Mass Effect: Andromeda is officially a work-in-progress. BioWare has announced a slew of changes will be coming to the game over the next two months. These updates will make it cosmetically more appealing, fine-tune various elements, and hopefully address some of the gameplay issues. As we wait for those to take effect, there is a silver lining we can enjoy immediately. Some parts need work, but the character profile system and multiplayer classes available are actually quite well constructed and make the third-person shooting elements quite enjoyable.
Let’s start with the Ryders. Mass Effect: Andromeda allows us to make our campaign character our own. We aren’t locked into specific classes, as we were in the original Mass Effect trilogy. Instead, we have Profiles. While these fall into the classic Adept, Engineer, Explorer, Infiltrator, Sentinel, Soldier, and Vanguard. You choose one at the start, unlocking others by investing in Biotic, Combat, Squad, and Tech skills. None of these Profiles restricts you, but instead offers bonuses to different kinds of damage, defenses, and stats based on how many points you have in certain skills to rank them up. Equipping it just means you get that boost and perhaps a special tied to that Profile, allowing you a sense of freedom.
The skills are handled quite well too. All of your favorites from the Mass Effect trilogy are back, as well as some new abilities. Since we can equip three at a time to a Profile and pick and choose from any of the ones available, we have unprecedented control over builds. While having only three abilities at a time in your dock, you really have 12. You can create four Favorite slots, each with a Profile and three skills assigned to it, and swap between them at any time during play with the D-pad.
It’s incredibly handy during a firefight. I really like the freedom it afforded my Ryder. I typically stuck with two builds in particular. One was an Adept profile that had Lance, Singularity, and Overload, so I could use Overload to remove shields, Singularity to prime enemies, and Lance as a damaging detonator. The other was an Engineer with Barricade for protecting allies, Invasion to weaken enemies, and Energy Drain to sustain myself. That way, I had an offensive and defensive built on hand at all times. I could quickly swap between the two to suit any situation. That was just my preference, though. You may want to be balanced and have a Biotic, Combat, and Tech skill at all times. Maybe you want one setup that gives you access to one offensive, one defensive, and one supportive skill at once. There’s really no right or wrong answer, which makes each unique Ryder so great.
While Mass Effect: Andromeda’s multiplayer doesn’t offer the same sense of freedom as the campaign, the classes available are still quite diverse. It’s encouraging, as there’s a nice variety of common characters immediately available to use and get yourself started. We get two Adepts, two Engineers, two Infiltrators, two Sentinels, two Soldiers, and two Vanguards. The only difference between each pair is gender, as every one has the trademark skills for that class. By offering us these offensive, defensive, and supportive characters right away, we begin with a well-rounded foundation to help us learn how to manage the seven wave missions and find a proper place for ourselves.
Of course, these are the basic characters to start with. I’ve found some humans, like the damaging and assisting Adepts with their Pull, Shockwave, and Singularity skills, Sentinels with their Barricade, Energy Drain, and Throw, and Engineers with Assault Turret, Cryo Beam, and Overload, will always remain useful. But there other characters who, if you’re fortunate enough to unlock them, prove even more useful as time goes on. I felt like the Turian Soldier, who has a Fortify ability to make himself stronger, Frag Grenade that deals incredible damage, and Turbocharge ability that improves clip and firing efficiency, was a substantial improvement over the soldiers we start with. The Angara Insurgent is an incredible supporter, thanks to his Assault Turret, Shield Boost that increases his allies’ shields, and Trip Mine that lets him set traps. My Krogan Mercenary is one of my favorite characters, since his Fortify skill helps him survive slightly longer, Flamethrower does some good damage if someone gets too close and I panic, and Flak Cannon does wonderful damage against foes. As good as the common Adepts are, the Asari Huntress and her Lance attack, Throw, and cloaking Stealth Grid for allies really puts them to shame.
Even if the full game isn’t quite perfect yet and is experiencing growing pains, there’s one area in which Mass Effect: Andromeda does do some pretty interesting things. The customizable Ryders are a blessing in the campaign. We have complete control over this character we’re using. He or she can be the exact warrior we want. As for multiplayer, we start with a number of common classes that encompass every possible need, then gradually get opportunities to unlock more specialized variations that might better suit our needs. In each situation, we have a great assortment so we can find the exact Pathfinder or soldier we need.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.