In a livestream from PAX East today, Mass Effect: Andromeda creative director Mac Walters compared Andromeda's dramatis personae to Mass Effect 3's. Andromeda has a much, much larger cast.
Whereas Mass Effect 3 had "something like 670 unique characters who would speak to you," according to Walters, Mass Effect: Andromeda contains "over 1,200" speaking characters.
"When you look at the dialogue options, we're basically [at] the equivalent of Mass Effect 2 and 3 put together," he said.
The livestream (embedded above and timecoded to start at Walters' comments on the characters) shows us interactions with a few of those characters during an early mission to investigate a colony, including science officer Dr. Suvi Anwar below.
Update: We've got a little more info on this topic as of 7 pm EST. At PAX East today, Tom had a chance to speak with Mass Effect: Andromeda producer Michael Gamble, and asked him to elaborate on the size of the cast and the amount of dialogue.
"The lines of dialogue we have in Andromeda is like Mass Effect 2 and 3 combined," said Gamble. "So the number of characters is vaster, but the amount of stuff you and that character can talk about is also larger—especially the squad, we definitely focused in on the squad. We made sure the squad was beefy, and developed, and that you could do different things with them and then that information would basically carry through the conversations. That was a large focus. Yeah, in terms of the amount of writing, that was increased, and the number of characters was also increased."
As for whether the 1,200 number that was cited included roles as small as shopkeepers, Gamble responded, "Uh, not that low level, not that low level. I’d say maybe like one step above that."
The facial animations and lipsyncing still look pretty stiff to me, but hey, there are 1,200 people in this thing. Ryder's wobbly stance is another endearingly BioWare aspect to the animations, but I digress.
One way we'll meet new people is by earning 'Andromeda Viability' points which allow us to wake up colonists, increasing the population of the Nexus space station and other settlements. There are also planet-specific Viability levels, and when a planet's Viability is raised high enough, an outpost can be established, opening up a new area and new quests, people, and shops.
Another note on planets: The planet visited in the livestream, Eos, is plagued by radiation, so Ryder and crew can only go so far from the settlement before they have to return to a safe zone to recharge their life support systems. That's true even in the Nomad, Andromeda's version of Mass Effect 1's Mako vehicle, though its life support system is more robust than the suit systems. It sounds to me like a way to create exploration boundaries without dropping down invisible walls, but at least we won't constantly be gathering carbon.
It's been a big day for Mass Effect news: Earlier today, BioWare released what's presumably the final Mass Effect: Andromeda trailer, and Tom got his hands on the multiplayer for a brief session at PAX East.
We're just over a week away from Mass Effect: Andromeda's launch on March 21 in North America and March 23 in Europe.