Greetings! I’m Joe Juba, senior reviews editor at Game Informer, and the person who wrote our recent cover story on Mass Effect Andromeda.

I’ve been at GI for a long time (almost 13 years), and BioWare games have been among my favorites to cover. In addition to the Mass Effect Andromeda feature, I wrote our cover stories for Mass Effect 3 and all three Dragon Age games – not to mention various previews, reviews, and features on BioWare titles.

The Mass Effect series had me hooked since the beginning. I’ve read the Mass Effect novels (well, most of them), gotten all 1000 achievement points in all three games, and waited patiently for BioWare to reveal more info on the latest installment. Then, miraculously, I got to be a part of that reveal when our team traveled to BioWare Montreal last month to see Mass Effect Andromeda in action. We got a demo of the game that lasted several hours, we interviewed the team, and even played multiplayer for ourselves. After all that, I got to write 16 pages about what I saw and heard, which you can read in our latest issue. You can also get our digital issue on mobile.

For the most current info we have online, you can check out our hub full of features – including my personal favorite, 101 Questions and Answers.

I’m happy to answer any questions you have about Andromeda, the big changes, my impressions, our visit to BioWare’s studio, and the process of coordinating and writing cover stories in general. However, I should emphasize that I can only speak from my own experience. I’m not a spokesperson for EA or BioWare. I’m not involved with making the game, I didn’t see everything, and there are some questions I can’t answer – especially those involving story spoilers. With that in mind, ask away!

Proof: http://imgur.com/px1an47

EDIT: I'm going to have to call it here folks, but I just wanted to say "thank you" to everyone for your insightful questions! This was a lot of fun. Like you, I love this series, and it's great to just be able to chat with my fellow fans about its next big step. Sorry I couldn't get to all of the questions, but hopefully you'll get more answers during our coverage this month! Thanks again!

Comments: 265 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

Voxil4242 karma

Does it feel like Mass Effect? Are we going to care?

joejuba80 karma

This is an interesting question, and probably my biggest one prior to our studio visit. The short answer is: It depends on what you think "Mass Effect" means.

There's no Shepard. There's no paragon/renegade. There are no set classes. These are things that I would have considered central to Mass Effect's identity – but somehow, the integrity of the experience doesn't seem breached without them.

If you look at the other things that define Mass Effect – agency, exploration, fun gameplay – those are all still there. And they're layered in with new stuff that seems like a good fit for the franchise.

Sorry that's a bit of a wishy-washy response, but it's an especially subjective topic. To me, yes, it feels like Mass Effect.

Fangamingtime42 karma

Who are we able to romance? Any quarians? Krogans?

joejuba85 karma

I want to be honest with you folks during this, so believe me when I say I wish I had more information to share on this front. The folks at BioWare were pretty tight-lipped when it came to details regarding specific romantic interactions and who they might be with.

I get it. The characters and their romantic arcs are many fans' favorite part of Mass Effect, so I can understand not wanting to spoil them. But I'm right there with you – I wish I knew, too.

What I CAN say about romance, however, is that the team seems committed to offering of broader range of interactions. Like, it won't just be "pursue a love interest, make the right dialogue options, then have sex before the final dungeon." Some characters might be up for a longer term thing, some might just be flings. Some might completely unromance-able, but even in those cases, the dev team wants to make the culminations of those relationships interesting – even if they aren't sexy.

sisonaCR18 karma

Are we still stuck to one romance once we've locked in? Even the more casual flings?

joejuba47 karma

The answer I got to that question was "depends on the character," so there may be some (like Iron Bull in Dragon Age Inquisition) who are cool with you pursuing other romances.

ladyinsanity35 karma

Thanks for this! Since paragon and renegade in MEA are said to be not the same as the original trilogy, how different is the conversational flow in Andromeda? Are we able to recognize and choose tone?

joejuba49 karma

You're welcome! I'm having fun so far!

My impression is this: The conversations are not drastically different without paragon/renegade. To me, that whole conceit felt rooted in the Knights of the Old Republic approach to decision making. That was fine for the time – KOTOR is awesome. But the way players make choices and interact with characters has come a long way in the last 10 years, and having the things you say be judged according to their morality feels strange to me now. I'm glad MEA is changing it.

But, you still make choices. Your decisions still have an impact. But it doesn't feel like they're being quantified in the same way, which I appreciate.

For players who enjoyed the role-playing element of being a paragon or renegade Shepard, some dialogue wheel options might have one of four tones attached. They were explained to me as: head, heart, professional, casual.

I didn't see much of this in action, but from the description, it reminded me of Alpha Protocol's approach to coloring your dialogue options.

annamaerys10 karma

Would you say this is more in line with the dialogue system of Inquisition? The options there were kind of tied to an emotional disposition (angry, reserved, etc.) and what seemed "right" to some of the party was frowned upon by others, without affecting the main character's moral score significantly.

joejuba36 karma

I was initially going to use DAI as an example, but it had so many icons to represent different things that it was hard to keep them all straight or use them with consistency.

But yeah, that's a good point. I would also say it was like that, if you had fewer and more clearly defined options in DAI.

mikehamper6 karma

I really enjoyed Alpha Protocol's decision making, and it helped the game feel impactful and the choices significant.

That being said, and given the broader conversational choices, do you know if there will be more, and better differentiated, endings to ME: A than say ME: 3?

Edit: words.

joejuba29 karma

To be totally frank, the team was (understandably, I think) reluctant to make any promises or speak at length regarding the ending. But believe me, I asked.

henriquebh30 karma

Do we get to play before reaching the Andromeda Galaxy? Or before departing the Milky Way? If not, is there gonna be an intro for that?

joejuba38 karma

I don't believe so. As far as I know, the first time the player controls Ryder is as they wake up in the Ark after arriving in the Heleus cluster of Andromeda.

I'm sure there's going to be some sort of intro that explains the situation to new players who haven't been following the game prior to release, though.

DamienCrow29 karma

A couple questions:

Will the character customization system allow body/size/weight/build adjustment of any kind in Andromeda?

Will you be able to revisit mission areas after completing a mission or replay missions/side missions?

Do we have any knowledge of the reaper threat? Most of the council was on board with hiding knowledge of the reapers before ME3 so it makes me wonder.

joejuba61 karma

-We only got to see the "quick start" option, so I didn't get a look at the specifics of the customization system. However, the team did say that there are more options than there were before. Whether or not the body adjustments are a part of that, I can't say.

-I think your best option for replaying missions will be New Game+, which lets you start over with your end-game character. However, interesting thing to note: This time, you can change your gender when starting a NG+ (I think you were stuck with your Shepard as-is in the original trilogy, right?). I'd be surprised if you could just play a mission you'd already finished in the same playthrough.

-This is actually part of the story setting that I really like. Most members of the Andromeda Initiative don't know about the Reaper threat. If they did, everyone's reason for joining would be "Our galaxy is screwed, the Reapers are coming, let's get out of here." By taking that out of the equation, the team opens up what I think are more interesting narrative branches for why people joined the Andromeda Initiative. What might someone be running from, if not the Reapers? Maybe they just want to make a fresh start. Maybe they need to hide. Personally, I think that approach will make getting to know characters more interesting.

DamienCrow6 karma

Thanks for your answers!

In regard to my second question I was thinking more of how we cannot revisit locations of missions at all in the previous Mass Effect games. Once the mission was done you never return. Given the open world aspects to it I wonder if we can go back to those locations, and if they will be populated or have some general persistence rather than it being a mission instance that is never seen in gameplay again.

joejuba12 karma

Ah, I see. Afraid I don't know that answer. I know there will be some more traditional linear-style story missions, so it's definitely possible they could follow the old pattern there.

HoagieInDisguise26 karma

Was there any noticeable improvement in animation considering Bioware have never been amazing at it?

joejuba50 karma

I don't know that the animation has ever really bothered me, so my opinion here might not be helpful for you.

However, I do know that BioWare is doing full performance capture with live actors for Andromeda (not as much hand-animation), so I think everything should look a bit more natural.

sisonaCR24 karma

Did you see any casual places where Ryder and their squad can hang out besides the Tempest? Will squad dialogue only be able to happen in our ship hub as usual or can we talk on the go?

joejuba46 karma

I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure I heard some characters chatting while driving around in the Nomad (the new Mako). However, I didn't see any full-scale dialogue interaction in the field – like where you can just stop wandering and have a conversation like you would have on the ship.

Not to say it isn't possible, but it wasn't in our demo (and I didn't think to ask about it during the studio visit. Sorry!).

Adameme10 karma

How did driving the Nomad feel? Was it as good as the team is promising it will be?

joejuba35 karma

Sadly, I didn't get hands-on with the Nomad.

As a fan of the Mako in ME1, though, the Nomad sure looked like it handled better.

jeremy-22 karma

  • We've only had one intelligent race confirmed, who are hostile. Will there be any non-hostile alien races that have city hubs we can visit?

  • We now know thanks to the GI article we departed between ME2-3, which explains no canon ending. Do we have confirmation where the (Reaper?) ark FTL tech that makes the 600 year Milky Way -> Andromeda journey possible? Perhaps the hull of a destroyed Sovereign from ME1?

  • I was confused when the GI interview claimed "there is no pre-cursor race". The leaked survey which has been absolutely proven to be real had consistently mentioned Remanent as a precursor race. The PS PRO gameplay video confirms them as being called Remanent, but now they arnt precursor anymore. The whole game seems to be about exploring vaults from a precursor race (IE, PS PRO gameplay).. this makes that interview answer very confusing. Can you explain Mac's answer there?

  • Any more information on how there is no paragon/renegade system, but we still have interrupts. For instance, what are the bumpers called then?

  • Mass effect is a game about many things, characters, strong narrative, exploration... and I think one really important aspect that is kind of snuck in is about 'grey moral decisions'. Does ME:A have these? Perhaps about what humanity is willing to do to secure their survival in ME:A after tragedy?

  • What about the overall tone of the game. Personally, I was really hoping for another epic, jaw clenching trilogy. However, leading up to the game a lot of rumors were abuzz about the fact it might be a little more light hearted. Now after seeing the most recent trailer, it seems like I'm getting what I want. Is the tone similar to the previous games?

joejuba32 karma

A lot to address here, but a few things that I just can't say much about.

  • I'm sure there will be more than one new race, but don't know about their civilization(s) and/or hostilities.

*Even if I knew the answers here, this would be too far into spoiler territory. Sorry!

*Same as second point.

*The team is calling the interrupts "narrative actions." It's the exact same concept, but instead of only knowing that you're doing an ambiguously good/evil thing, you see a prompt that says what the action does. Hypothetical: There's a hostage situation, and you get the prompt "shoot." That way, you know that you're choosing between shooting or not shooting the hostage-taker. In previous games, would shooting have been the paragon or renegade action? It could be interpreted both ways, so the new system adds clarity.

*I don't have any specific examples of this, but yes, it is still important for players to make choices and live with the consequences. But they aren't filling up some "good" or "evil" meter in your menu.

*This is a question that I just can't answer without playing more of the game. It's too big-picture for the slice we saw – though I'd be surprised if it immediately started out as grim and hopeless as ME3.

enigdit11 karma

I personally just want to know if there's ANY city.

joejuba29 karma

I don't know what exactly qualifies as "city," but I know that there's at least one colony and more than one hub area – though they aren't all, like, Citadel-big.

enigdit4 karma

So you're saying there is at least one that's Citadel big? Thanks.

joejuba27 karma

Nope, don't even know that for sure. Sorry!

Fieldfare22 karma

Are there Quarians in the game?

joejuba62 karma

Ah! So, here's the thing about other races: 4 specifically came to Andromeda on the Arks (Turian, Salarian, Human, Asari). However, the Nexus (which is kind of like Andromeda's version of the Citadel) was sent ahead of the Arks, and the Nexus had a more varied staff.

I don't know specifically which other races (apart from Krogan) got to Andromeda via the Nexus, but theoretically, it could be any of them.

At the same time, because this is the fresh start for the series, I don't think the team wants to overwhelm players with a bunch of weirdo aliens, so don't expect ALL of them to show up. If I had to bet, I'd say Quarians will be there. I wouldn't be so confident in C-tier species like Vorcha, Batarians, etc...

HiroProtagonist120 karma

Do you know if there are going to be any major hub zones like the Citadel?

Thanks!

joejuba34 karma

The team referenced the existence of more than one hub, but the exact number and their relative sizes isn't something I know.

To speculate: I'd guess the Nexus (the forward station that arrived before the Arks) is your primary hub eventually, though it is apparently out of communication when the Hyperion arrives in Andromeda.

purplecat22218 karma

What can you tell us about Liam? :D Is he the black human from some of the teaser images?

joejuba42 karma

I'm afraid I haven't seen the specific teaser images you're talking about, but Liam was black in the little bit we saw of his character model (he was normally in a space-suit).

As for more about him, we should have a piece with more info on him and Peebee going up later today (or possibly tomorrow).

darkandfullofhodors11 karma

I believe this is the teaser image they were talking about.

joejuba32 karma

Huh. That doesn't look like the Liam I saw, but the game is still several months away. Art and character models could still be getting tweaks.

Irishmen42018 karma

How deep are the customization options for character builds, weapons, character faces, you know the works?

joejuba33 karma

Unfortunately, I didn't get to experience this first-hand, so I can't pretend to know the full range.

However, I did talk to the combat people on the team about their approach to it. My big takeaway was that they don't want players to feel bound to a class before they have a chance to experiment with what that playstyle really means. (I can certainly appreciate that. Vanguard in ME1 sounded so cool to me...but in reality, I learned about 20 hours in that it wasn't what I wanted).

However, for players like me who love optimizing, there are still incentives to stick to a class. Like, if you really love biotics and use a lot of biotic skills, you'll unlock the Adept "profile," which gives you bonuses tailored to that playstyle.

So, the bottom lines seems to be allowing for diversity without forcing it on more experienced players.

RobyGon17 karma

  • How many characters are in the multiplayer at the moment and how many of the original races are returning from the original Mass Effect 3 multiplayer?

  • Do they have 3 combat skills plus 2 passives like in Mass Effect 3 multiplayer or has the system changed?

  • The class system is not returning in the singleplayer. Is this true for the multiplayer as well?

  • In the original ME3 Multiplayer you could choose up to 4 different enemy factions. How many do we have in Andromeda?

  • Is the weight system returning both in singleplayer and multiplayer or there is a different system for weapons and cooldowns?

  • In multiplayer, do we buy weapons and stuff or packs with RNG?

  • Is the system still P2P or will they be dedicated servers?

  • Are any dlc planned for Andromeda multiplayer and if yes, will they be free or not?

Thanks for any answer you can give!

joejuba24 karma

Some things here I can't really answer (especially specifics on numbers), but I'll tackle those I can!

-Class system is still there in multiplayer. You have different "kits" like in ME3: asari adept, human infiltrator, krogan soldier, etc (just random examples, not confirming any for MEA, btw)

-You still buy RNG loot packs. However! There's a Destiny-like store where you can spend a different currency to buy a specific item in stock, and stock will rotate.

The-Vision17 karma

Any idea if our Ryder will eventually meet up with some or all of the other 3 pathfinders from the other 3 Ark ships (salarian,asari and turian races) that were sent to Andromeda?

joejuba25 karma

Can't confirm 100%, but I got the sense that other Pathfinders will make some sort of appearance.

DeathByRay77717 karma

Were there female turians???

joejuba25 karma

I didn't see any, but that doesn't mean they aren't there!

But it doesn't me they are, either. :)

JuanPelican17 karma

Which Mass Effect game is most similar to the combat and gameplay we can expect in Andromeda?

joejuba42 karma

That's a good question. I definitely saw pieces of all three games across various features in Andromeda, but in terms of combat specifically, it is most like the multiplayer in Mass Effect 3.

A bigger focus on hot-keyed powers (with individual, not global, cooldown timers) is probably the main factor there. You aren't always bringing up a radial menu – and pausing the action – to activate your abilities. I really enjoyed MP in ME 3, so I was pretty happy with how this improves the overall flow of combat.

In short, it doesn't feel like there are two different combat systems – one for MP and on for SP. Instead, it's all a unified system that leans on (in my opinion) more fun and versatile mechanics with roots in ME3 MP.

RollingDownTheHills17 karma

How's the music? Similar to the electronics of ME1 or more orchestral like 2? OR a perfect blend like 3?

joejuba44 karma

Can't speak to the whole game here obviously, but I definitely heard some classic synth in there!

When I asked about the composer, I got the "We have nothing to share at this time" response.

italiansap16 karma

Did you get a sense that side missions will vary in depth and time necessary to complete them? I felt that in the Mass Effect games side missions were hit or miss. Some just conversation based in ME3 and some way more detailed like ME1.

joejuba15 karma

The sense I got is that the definition of "side mission" is a bit tricky to pin down. A lot of the things you can do aren't necessarily formal missions as much as things you can do and places you can explore.

I know the Loyalty Missions are shorter than regular main-story missions, but beyond that, I don't have a comprehensive picture of what a "mission" is and how they stack up against each other. Sorry!

knightlyostrich15 karma

Mac Walters said on twitter that they have plans on moving forward with the franchise even after Andromeda gets released. Do you know if they plan on making Ryder the protagonist of possible future games as well, like they did with Shepard, or if they intend to go the Dragon Age route and have a different protagonist and a different set of characters in each instalment?

joejuba23 karma

I don't even know if THEY know the answer to that question yet for sure. I know Andromeda leaves some doors open, but are those doors for Ryder? Maybe. If players really love a character, it would be weird to toss that away.

On the other hand, the team wants to tell a more traditional "hero's journey" type of story here, but that might not work without a more definitive conclusion to Ryder's arc.

I think it is telling that the original ME trilogy was all about "this is Shepard's story," but I didn't hear anyone frame Andromeda like that during our studio visit. Considering how attached people got to Shepard and how much they like continuity in characters, I think it signals that the team is at least open to using different heroes.

intoanothervoid15 karma

i guess that the visual and narrative are similar to the previous Mass Effects, but, what is the first big difference you notice?

joejuba52 karma

That's actually a really tricky question. Chronologically speaking, I don't know what the first big difference is that players will notice.

But, from a broader perspective, the biggest change I noticed was the drive toward more player-guided exploration.

Like, you know how doing side content in previous games always felt a little silly, because the world was basically ending and you were sitting there scanning for minerals or chilling in a dance club? In Andromeda, part of your directive is just "Explore and find a place where people can live." That's a pretty wide narrative pathway that means pretty much anything you choose to do is contributing your ultimate goal.

So you can do whatever seems fun to you – mining, crafting, loyalty missions, even entire optional planets – and all of it is part of your mission.

Of course, I'm sure Ryder faces some sort of threat, too. It's not just "My Andromeda Vacation," but the team at BioWare really seems to be focusing on the sense of discovery first and foremost.

sisonaCR13 karma

Do you have a favorite companion from what you could see and if so is there anything you can tell us about them?

joejuba32 karma

I didn't get to know them well enough during our demo to say definitely, but I can say this: Peebee seems cool. I was afraid that she was just going to be Liara 2.0, but from what I've heard about her, that isn't the case at all.

millygribben11 karma

From what you have seen/played what elements have they taken from DAI/previous ME games and what lessons have they learnt from the mistakes of those games?

joejuba28 karma

In a very general way, I see a lot of similarities between how BioWare is expanding Andromeda and how it expanded Dragon Age Inquisition. I don't mean that in the sense of specific gameplay mechanics, but more in the desire to broaden the scope and make the world feel bigger, and to give players a wider variety of rewarding activities.

As for Mass Effect games, I think the team learned that people had a lot of fun with multiplayer, that they don't like driving the Mako around if there's no good reason to, and that they miss the depth of character progression in ME1. All of those are being addressed (though we'll have to see if they're successful) in Andromeda.

BuddyAwsum11 karma

Without getting specific do you know if any of our squad mates in the game will be new species the we find in Andromeda?

joejuba18 karma

I honestly do not know the answer to this question.

That being said, I think it would be a big mistake you didn't get new-species companions.

BuddyAwsum8 karma

Did you get a feel for the tone of the narrative? In previous ME the state of the galaxy was at stake so the tone was very heavy, did this feel similar?

joejuba26 karma

I think the tone of the game is ultimately a hopeful one, with moments of levity along with serious situations. I doubt it's super-silly or anything, but I also don't think it's as melancholy as ME 3.

I also wanted to address a question like this, because I saw some people online criticizing our cover headline, "A New Hero Rises To Save Humanity." One thing that phrase does is convey a sense of optimism and heroism, which is why I like it.

One reason why I don't like it is that it leaves some elements of the game out (and cramming them on there wouldn't be punchy on a cover). Don't dismiss this as another "young hero saves the world" story. There are certainly shades of that, but other elements make this traditional set-up more compelling. Like: being strangers in a faraway galaxy, like a sense of discovery when setting foot on unfamiliar planets, like uncovering the mystery of why things in Andromeda aren't what they should be.

So, my main point here: There are more nuances to the story that "A New Hero Rises To Save Humanity."