Mass Effect: Andromeda Dev Explains How Multiplayer Ties Into The Story Campaign

During last week’s Penny Arcade Expo, developer BioWare finally unveiled the multiplayer component of its soon-to-be-released space RPG Mass Effect: Andromeda. Though my hands-on time was limited, the cooperative horde mode structure felt extremely similar to Mass Effect 3‘s multiplayer. While that could make for some enjoyable gameplay, those parallels might alarm players who remember Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer for other, less positive reasons.

In order to achieve the “best” ending in Mass Effect 3’s single-player campaign, players needed to raise their “Galactic Readiness” above a certain level, which inevitably forced them to participate in the game’s online multiplayer. Though Mass Effect 3’s fast-paced, action-focused multiplayer proved surprisingly enjoyable, fans still balked at the idea of playing online to unlock story options in the single-player.

Thankfully, Andromeda doesn’t repeat this format, but its multiplayer does tie into both the story and the mechanics of the campaign–or at least, it can. According to lead designer Ian Frazier, you can simply select multiplayer from the main menu, but if you so choose, “There’s a tie that can exist between single-player and multiplayer–that’s the Strike Teams.”

Frazier continued, “At a certain point fairly early in the plot, we say, ‘Hey, there’s this militia [that is] waking up from the cryopods from the Milky Way.’ They can do missions where the Pathfinder isn’t. When Ryder has more important things to do, you get the ability to assign AI Strike Teams to go do these missions. It’s all set in real-time, so it’s going to take an hour, five hours, or whatever for one of these missions to happen. Your teams have a different percent chance to succeed based on their stats and equipment and everything. You can gear them up, you can train them up, you can send them to do these missions, but they’re going to take a while to do it.”

For the most part, these Strike Missions function as a sort of strategy meta-game that exists in parallel with but largely separate from the main storyline. But as Frazier explains, there are optional exceptions: ?Some of these missions are called ‘Apex Missions.’ They’re generally a little harder. You can send your teams to do them, but it’s going be really hard for them unless you’ve really leveled up your teams. Or you can do it yourself in multiplayer. You can just hit a button, it’ll quick-save your single-player game [and] launch you directly into multiplayer where you can solo if you want, you can match-make with friends, [or] you can do a public game and match-match with strangers.”

According to Frazier, not only will the transition between your single-player experience and these special multiplayer Strike Missions be seamless, the missions themselves will feel appropriate to the context of your story. “If it says it’s a night mission on a certain map against Kett for this objective, that’s what the mission will actually be,” said Frazier. “When you finish it, you get all the normal multiplayer rewards as if you had picked [multiplayer] from the main menu, but you’ll also get the rewards associated with the mission back in single-player.” These rewards include both “mission funds”–which you can use to buy items for your multiplayer characters–as well as Pathfinder rewards for Ryder ranging from crafting materials to firearms.

“The idea is, if you’re really into multiplayer, you get all the things you already liked, plus it’s benefiting your single-player campaign,” said Frazier. “If you’re only into multiplayer, cool. If you’re only into single-player, cool. We tried to set it up in a way that there’s nothing you can’t get within the context of single-player. You don’t have to play multiplayer at all if you don’t want to.”

Mass Effect: Andromeda launches on PC, PS4, and Xbox One on March 21. Be sure to check GameSpot and YouTube later this week to catch our mini-documentary series on the making of the game.

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