlements against attack.

Cora has the ability to drop a biotic shield to protect Ryder and the squad from enemy fire.

Loyalty missions will be returning, which was a new feature added in Mass Effect 2.


New Species and Returning Favorites

As we’ve already discussed above, the Asari, Krogan, and Humans will be returning to the series. Andromeda will introduce at least two new alien races to the mix.

The “Remnant,” a once powerful and mysterious alien race whose forgotten technology hold the key to gaining power in this region of the galaxy.

The “Kett” is the second known race being introduced, and appears to be the primary enemy in Andromeda. The Kett are also searching for the powerful items Ryder will be looking for. Details are scant on the Kett, but they appear to be militaristic and organic, wearing bumpy bone armor. Art Direct Joel McMillan said that while they were the main antagonists of Andromeda, there will be side stories that show the Kett in a sympathetic light.


Changes to Combat & Classes

Andromeda will remain a cover-based shooter, however, the introduction of a jetpack that allows Ryder to move around the battlefield suggests that the combat will be more dynamic.

Ryder will still be able to issue orders to the squad and queue attacks, but the global cooldowns of old will no longer apply. The entire class system (infiltrator, vanguard, engineer, soldier, etc) has been removed, to be replaced by skill areas you can invest in to create the Ryder that fits your playstyle. According to Bioware, this new “dynamic profile” system allows players to essentially change their class on the fly.


Focusing on Exploration

Unlike the earlier games, you will be able to explore entire planets, instead of just little segments that related to a story or side mission. You will be able to explore and establish “forward stations” if the planet is habitable.

Natural dangers will appear on these planets, such as acid pools and hazardous weather that can kill Ryder.

Loading screens have been removed, in favor of some landing sequences that will play on screen. Loading screens have been removed from the player’s ship, the Tempest.

From technical director Harold Chaput:

“With memory limitations, with loading limitations, there was a real problem [in previous games]; if you wanted to go from one place to another, you had to unload everything, you had to reload everything — it was a long time,” explained technical director Harold Chaput.

“It really broke the flow of the game. Now, it’s so much smoother to be on the ship, land on a planet, jump around, go inside a building. It’s all very seamless, so breaking down the barriers frees up the player to explore and do activities. It makes it easier to make a rich and full environment.”

Andromeda will have you searching for materials and crafting items and gear to keep Ryder standing in the harsh environments.

Side missions in the Mass Effect universe are the largest part of what makes the Mass Effect games. Andromeda looks to be no exception and looks to include a few new ways to spice up these side missions.

Strike Team missions will be available to be played cooperatively. “Active” Strike Team missions can be tackled by yourself, with your multiplayer characters, or with up to three other players, and have you fight against “increasingly difficult alien attacks” while attempting to complete objectives.

Should you not want to venture into the unknown, you can order a “Deployed Strike Team” mission, where you send AI on “randomly generated, time-sensitive missions” to defend settlements or gather supplies. Placing these settlements in strategic locations will clear the fog-of-war effect from the space map, opening up more Strike missions.

The multiplayer mode of Andromeda appears to follow the same basic blueprint, with additional gear rewards and “APEX,” a currency that can be used in the campaign. Unlike Mass Effect 3, where the multiplayer mode had an effect on the final stage of the game, Andromeda‘s multiplayer will not have a direct impact on the story.

Pricing and Release Date

Mass Effect: Andromeda will release on PC and consoles March 21st, 2017.

While console versions look to be priced a little higher, the Deluxe Edition is priced at $70 for consoles, PC gamers are getting a break at $60 for a Deluxe Edition.

In addition to the basic and deluxe packages, you can spend $100 and get the Collector’s Edition, which includes a die-cast replica of the Nomad rover.

If you want to get everything and unlock the super-fan achievement, you will need to pony up $200. That version comes with a Nomad as well, but it’s remote-controlled.