We’ve known since GameInformer’s November cover story that the single-player combat of Mass Effect Andromeda would take heavy influences from the multiplayer of the series’ third installment. With the recent reveal of the official Combat breakdown video, we’re beginning to see just how extensive that influence is.As per Mass Effect 3’s single and multiplayer combat, weapon weight affects the recharge speed of the player’s abilities. Though all weapons are available to the player, those wishing to forego gunplay and focus on biotic or tech skills will want to equip fewer, lighter guns, and even modify those to further reduce their weight. However, unlike in Mass Effect 3, keeping the weapon weight below a certain threshold will not allow abilities to recharge at a rate faster than normal. This is offset by the fact that each ability is now on its own timer, instead of sharing a universal cooldown.
In Mass Effect 3, each individual weapon had five levels, with a Level V version of a particular gun bearing significantly better stats than a Level I; New Game + gave players access to Levels VI – X. Once again, each weapon will have a least a Level V version, though whether higher level versions of weapons exist, or whether they’ll be locked behind New Game + is not yet clear.
Weapons now have rarity, indicated by the color of their icon. Bronze indicates Common, silver Uncommon, gold Rare, and black with a red stripe – inspired by the N7 insignia – indicates an Ultra Rare weapon. How this applies to single-player is unclear, though the same weapons in multiplayer will probably have drop rates in the blind item packs corresponding to this rarity.
Cryo, Disrupter and Incendiary Rounds are returning, though the fate of Armor-Piercing, Drill, Explosive, Phasic, Shredder and Warp Rounds are unrevealed (not to mention Chemical, Hammerhead, Polonium, Proton, Radioactive, Sledgehammer, Snowblind and Tungsten ammo from the first Mass Effect). Special ammunition likewise takes cues from multiplayer, being a finite resource requiring replenishing as opposed to an ability accessible anytime. While this frees up a precious power slot instead of forcing the player to choose Incendiary Ammo instead of a more active ability such as Incinerate, scarcity will lead players to horde special ammo packs instead of utilizing them. A more elegant solution would have been to make ammunition take up an upgrade slot, as per the original game, though Andromeda’s particular solution was obviously implemented for parity with the game’s multiplayer combat, in which EA has a monetary incentive to make special ammo a consumable recourse which players can acquire through the purchase of blind drop boxes for real world money. If this hypothesis is correct, it is an egregious example of predatory microtransaction monetization practices adversely affecting a full-priced single-player experience.Cryo Beam differs from its Mass Effect 2 and 3 equivalent Cryo Blast, which acted as an elemental projectile. In Andromeda, Cryo Beam is instead a narrow cone of continuous elemental damage, per Flamer in the third game’s multiplayer (incorporated into Andromeda as Flamethrower). Invasion seems to be a tech variant of the biotic Seeker Swarm unique to the Awakened Collector class in Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer.
The tech skill set is the only of the three in which an ability remains greyed-out, listed as “unknown.” Several possibilities exist. Tech Armor is particularly iconic, being the exclusive skill of the Sentinel Class in Mass Effect 2 and 3. It’s fairly passive nature might clash with Andromeda’s more active design sensibilities, but fusing it with aspects of the N7 Destroyer’s Devastator Mode, Hawk Missile Launcher, the Geth’s Hunter Mode, or the Batarian’s Blade Armor would circumvent such, requiring the player to toggle between more defensive and offensive modes as the situation demands. Another more active variant of Tech Armor could be an Omni-Shield similar to that of the N7 Paladin, though this could be overly similar to the new biotic ability Backlash or the new combat skill Barricade. Even a simple Shield Boost or Fortification is a possibility, however pedestrian, as would be Repair Matrix or Stimulant Pack, though if it were a consumable as per those it be much less appealing.Less likely but more exciting possibilities would be the Havok Strike or the Supply Pylon. The former seems too similar to the biotic Nova, especially when combined with the new Jet-pack mechanic, while the latter could circumvent balance if it were to resupply all kinds of ammo, special ammo included. The four most probable possibilities are Decoy, Sabotage, Submission Net and Tactical Scan, and the fact that three of these are definitely excluded is far more shocking than which, if any, would be included. One of the trailers had an enemy encased in what appeared to be some sort of webbing, though, it’s unclear if the player’s powers encased them in such. My own money would therefore be on Sabotage, if for no other reason than it was the only incorporated in Mass Effect 3’s single-player. At the same time, I’d guess its utility to be limited to weapon overheating and backfire, with all traces of AI Hacking expunged. The evidence for such is that its biotic equivalent, Dominate, which affects organic targets, is similarly absent from the biotic skill set. Such is a shame; one of my favorite builds in Mass Effect 2 was using Advanced Training to give an Engineer Shepard Dominate in addition to AI Hacking, allowing total control over any and all adversaries.Also gone are classic biotic abilities such as Reave, Stasis, and Warp, replaced with the utterly uninspired Lance, similar sounding to the N7 Slayer’s Phase Disruptor. Slam is likewise gone, though, presumably incorporated into the reworked Pull, which, when combined with Throw, looks to more closely replicate the full telekinetic experience seen in The Force Unleashed games.
Apart from AI Hacking and Dominate, the most woeful casualty of multiplayer’s influence on the single-player combat is the absence of the Soldier class’ exclusive power, Adrenaline Rush. Though an ability sharing the same name appeared in Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer, the essential feature of dilating time and allowing the player to more carefully aim was entirely removed, so as not to disrupt the experience of other players. While it would be annoying to be unexpectedly pulled into bullet-time during multiplayer matches, one of Shepard’s most useful skills will be sorely missed by Ryder. Its replacement is Turbocharge, which works similarly to Adrenaline Rush’s function in the multiplayer.
Already some enticing loadouts are apparent. The telekinesis of Pull and Throw would synergize well with other biotic powers such as Backlash or Charge for a traditional Adept. Cryo Beam, Flamethrower, and Overload pair well as an Elementalist able to deal effectively with enemy shields and armor. Personally, I find it difficult to imagine foregoing my trusty Assault Turret, allowing it to fight my battles for me as I take cover behind a Barricade or exit and re-enter combat with a well-timed Tactical Cloak. The absence of a strict class system means the possibilities are nearly endless, and I plan to experiment with many more combinations than these come March 21st. Given my love for the original trilogy, Mass Effect Andromeda is one of my most anticipated releases ever, and these weekly videos leading up to the drop date are only making the wait more agonizing.