The new 'Mass Effect' game is finally here -- here's what you should know before jumping in

The “Mass Effect” series is beloved by millions, both hardcore gamers and casual players alike.

It’s a space opera like no other in video games; it shares more in common with the “Star Wars” films than it does with other game franchises.

The original trilogy followed the exploits of Commander Shepard, a player-created character who was shaped by your actions in-game. The male version is seen above (center), but you could also play a female version of Shepard.

Unfortunately, when the credits rolled on “Mass Effect 3,” the story was over: No more space opera, no more tales of heroic Commander Shepard.

That’s where “Mass Effect: Andromeda” comes in. 

The next “Mass Effect” is out now — a $US60 game on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC! Here’s what you should know if you’re thinking about checking it out:

First things first: 'Mass Effect' is a third-person action-RPG series from Bioware (an EA-owned game studio).

BioWare / EA
That means the thrust of gameplay is shooting from a third-person perspective, though you'll imbue your character with certain powers (it's basically the concept of 'The Force' from 'Star Wars').

In 'Mass Effect: Andromeda,' you'll be doing plenty of third-person shooting -- expect a lot of running to take cover, then popping out to fire shots off at various alien enemies.

BioWare / EA
If the gun looks bizarrely futuristic and alien, that's because it's both of those things.

But people come to 'Mass Effect' for the story, and 'Andromeda' is the beginning of a new epic. You're a 'Pathfinder,' tasked with finding a new home for the Milky Way's sentient life forms (including humanity, of course).

BioWare / EA

It's not as simple as showing up and planting a flag, of course. There's a new foe, called the 'Kett,' that stands in the way. They're a quasi-religious, bipedal, humanoid species, led by a guy named the 'Archon.'

BioWare / EA
Surprise: He's got a real superiority complex.

In 'Andromeda,' you're either a boy or girl version of Pathfinder Ryder. You can create a custom character, or you can use one of the stock defaults (like the hunk you see below).

BioWare / EA
The little 'Ai' symbol on his left arm stands for 'Andromeda Initiative,' the name of the program that your character belongs to.

You're travelling with a crew of folks -- a standard in the 'Mass Effect' series -- each of whom have their own personalities and histories:

BioWare / EA
Seen here, standing around a 'gravity well' (whatever that is).

Like this Asari!

BioWare / EA
The Asari are a superintelligent, bipedal alien race that've appeared in all previous 'Mass Effect' games. Like humanity, the Asari are from the Milky Way galaxy.

Your father is the initial 'Pathfinder,' but he meets his untimely demise right up front. You're quickly tasked with taking on the primary role in humanity's survival in the Andromeda galaxy.

BioWare / EA

When taking up the mantle of Pathfinder, you're given a ship (The Tempest) and an all-terrain vehicle. And you'll need both, as the thrust of 'Mass Effect: Andromeda' is exploring massive open environments. Like this ice planet, named Voeld:

BioWare / EA
The truck seen here is called a 'Nomda' -- the truck appeared in the first 'Mass Effect' game (then called a 'Mako') and disappeared after that.

Unlike in previous 'Mass Effect' games, 'Andromeda' features some massive alien creatures:

BioWare / EA
The local wildlife in the Andromeda galaxy is far from friendly.

If you thought that last guy was big, check out this monstrosity:

BioWare / EA
This is one of the first boss fights I encountered in 'Andromeda,' and I'm pretty sure it was during a side mission. He was truly massive!

So, how do you go from casual space explorer to battling an ancient alien race? There are some hints:

BioWare / EA
I'll leave that for you to find out, but rest assured it has everything to do with the point of the game: finding new planets for humanity to colonize.

Could this massive alien structure have something to do with it? It might!

BioWare / EA
(It does.)

Oh also it looks like the enemy can maybe fly? Or at least float?

BioWare / EA
There's certainly something magical going on with the Archon.

Here's the launch trailer for 'Mass Effect: Andromeda', which arrived on March 22 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC:

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