Mass Effect Andromeda: more squadmate details, new AI companion and everything you need to know

Fast facts:

  • Mass Effect Andromeda release date: 21 March (US), 23 March (EU)
  • Formats: PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One, PC
  • Developer: Bioware
  • Price: $59.99/£48.99

Update: February 1 - more squadmate details, AI companion and the galaxy map

The latest video on the Mass Effect Andromeda Initiative site reveals some new details about your team, and the role you’ll play within it. You’ll have to sign up to view the videos, but it’s worth doing if you want some additional, in-game gear. If not, I’ve summarised some of the details in this update. 

The Pathfinder & Team video is narrated by Cora Harper, a character revealed in the most recent Mass Effect Andromeda trailer. She’s the second-in-command to Pathfinder Alec Ryder. She’s a biotic and an operations specialist, and we know she’s spent the last few years of her career serving alongside Asari commandos, which feels like a setup for a side mission of some sort. 

She also tells us about Liam Costa, and expert in crisis response with civilian tactical training. It sounds like he’s the heart of the team, having learnt of the initiative during “post-hostility relief action”. Apparently he’s an idealist, which will contrast nicely with Cora’s apparent ‘end justifies the means’ approach to rule breaking. 

We also discover a bit more about the AI that will inform everything the team does. SAM - short for Simulated Adaptive Matrix, because all AIs have to have an acronym which is also a name - is essentially a virtual version of Alec Ryder’s consciousness, who thinks and feels exactly like the senior Ryder. All members of the team receive implants, allowing them to communicate directly with SAM, and we’ve heard him offering helpful advice in the previous Mass Effect Andromeda gameplay trailers. 

We learn that Scott and Sarah Ryder - one of whom you’ll be controlling, depending on your choice - are just recruits. This may suggest something happens to their father Alec Ryder, who’s leading the expedition, and they have to step up. It’s a classic Bioware trope, which they used to great effect in Dragon Age: Origins. 

Finally, we see a glimpse of the system map, which looks very similar to what we’ve seen before in Mass Effect 3. Another interesting snippet is that there are three Arks, each containing different races, and each has its own team and Pathfinder. This suggests we’ll meet them during the game, and the race to find habitable worlds could lead to some interesting conflicts. Read on for more details about everything Mass Effect Andromeda. 

Bonus update: January 26 - brand new cinematic trailer, squadmates revealed!

We have a brand new Mass Effect Andromeda trailer, and it's brilliant. You can watch it below. 

It answers a few questions about the squad, and leaves us with plenty to think about. We get our first proper look at Cora and Liam, as well as a glance of who we presume will be your sixth squad member - a new alien, as promised by creative director Mac Walters. Read on below for more info after watching the  the spine-tingling new trailer. 

Update: January 26, 2017 - Play Mass Effect Andromeda before anyone else, plus every officially confirmed character detailed

If you can’t wait until the Mass Effect Andromeda release date to play Bioware’s next big RPG, here’s some good news: if you’re an EA Access member, you’ll be able to play a free,  10-hour Play First Trial available to subscribers on March 16.

We also now have a total of 17 confirmed characters, all of whom we’ve detailed below. The newest confirmed squadmates are Vetra, the female Turian we saw in the latest Mass Effect Andromeda gameplay trailer; Cora, a human female we've seen in trailers (but she's always worn a helmet); and a Krogan called Drack, who we've know about since a leak last year, but this is the first time he’s been confirmed. Head to the characters section below for more details and a few new names.

Update: January 18 - new vehicle details, inside the Tempest and Mass Effect Andromeda on Project Scorpio

The most recent Mass Effect Andromeda video takes you on a tour of the vehicles you’ll be using as you delve into the unknown void of space. We’ve got all the details in the update below, but if you want to take a look around Mass Effect Andromeda's ship, hit the link now. 

Still here? Excellent. Here’s the short version. You’ll be exploring Mass Effect Andromeda in the Tempest, a sleek, elegant ship designed for a similar purpose to the Normandy. It’s made for stealth, not combat, so there are no heavy weapons or armour. You won’t be roughing it, though; the interior of the ship is lovely, complete with three different types of lab, an armory, med bay, meeting room and more. There are also palatial private quarters for the Pathfinder (that’s you). Take note of the large double bed; perfect for waking up alone after inept attempts at cross-species seduction. No sign of space hamsters or a fish tank yet, though. We also hear the pilot’s voice in the video, and he sounds vaguely salarian. We’ve already seen a salarian in the background of a previous trailer, pictured below, so it’s safe to assume it’s the same person. 

The other vehicle detailed, the Nomad, shares DNA with the Mako from the first Mass Effect. It comes with the same vertical thrust function, boosters for launching you forward and the option to add a bespoke paint job (ideally to match your sexy, customised armour). Let’s hope it drives less like a shoe than the Mako.

Finally, creative director Mac Walters has suggested a Project Scorpio version of Mass Effect Andromeda could come to Microsoft’s more powerful version of the Xbox One later in the year. Walters told Official Xbox Magazine that, "if we do a Game of the Year edition, or a future edition or something like that, that's something we'd definitely consider looking at, for sure." 

Update: January 11th - Multiplayer, DLC, classes and characters

With the Mass Effect Andromeda release date of 21 March creeping ever closer, more and more details are appearing online, revealing how the multiplayer modes will work, DLC plans, what we can expect from the revised character classes and who'll be joining Ryder's squad. Read on for all the latest details Mass Effect Andromeda news.  

We've had time to absorb all the new Mass Effect Andromeda info from N7 day, including updates on the plot, dynamic cover during combat (i.e. things blow up), a less rigid class system (so you can juggle tech, soldier and biotic skills), plus images and info on Mass Effect Andromeda's answer to the MAKO vehicle, the Nomad, which you'll use to explore the new, less 'linearly-sliced', planets. More controversially, it seems that there will be no companion deaths in Mass Effect Andromeda – so no more epic choices between friends, like the Ashley vs Kaidan bombshell in the original Mass Effect. Let's hope BioWare are exploring new ways to test our moral boundaries.  Finally, there's the frankly ludicrous, choice of 10 Mass Effect Andromeda special editions including a $270 remote control space car. Yes, really

Mass Effect Andromeda DLC won't include a season pass

Mass Effect has traditionally had a difficult relationship with additional content - we're looking at you, Javik - but we do know that Bioware is very receptive to fan feedback. That's why it's particularly interesting to learn that Mass Effect Andromeda won't feature a season pass for DLC. Here's a tweet from BioWare general manager Aaryn Flynn confirming the (lack of) plans. 

There's every chance Bioware could get it right this time, especially after the excellent Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3. Standalone stories are fine, but no more crucial characters locked behind pre-order bonuses and DLC, please.

Mass Effect Andromeda character classes are different

Previous Mass Effect titles utilised six different character classes. Mass Effect Andromeda will be different. The class system is gone, replaced with a branching skill tree that lets you pick how you want to play.

You can now mix skills from tech, combat or biotic classes. Specialism is still possible, however, so if you invest enough points into a skill category you can unlock a profile giving you bonuses. These advanced classes have familiar names - Vanguards still specialise in combat and biotics, for example, which Adepts are experts in pure biotics - and there's a new title, Explorer, for anyone who wants to specialise in everything. Apparently there will also be a narrative reason for re-specing your character, so you'll be able to test different styles of play. 

Mass Effect: Andromeda multiplayer will be less invasive than Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect Andromeda's multiplayer uses a system called Strike Team, which allows you to (almost) seamlessly switch between the single-player and multiplayer aspects of the game. There's a loading screen between modes, you don't need to stop your game and restart in a new mode. It's all narratively connected the the Mass Effect: Andromeda story, and you can also finish the Strike Team 'meta-story' without ever playing online (which will come as a relief to series veterans unwilling to play online in Mass Effect 3).

Exactly how Strike Team will play is unclear, but it's likely to reflect the multiplayer modes from Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition. We'll update this article with specifics as soon as we know them.

Mass Effect Andromeda N7 Day trailer reveals crucial hints about the story

We’ve already seen the game in action, and the first teaser trailer was shown way back at E3 2015, but the Mass Effect Andromeda trailer, released on N7 Day, tells us loads more about the setting and story. 

One line sums it up nicely: "We're the aliens here." It tells us surprising amount about the tone of Mass Effect Andromeda. You're an unknown intruder in a distant place, rather than a a burgeoning young race in a familiar galaxy. Instead of ascension, Mass Effect Andromeda is a story about survival at any cost, with little margin for error. 

You can watch the whole thing in its tantalising, cinematic glory above but in the meantime, here's the full synopsis: 

Mass Effect: Andromeda takes players to the Andromeda galaxy, far beyond the Milky Way. There, players will lead our fight for a new home in hostile territory as the Pathfinder - a leader of military-trained explorers. This is the story of humanity’s next chapter, and player choices throughout the game will ultimately determine our survival.

Chart Your Own Course in a Dangerous New Galaxy

Unravel the mysteries of the Andromeda galaxy as you discover rich, alien worlds in the search for humanity’s new home

Lead the First Humans in Andromeda on a Desperate Search for our New Home

In this new chapter of Mass Effect, meet and recruit all-new, interesting characters caught up in an epic space saga filled with mystery and galactic conflict

Fight with your Pathfinder Team In Battle Against Terrifying Enemies and Creatures

New additions like destructible environments, boosted jumps for added verticality, and all-new weapons and Biotics make combat more thrilling than ever

Build a Formidable Hero With Amazing Weapons, Powers and Tech

With a much more flexible skill and weapon progression tree, you can replicate your play style to make you unstoppable against new, powerful alien enemies

For 1 player or up to 4 in multiplayer mode

Mass Effect Andromeda crafting lets you make killer gear on the move

As you explore the new-to-you worlds of the Andromeda galaxy, you'll find materials that can be used to create new and better items. You can harvest these resources with the Nomad buggy, and it looks like you can call down an orbital drop pod to retrieve anything else you need from the Tempest while you're planetside. There are separate armor slots for helmet, chest cover, boots, and arm protection, so you'll have plenty of flexibility for pursuing different bonuses and styles.

Mass Effect Andromeda's combat opens up with jetpacks and biotics

Even if you plan to play through Mass Effect: Andromeda as a dyed-in-the-wool soldier, never touching the tech or biotics skill trees, the jetpack will (literally) change your approach to battle. Forget about combat rolls - now you can boost out of the line of fire, line up the shot, then boost back behind cover. And if you do decide to invest in the other skill trees, you'll find even more ways to use aerial superiority to your advantage. That includes some sweet looking biotic-assisted air dashes.

Mass Effect Andromeda romance will definitely be a thing, and loyalty missions are back.

Crucially, all the shooty-running-killy stuff is only part of Mass Effect Andromeda’s gameplay. As before, everything you do is tempered by the relationships you have with your crew - whether it’s platonic brofistery or biologically-ambitious interspecies romance. Creative director Mac Walters has revealed that loyalty missions from Mass Effect 2 will return. This means that every member of your team has a specific, story-focussed mission you can take on to improve your relationship with them. It's a great way of getting to know characters better, offering a practical alternative to endless chatting in the hanger bay, but you won't be punished if you chose not to complete them. These missions are part of a suite of narrative distractions - which also include planetary exploration and solving the mysteries of the Ryder family - all of which point to Mass Effect Andromeda having the familiar, nourishing mix of firefights and friendship.

Elsewhere, we've seen glimpses of these relationships in the 4K demo - some cheerful, scene-setting radio chatter here, some unspoken longing there - and the second cinematic trailer shows that human Cora is definitely a romance option. A leak way back in 2015 suggested there will be a total of seven new crew members, and the trailers we’ve seen so far hint at a diverse bunch drawn from established Mass Effect races such as Asari, Krogan and Salarian. More details below.

Mass Effect Andromeda squad members - everything we know so far

So who will you be exploring the far reached of space with? Here's what we know so far:

- The Asari we saw at the PlayStation meeting has been confirmed as Peebee, which is a nickname - presumably her initials. She's basically the anti-Liara: wild, bubbly and not bound by social constraints. She's fascinated by Remnant technology, which is why she comes along for the ride in Mass Effect Andromeda. 

- The second confirmed member is a human male named Liam Costa. We really know is that he's of African descent, served as a police officer in the Milky Way, and he works in a security role on the Hyperion Ark. 

- Cora Harper is a Biotic squad mate, and second-in-command after Alec Ryder. She's a human female with cool hair, and definitely romanceable. We've probably seen her in the background of various trailers, albeit with her helmet on, and she was revealed in the latest cinematic trailer.

- Drack is the typically-badass Krogan who we see dropping someone off a ledge in EA Play trailer. We also saw him in the 4K gameplay video show at the PlayStation Experience 2016. On a related note: please, please let us romance a Krogan this time. 

- Your squad will include a female Turian called Vetra. Like Drack, we see her in the 4K gameplay video.

If the early leaks are to be believed, that leaves two more squadmates to bring it to a total of seven. We know that one will be a totally new alien - possibly named Jaal - and we see her at the end of the most recent trailer

We also know about the following other characters, who won't be in your squad.

- Jien Garson is the founder of the Andromeda initiative, and the narrator of the first Andromeda Initiative video. She leads the expedition from the central Nexus ark ship, and while she won't be a squad member, you can expect her to play a pretty crucial role. Judging from her armour, it's possible that she's the person we see Ryder holding in the Mass Effect Andromeda reveal trailer from N7 Day, pictured below. 

- The pilot of the Tempest is a Salarian named Kallo Jath. 

- Dr Lexi is an Asari paramedic aboard the Tempest. 

The latest Andromeda Initiative video is full of info, which I've condensed here:

- Foster Addison is a new human female. She sees oversees all colonisation logistics for the Andromeda Initiative. It sounds like she might fulfil a similar role to Josephine from Dragon Age: Inquisition.

- Nakmor Kesh is a female Krogan - which hints at the Andromeda Initiative being culturally different to what we've seen in previous Mass Effect games. She's  one of the core engineers who built the Nexus. 

- Sloane Kelley is an Alliance-trained solider, who has left the Andromeda Initiative for a life of crime. We saw her in the recent 4K gameplay trailer. What's interesting is that she was previously responsible for all security aboard the Nexus, so your relationship with her might be more complex than first thought.

This suggests all three characters might echo the advisory board in Dragon Age: Inquisition, with the Nexus taking the place of Skyhold. It's a cool idea, and a great why of adding context to your missions.

Another name we've seen is Reyes, who remains a mystery. We're aware of two Virtual Intelligence characters, too. Avena, the VI Asari from the Citadel, returns, and it sounds like the Tempest has a male VI called SAM - think of EDI from the Normandy, before she became a curvy robot. 

Mass Effect Andromeda's new enemy is the Kett 

We've had our first look at Mass Effect Andromeda's new bad guys The Kett
via Game Informer. This new – ugly, horned and angular – species are designed to look distinct from previous villains the Reapers (they live galaxies apart), and to enable empathy with this new threat.

We also know that the Kett didn't originally wear clothes - cor blimey! - but were covered up to avoid the strange disconnect of talking to naked aliens. 

Mass Effect Andromeda’s Shepard is, erm... Ryder

Mass Effect has always been a character-driven story - note how I carefully avoided the term ‘human’ - about managing the fate of a central character. Andromeda will be no different. Instead of Commander Shepard, you’ll be playing as one of the Ryder siblings, Sara or Scott - and yes, their name and appearance can be altered. As human Pathfinders in a distant, unfamiliar galaxy, they carry the burden of finding new planets to colonise. The Ryder characters are a major deviation from previous Mass Effect games. As brother and sister, both characters canonically exist in the universe, irrespective of which one you choose - and I’ll talk more about the Ryder family below. The character you don't pick will suffer a fault to their cryogenic system during the journey, and won't be available at the start of the game, but you can expect them to wake up and be present later on in the story, even if they're not part of your squad. 

Whereas previous Mass Effect games had you overcoming established prejudices and the ascension of the humans race as an intergalactic power, Andromeda offers a different, more fragile prospect. Of course, the legend of Shepard lives on in Mass Effect: Andromeda. As you’d expect from the woman/man who stepped forward to save the galaxy, Shepard is regarded with almost religious devotion. We don’t know exactly what form this will take, but expect numerous throwbacks fan-serving nods to the previous games. 

Mass Effect Andromeda release date has been pushed back from 2016 to Spring 2017

The Mass Effect Andromeda release date was originally going to be ‘holiday 2016’, but sadly it’s been pushed back to March, 2017. What was the reason? As Aaron Flynn explained, simply to make the best game possible. We could be closer to playing the game than we realise, since the Mass Effect Andromeda release date might have been leaked by Amazon. Dark Horse's The Art of Mass Effect Andromeda book is due to be released 'simultaneously with the game' on March 21st, claims the Amazon listing.

Mass Effect Andromeda gameplay looks recognisable but refined

BioWare general manager Aaron Flynn showed off some Mass Effect Andromeda gameplay at Sony’s PlayStation Meeting this September, with the game running at 4K on PS4 Pro. You can check out the footage in the video below – or take a look at some Mass Effect: Andromeda screenshots in 4K from PS4 Pro – but the short version is that it’s the same solid cover shooting established in earlier games, with some elegant refinements. Ryder uses a short, Mako-style rocket jump used for traversing gaps, which suggests more open levels and verticality - forgive me for using the ‘v’ word - not before seen in Mass Effect. There’s also an in-game scanner, perfect for reliving your finest planet-scanning moments from Mass Effect 2, which hints at an underlying theme of assessing worlds for their habitability. We also see a glimpse of the Remnant, the mysterious new alien race in Mass Effect Andromeda, who may hold the key to humanity’s future.

There’s also sense of physical depth not seen in previous Mass Effect games, which will be even more vivid thanks to HDR lighting on supporting platforms. Overall, it looks like a deeply handsome game.

While the Mako is coming back, vehicular combat is not - this is a good or bad thing, depending how long you spent jumping over Geth rockets in the first Mass Effect. We also know that co-operative multiplayer is coming back - details on that below.

The Mass Effect Andromeda plot is a family affair

Remember the Mass Effect Andromeda trailer from forever ago? Specifically, the guy in the black N7 helmet? Well you don’t need to remember it - I’ve posted it below.

It’s likely that the man in the video is Alec Ryder, father of Sara and Scott. Bioware creative director Mac Walters has confirmed that the most recent teaser trailer for N7 day was narrated by Daddy Ryder.

Like his children, you'll be able to customise Alec's appearance. Alec Ryder's history is also interesting; he's a Systems Alliance hero, and a former member of Jon Grissom's team. Grissom isn't present in the main game, but you might recognise his name from the Grissom Academy, which you see at the start of Mass Effect 3. He was also the first man to lead a mission through a Mass Relay. If Alec Ryder knew Grissom, he's already an interesting character. This also means he's going to be an older character - likely between 50-70 - although it's worth remembering that humans are longer lived around the time that Mass Effect takes place.

It’s less clear how this relates to the story, but BioWare has an illustrious history weaving family into its grandest narratives - think Liara and Benezia in Mass Effect, Samara and Morinth in Mass Effect 2, Bodahn and Sandal in Dragon Ag... okay, maybe not that one. It wouldn’t register on my surprise meter if the fate of Ryder’s mother became central to the Mass Effect Andromeda plot. Walters promised we’d find out more on N7 Day, but it's not clear yet exactly what role she'll play.  

Finally, we now know it takes place 600 years 'from where we stand.' The wording of this is crucial - it suggests it's 600 years of travel, into distant, unexplored space, covering the distance between the Milky Way and Andromeda, rather than just time. The craft in the video below looks like slightly like the Citadel and a Mass Relay - this could be exactly the means Ryder needs to travel such a huge distance. It's also a useful start for a series that has relied upon people playing previous games. For the first time ever, it won't matter if you've never played another Mass Effect.

Related Mass Effect Andromeda news

Here's how Mass Effect: Andromeda's multiplayer will tie into the main game Mass Effect Andromeda's combat gameplay shows fighting, engineer skills and flamethrower upgrades
Mass Effect: Andromeda's DLC plans don't include a season pass
Mass Effect: Andromeda's new story trailer reminds you that you're the alien around here
Mass Effect: Andromeda retail listings reveal box art and 4-player co-op
Two gifs from the Mass Effect: Andromeda Initiative trailer have our minds racing
The Mass Effect Andromeda release date might have been leaked by Amazon
Mass Effect Andromeda gives us another look at the new ship, the Tempest

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt is GamesRadar's senior commissioning editor. His ideal game would be a turn-based beat 'em up set in Lordran, starring Professor Layton and Nico from Broken Sword. There would also be catapults and romance. Follow him @MGElliott for Darkstalkers gifs and pictures of breakfast food.
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