How Mass Effect Stole Our Hearts: Gameplay Mechanics

Welcome back to part three of my three-part series that looks back at the original Mass Effect triology’s story, characters, and now gameplay mechanics. Mass Effect: Andromeda comes out on the 21st, so we are almost there! And I, for one, and thoroughly excited.

Please note: This article will likely contain spoilers of the previous three Mass Effect games. If you intend to play those games before playing Andromeda, I would recommend walking away.

Comparing Gameplay between ME1, ME2, ME3, and ME:A

To make a truly great game you need a combination of well-developed story and characters. But more is needed than just that. Even if a game has amazing characters and story, without the gameplay mechanics to make the game enjoyable, then I am personally more likely to get frustrated and ditch the game, even if I really enjoy the story. Thankfully, BioWare has done a fantastic job of evolving the Mass Effect franchise’s various gameplay mechanics between ME1, ME2, and ME3, and seem to have created an all-new system for ME:A.

When it comes to the original trilogy, I think the biggest differences between them is evident when looking at ME1 vs ME2/ME3 because so much changed between the first and second games. While changes did occur between the second and third games, those changes were more like refinements of mechanics from ME2, rather than an overhaul in certain mechanics like between ME1 and ME2.  



For starters, all three of the original games had you select what was essentially your “class” at the beginning. A Soldier focused on the use of guns and heavy armor while an Adept was essentially a space wizard and focused primarily on the use of biotic abilities like Warp or Throw to damage enemies. You carried this class with you throughout the entire game, and if you transferred a character from game-to-game like I did, you most likely kept  your class the same.

With Andromeda things are a bit different. Instead of the traditional “classes” like before that shoehorned you into specific abilities, you can now freely choose any abilities you want without having a dedicated class. If you want some Soldier or Vanguard abilities but also want to be able to hack an enemy turret, go for it. The classes from the previous games do appear in ME:A, but in a different way. Now they are referred to as “profiles” and you can switch between them on the fly. Depending on what skills you’ve unlocked you will be able to unlock different tiers of each “profile.” These profiles essentially add buffs to your abilities. So if you select a profile like Adept, you will be granted quicker cooldowns on your biotic abilities, while selecting something like Infiltrator will give more stealthy and tech options. If you want a more balanced approach, there is the newly added Explorer profile. I really like this idea, and the fact that you can switch between them is even better, offering you the ability to customize on the fly.


Combat and Cover

The combat mechanics in ME1 were not nearly as fluid or intuitive as they were in ME2 or ME3. Going back and playing it again after having played ME2, ME3, and not to mention a variety of other shooters (first- or third-person) since then, I have come to realize how clunky the combat really was. The cover system in all the games was sometimes frustrating because it often took forever for my character to figure out that they should be taking cover, rather than standing there like a dumbass staring at a wall. And like any game with a cover system, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve died because my character was essentially superglued to the damned wall while three snipers and a Geth Colossus were staring at me like “hey bruh…” And then, dead.

Thankfully, BioWare was able to refine and clean up the combat mechanics pretty significantly between ME1 and ME2. The shooting was smoother and the cover system was a bit more intuitive, allowing me to get behind crates and walls a bit quicker and easier. I still had trouble getting glued to cover sometimes and ended up dying as a result in many instances. That kind of feels like the norm in many third-person, cover-based shooters, though. Whether I am playing Gears of War or The Division, that superglue cover was often the death of me. Still, though, it was very much improved between ME1 and ME2. And between ME2 and ME3 it was refined a bit more.

It looks like Andromeda will also have that cover system in place once again, and I can only hope they’ve cleaned it up and made it easier to get in and out of cover quickly. I don’t need to be fighting with the invisible duct tape when a grenade is laughing at me two inches from my crotch.


Weapons and Biotics (Space Magic)

In the first game you had infinite ammo for all your weapons, but relied on dealing with overheating guns. I liked this mechanic for the most part but early in the game it was frustrating because every single gun overheats stupidly fast. Only later in the game when I’ve unlocked all the necessary gun skills was I able to fire for longer periods of time without having to worry about overheating.

Conversely, ME2 introduced ammo to the game, requiring you to pick up ammo from dead enemies. My biggest point of frustration here was the severely lack of ammo. And gathering heavy weapon ammo was frustrating because it always felt like I had just enough to fire once or twice at a major boss and then that was it for the next ten hours of the game. Since I generally played as a Soldier throughout the series, guns were kinda my thing, so that was extremely annoying. I continued to have that issue in ME3 as well.

Andromeda is going with a combined approach which I think is really cool. You’ll have human military weapons that require ammo, but you also can pick up and choose between different types of alien weapons that do the infinite-ammo / overheating thing that was done in the first game. Again, I like the options here.

The biotic abilities in ME1 were decent as well, but I felt like they were far more combat-effective in ME2 and ME3. I always felt like I couldn’t rely on biotics in the first game, but in ME2 and ME3 I had little black holes floating all over the place, tossed out by my allies most of the time since I was generally playing as a Soldier. From what videos I have seen of the biotics in ME:A, they look to be even more refined and more useful as a combat approach.


Dialogue System (Blue Means Good, Red Means You’re a Jerk)

And lastly, the dialogue system. Frankly I don’t feel like it changed a whole lot between ME1, ME2, and  ME3, other than the general layout and look of the dialogue wheel from game to game. Each game had a similar system where you had the normal responses during chat sessions with other characters, but you also had the Paragon or Renegade options. Blue = Good, Red = Bad. Pretty straight forward and didn’t change much from ME1 to ME3, unlike the Dragon Age series where the dialogue system is dramatically different from Origins, Dragon Age 2, and Inquisition.

A particularly enjoyable mechanic was the ability to do Paragon or Renegade interrupt options during dialogue with other characters, which allowed you to interrupt whatever was being said or happening either with diplomacy and tact as a Paragon, or with a punch to the face to end a conversation as a Renegade. Good times were had.

Andromeda takes a much different approach when it comes to a dialogue/choice system here. Instead of a Paragon/Renegade option, you how had Agree/Disagree that essentially makes you choose. This isn’t the black and white approach of good guy vs. bad guy, but a far more grey-scale approach where there really isn’t a right or good way to go. Simply choices and decisions that you will have to live with and carry with you throughout your decision making in the game. I really like this approach since it makes the game far more realistic. Although sometimes in real life I wish I had a Renegade prompt that allowed me to interrupt someone with a punch to the face, making me seem like a badass. Sadly, that would just make me an asshole.


And that about covers it for Mass Effect! What did you all think about the original trilogy’s gameplay mechanics? Do you think BioWare is going to have improved them even more for Andromeda? I am certainly holding out hope.

Thank you all for sticking with me through these three videos and articles! Be sure to visit the Black Oni Collective on YouTube and the Blog! While you’re at it, feel free to purchase MA:E on amazon! And don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

Most of the information regarding the plot, characters, and gameplay can be found on the official Mass Effect website: