Those expecting extended in-game footage or an explicit reveal of plot or character details might have been disappointed by tonight's Mass Effect: Andromeda trailer. This is a cautious reveal by today's standards, suggesting that the game still has some distance to cover before its release next year. Even so, there's loads to take in if you look close enough.
Like its predecessor, this trailer opens with footage of real spacecraft. The Mass Effect series has always had a bit of a thing for the history of human space exploration: after all, Shepard takes his or her name from the first American in space. In the trailer, this repeated motif emphasises Andromeda's exploration focus, as well as the 'back to basics' approach of the game as a whole.
Oh boy. This is our first glimpse of the Normandy SR-2's replacement. Its name, Tempest, is in line with previous leaks. The vibe here is definitely of an advanced prototype—an echo of the first game, where the Normandy was a prototype vessel created as a joint project between the humans and turians.
The sleek lines of the Tempest suggest that this is also a multi-species project. There are echoes of both asari and salarian design, here: none of those harsh turian angles. We see a bit more of it, from a variety of angles, over the following seconds.
The next generation
Here's our first glimpse of the the Tempest's galaxy map, which appears to be right in the middle of the bridge, and its crew. Note the krogan to the left and the salarian on the right: further confirmation, if you needed any, that this is a multispecies project. We'll see both of these companions again later in the trailer.
This is the only shot of Shepard-approved N7 armour in the trailer. Later, the protagonist will be seen wearing nondescript white gear. As such it's not clear if you play as another N7 graduate—although that seems likely—or if you've simply got the option to dress up like Shepard if you feel like it.
An uplifting story
Although this is probably a new species, the creature this artist is working on looks quite a lot like a yahg. The yahg were a pre-spaceflight species who were barred from entering galactic society because of their violent nature (although one of them would go on to become the galaxy's most notorious information broker.)
Your exploratory mission in Andromeda lends itself to exactly this kind of narrative beat, however. As you encounter new species, some of them are bound to be primitive (and inclined to smash your face in.) Deciding whether or not to attempt to 'uplift' a less advanced species by giving them access to your technology is exactly the kind of choice that the Mass Effect series likes to set in front of its players.
No uplift taking place here, however. This looks like an attack on a human colony, if that prefabricated building is any indication. Most telling in this moment, however, is the familiar reload animation and back-mounted weaponry. Mass Effect's fundamental combat systems don't appear to have changed very much. It's a fair guess that killing this guy means rolling out of the way when he charges and shooting him in the back.
It's hard to tell exactly what those other guns are, however, due to the fact that they're folded up. The one on the right looks like a machine gun or possibly a heavy weapon. The one on the left could be a compact sniper or assault rifle. Based on the reload animation, thermal clips are here to stay.
"We're better at animating faces now!" BioWare proclaim, although they're skirting the edge of the uncanny valley here. Still: it's amazing what a difference five years and a change of engine makes. Also, the asari are definitely in Andromeda. If this is a surprise to you, well, that's very surprising.
Home sweet home
This picturesque colony looks a little user-generated to me, although that might be stretching things. The most notable thing in this image is the nose of the Tempest, visible to the left. Providing that this isn't a shuttle of some kind—and it doesn't look like it is—this gives us our first proper sense of scale. It's not a small ship by any means, but it is much smaller than the comparatively massive Normandy SR-2. This might well be in order to facilitate planetary landings, which is clearly the case here—we'll return to that idea in a moment.
There goes the neighbourhood
The crew surveys a wrecked encampment with what appears to be some kind of sheer monolith in the distance. Here's a tip for prospective Mass Effect heroes: towering unknowable ancient monoliths are always a riot and you should definitely, definitely touch them.
Your krogan companion is visible again here, surveying the wreckage and being a dinosaur.
And now for mo-capped biotic ground-punching. This suggests the return of kinectic biotic-powered classes like Mass Effect 3's vanguard as well as increased verticality for the game in general. We've seen jetpacks in previous trailers, too. This may well be the first Mass Effect game with prominent jumping outside of cutscenes, if that's important to you.
The Mako! It's back! Although this one will almost certainly be named after a different sort of shark. It's great to see Mass Effect 1's silliest, most awkward, most ambitious feature make a return: and if you need a buggy to get around, that suggests far bigger explorable areas than Dragon Age: Inquisition offered.
Also, look at what is directly above the tank in this picture: the rear engines of the Tempest. This not only confirms that the Tempest will be able to land on planet surfaces, but it implies that you might be able to choose where you land as part of your exploration.
It's getting hot in here
There's a real 'Galaxy Quest rock monster' vibe coming from this guy, which fits the Star Trek theme perfectly. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that, of all the cool new aliens you meet, you can't romance this one. And honestly, looking at him, you probably can't Paragon-interrupt-speech your way out of it either.
Thresher maw or suddenly-unearthed ancient alien obelisk? Given that this is a Mass Effect game, these are basically the only choices. You are either going to climb inside this thing or fight it with a tank and possibly both.
Meet the team
This brief combat scene provides a closer look at your future companions, including the krogan from earlier and possibly the salarian too. The krogan has blue and yellow armour adorned with tusks, suggesting that our dinosaur pals haven't quite left behind the old ways in their integration into galactic society. Or, he just collects tusks. Also note the old-school Avenger assault rifle in the protagonist's hands.
This looks an awful lot like an advanced version of one of the Normandy's shuttles circa Mass Effect 2 and 3. Whether or not the Tempest will have one seems uncertain given that it can land on planets, but perhaps you'll use it to journey to specific mission locations. Or when it's raining.
We've seen a lot of humans and krogans in this trailer so far, but here they're not staring appreciatively at a wonderful new sci-fi visa: they are being a dick to some guy. It's fully possible that these are villains—the krogan certainly looks different to the one we saw earlier—but a more entertaining thought is that this is the player and a companion Renegade-interrupting some dude... to death. Imagine that he's a reporter and it all makes perfect sense.
To boldly go
If you weren't getting a 'new Star Trek' vibe from Andromeda already, here you have it. A fleet of Alliance shuttles leave Earth's atmosphere on their way... somewhere. In the foreground you can see human warships in orbit, suggesting that we've spent some time rebuilding since the events of Mass Effect 3. The fact that the lights are on in the cities below suggests the same thing.
It's a good bet that this is a cutscene from near the start of the game, as the protagonist prepares to set off on their journey to Andromeda. But how will they get there? Faster than light travel in Mass Effect requires mass relays, and the network was badly damaged, wasn't it? Surely the Tempest can't pack enough power to...
Oh. This'll be your ride, then. This ship made an appearance at the end of last year's N7 day trailer but we didn't have a sense of scale back then. This reveal makes it clear that it's absolutely massive.
It also suggests an interesting solution to the FTL problem. This ship looks a lot like a hybrid of the Citadel and a mass relay: and guess what? The citadel and mass relays were both Reaper technology. And the reapers were capable of unassisted FTL flight. Journeying into the unknown in a massive colony ship based on Reaper tech? Literally nothing can go wrong with that plan.
A new face
Here's your new Shepard. Or at least one of them. At the end of the trailer we see the protagonist wake up after (presumably) a long period of cryo-sleep. "We made it" she whispers, before presumably turning to somebody and saying "I should go."
Of note: excellent face-tech, once again, and also excellent eyeshadow for somebody who has been asleep for at least a couple of months. Given that I'm likely to spend the equivalent of a round-trip to Mars tweaking my nu-Shepard's facial features just so, it makes sense that she'd wake up looking sharp.