How Bioware's replacement for Paragon/Renegade affects your Mass Effect: Andromeda character

Out with the old...

Paragon and Renegade are gone. We knew that already: Mass Effect creative director Mac Walters said "they were very tied to the Shepard character, so they didn’t really make sense if we weren’t going to have Shepard as our protagonist." In Andromeda, Bioware has replaced those two behavior paths with a "tone system" that uses four possible choices: emotional, logical, casual, and professional. Bioware has mentioned these terms already, but we didn't know much about how the new dialogue would shape the personality of our new character, Scott or Sara Ryder. Would there be some new morality scale that replaced the Paragon/Renegade's dichotomy, perhaps with more shades of gray?

Mass Effect: Andromeda lead designer Ian Frazier gave us an answer, and also went into more detail about why Paragon and Renegade got the boot.

"We let you switch [personalities] whenever you want, so even if you've been playing for 40 hours, always making jokes, you're like nope, I'm serious now... we'll let you do that," Frazier said. "But the game is tracking under the hood how much you've chosen those different options, and we build a little psych profile for you based on that. Now it's not that everybody you walk up to is like 'you're that guy that's always joking!' But it may come up in conversation, and particularly specific things you've chosen over the course of the game, may come back to haunt you in either a good way or a bad way. Folks will remember certain decisions. Not in a more systemic way, but literally this one specific decision's going to get referenced back at this point later."

...and in with the new tone system.

Frazier explained that in Andromeda's codex, there's an entry called "The Journey So Far" that tracks your Ryder's particular experience: " the main story decisions you've made, what kind of relationships have you formed with your family, squadmates, and crew, and some other key characters." It will also contain your psych profile "which is tracking 'okay, you have taken the casual option every single opportunity.' Or 'you take every single interrupt or narrative action the moment they're available. You're super impulsive, super casual.' It'll give you that clear feedback on what you've chosen to be. But it's purely there so you understand what you've made. It's not feeding back into a system somewhere else."

Your decisions still matter, in other words, and so does your behavior: your actions will obviously have consequences to the story, but so will how you shape your personality.

What won't happen this time: there's absolutely no accumulation of "points" in any category that affects what dialogue you can and can't access. When I brought up Paragon and Renegade conversation options in previous Mass Effects, where you potentially couldn't win a crewmember's loyalty or successfully resolve a situation without enough points in either column, Frazier said "we have deliberately removed that."

"We wanted you to feel like, at any time—there are things you can't say if the story doesn't give you a reason to say it, like you haven't done that thing or met that person, therefore you don't have this option—but only cases like that where it would be nonsensical for you to have that option," he explained. "We don't have a thing where it's like 'you could tell him to back down but you can't because you haven't Paragon-ed enough.' That concept doesn't' exist."

No more scars for being mean.

Along the same lines, your personality choices won't completely shut off relationships with characters. They'll react to how you behave, but being a serious spaceman or a walking joke book won't rule out befriending or romancing your squadmates.

There are also no dialogue skills like you'll find in many western RPGs (no charm or intimidate points like in Mass Effect 1), so all reactions to dialogue really will be situational. "You can choose what you want to say, and sometimes the specific choice that you've made, not systemically, but the specific choice you've made might piss someone off or cause repercussions," Frazier said. "But it's not that you had 15 points in bribery. It's that you chose to try to bribe someone who was not a smart person to try to bribe."

Check out our full interview with Ian Frazier for more on Mass Effect: Andromeda's combat, romances, and open world planet design.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).