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One of gaming’s biggest science-fiction franchises has returned with intense combat and exploration.

Mass Effect: Andromeda launches March 21 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and I’m sinking my Gorn-like talons into it right now. I can talk about the first mission, but I’ll attempt to avoid story spoilers — if you want those, check the video above. Like in previous Mass Effects, you are part of a group of quasi-military explorers. Unlike the original trilogy, Andromeda takes you beyond the limits of the Milky Way to find a new home for humanity.

After traveling for 600 years to your new chosen habitat, things go predictably wrong. This forces you to put your character on the ground to explore the planet and find out if it it’s still safe for Earthlings. I found that Andromeda felt like Mass Effect in structure. I chased down waypoints to complete missions and side-quests. I picked up equipment and items from supply drops strewn about the landscape. And I got into conversations with other characters where I had between two-and-four dialogue options.

But Andromeda amps up that familiar gameplay in two key ways.


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The combat is better than I ever remember it, and that is due to the jump pack your character now starts with. Your hero can jump 10 feet in the air, levitate, and fire at enemies from the sky. But you can also perform what I am calling “extreme strafing.” Hitting the B button while standing still will make you charge forward. Slamming it while moving backward or side-to-side will lead to you jumping laterally across the map. It reminds me the most of the way the jets work on the mechs in Titanfall or maybe even the movement capabilities of the main character in developer Platinum’s cult favorite Vanquish.

The other standout feature is scanning. At any time, you can hit down on the D-pad to bring up your scan tool. This enables you to understand items and characters in the world, and it can unlock upgrades and research over time.

At its core, Andromeda is more Mass Effect so far, and I think that’s a good thing, but we’ll have more when our review goes live March 20.

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