When we found out that Mass Effect: Andromeda would be on the show floor of PAX East, I laughed and vowed to go nowhere near the booth. You see, I had gone on lock-down. No more trailers. No reading previews from previous trade shows. And definitely no gameplay videos. Then I walked through the doors during PAX East’s media hour and found myself in line to be the first group of folks to play.
I justified it by saying “Hey, it is just multiplayer. No story spoilers, so I am in the clear. Besides, I think the multiplayer will be a lot like ME3“. I think this is a brave position and I still think I am strong. And yes, ME:A’s multiplayer is a lot like ME3 so I was doubly correct. Once I picked up the Xbox One controller, I was immediately comfortable with the basic Mass Effect controls. Sure, I didn’t really understand the new powers or how to best use the new and fancy jet-pack, but all in all I was not surprised.
If you have never had the chance to play ME3’s multiplayer, it is essentially a “horde” mode where you and your buddies attempt to fight off waves of stronger and stronger enemies. Occasionally, you are given more specific sub-tasks but more or less, it is kill everyone or be killed. My team, the blue team, was a squad of four best friends attempting to murder space terrorists and their evil dog creatures. The classes followed the standard Mass Effect structure of either Soldier (gun person), Biotic (space…wizard?), Engineer (tech…wizard?), or some mix of the three. I didn’t get a chance to see my specific make up, but I know I had a lot of cool biotic powers and a rifle, so I assume I was mostly a space wizard with a little soldier thrown in for good measure.
Since the multiplayer is, thankfully, so similar to ME3, my main focus points were the new powers. The previously mentioned jet-pack saved my bacon several times as I was getting surrounded by charging, biotic-immune Krogan. I rocketed away to, relative safety and was able to flank those horrible Krogan or rejoin my buddies in a more defensible location. While I only played one complete match, the jet-pack instantly made the levels feel more dynamic and open. For the first several waves I didn’t really need to do anything too special, but by the fifth or sixth waves we are really on the ropes. Luckily, we had a host of fun abilities that tended to reward working well together.
My biotic human had three main abilities that allowed him to shape the battlefield and made the enemies look like fools. The first power was essentially a force punch where I would do a short range blast to knock back whoever was unfortunate enough to get close to me…which was usually a wall or a box. But, sometimes I would manage to actually hit an enemy and they seemed to take a bit of damage and were stunned or at least interrupted. I never really got the hang of it but I wasn’t too bothered since my other moves seemed broken. The other skill that had an equally low cooldown as the “force punch” was a homing anti-gravity field. I would throw out ribbons of biotic-energy which would go around cover or walls and slowly lift enemies in the air and left them vulnerably suspended for a few seconds. It did a good job of indicating “hey, blue team! Shoot this person in the head!” It was great and I felt like I did the best. My third skill was essentially my “ultimate” which was a big ol’ orb of anti-gravity that would trap multiple enemies in suspended animation for several seconds. So, more or less a beefier version of my second skill. It also ruled. Until it didn’t.
You see, those dirty space pirates knew they were fighting against a host of super soldiers so they brought their own juggernauts to the battle. Sure, the snipers were easy enough to deal with alone, just stay out of their targeting laser, but when those aforementioned biotic-immune Krogan showed up we all started dying. Our previous tactic of spamming whatever skill we had off cooldown no longer worked. I am not positive what my squaddie’s abilities looked like, but I was defenseless. Once we realized we could do better if we just hunkered down together and blocked the entrances to our impromptu bunker the very next wave had us stop the space pirate from hacking data points by blowing up their relays. We headed out and on the fly came up with new strategies which carried all the way to a semi-victory. Yes, we didn’t get a complete victory because on the final wave not everyone made it to the extraction zone, the ultimate goal of each multiplayer mission. But I don’t really care since I felt like I did the best and it just meant that I had more leg-room on the extraction ship for me, the sole survivor. Wonder what ever happened to the rest of the blue team?
Anyways, I had a blast playing and I cannot wait to play more once Mass Effect: Andromeda releases on March 21, 2017.