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GamingI’m Joe Juba, the writer of Game Informer’s Mass Effect Andromeda cover story. AMA!

Nov 10th 2016 by joejuba • 14 Questions • 226 Points

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!

Q:

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

A:

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.


Q:

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

A:

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.


Q:

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.

A:

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.


Q:

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

Thanks!

A:

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.


Q:

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.

A:

-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.


Q:

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.

A:

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.


Q:

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

A:

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.


Q:

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?

A:

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.


Q:

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

A:

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.


Q:

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

A:

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.


Q:

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

A:

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


Q:

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

A:

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.


Q:
  • 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!

A:

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.


Q:

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?

A:

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."