The Tempest and Galaxy Map
This seems like the best place to start, just like the Normandy in the first 3 games the Tempest is your ship. The Tempest visually is very different from the Normandy, for starters its less of a military ship and more of a science ship. This is evident from the science lab being in the centre of the vessel rather than a large gun that needed almost 24/7 calibration. However, the more time I spent on the Tempest the more I saw how the ship was designed to support the gameplay.
For starters there are no loading screens to move between decks, this was one of the greatest changes made for the Tempest. It means that the player isn't pulled out of being immersed in wondering about the Tempest. This is a very small detail which can be easily overlooked or forgotten about after playing ME:A for some time but it is a great improvement as it convenient and helps to show off the size of the Tempest.
Secondly, the Galaxy Map has been totally redesigned. No longer is it a projected map in the middle of the ship but rather a window right at the front of the bridge. The experience of looking out of the large window and actually seeing the planets or ships you are travelling or from in front of you is incredible. This not only showcases the scale of the Andromeda galaxy but also how beautiful ME:A is. The actual Galaxy Map is very similar to the previous games, although no longer do you travel between planets by dragging your ship in the direction you want to travel but rather by selecting the planet and travelling to it in a cinematic. This change is fairly minor, I found at times it took more time to travel to all of the planets in a system then I sometimes wanted resulting in me skipping the cinematic as soon as I could. However, I did prefer the change overall compared the original dragging system that felt like a mini-game. When I was flying between planets in a system, it really felt like I was in the driver's seat of the Tempest and literally looking out of the window into space.
Finally, another feature of the Tempest I really liked was the amount of glass it has, there are a lot of very large windows to look out of. Sometimes I found myself casually looking out of the windows just to get a view of the part of the galaxy I was in, this was one of the best visual changes between the Tempest and the Normandy.
Wow, the worlds are massive! One of the things I always liked about BioWare's Dragon Age games, especially Inquisition, was the large scale levels. Sure there were moments in the original ME games that have large areas, like the Citadel, but generally, I found that the levels were generally a lot smaller. ME:A took a strength of Dragon Age Inquisition (DA:I) and turned it into its own, not only were there massive levels but BioWare really made these level feel hostile and alien. It didn't just stop there, the Outpost system was also borrowed from DA:I (which I thought was a great addition to Dragon Age). There were changes to the system which really complemented the story, such as terraforming planets to make them habitable, which results in the system feeling like a very natural fit. I also found that Outposts extended the life span of the game, in DA:I I would create them and then pretty much leave them other than to restock on supplies. But in ME:A this spawned so many decent side quests, provided the opportunity to introduce new characters like Bradley and also to an extent shape the image of the Initiative.
One thing that I missed in ME:2 and ME:3 was the Mako, the introduction of the Nomad was great. Not only did it remind me of all of the time I spent in the Mako driving up the steepest hills I could find, but it really showed the scale of the worlds. From the aspect of getting around the world the Nomad was great and unlike the first Mass Effect, each world was full of content. I generally wanted to go to that hill over there, that small base over there and that Remnant structure other there. One of the gameplay features of the Nomad I wasn't sure about was the ability to change between 4 and 6 wheel drive. I could see the reason behind it and at first, I thought it was cool, but the longer I spent driving around I found it a little bit frustrating having to switch been the two modes. Even more so when I misjudged how steep the slopes were and switch to 6 wheel drive mode and the Nomad instantly slowed down. There were benefits of course of using the 6 wheel mode on flat ground such as when on ice, as it does provide additional grip. I think I would have preferred it if both modes had the same top end speed, however, the 6 wheeled modes provided less acceleration and greater engine braking and grip than the 4 wheeled mode.
No travelling on alien planets would ever be complete without a jet pack, the addition of this is massive for the gameplay possibilities. Considering jumping was never an action in the previous ME games, this is a big change to the way of moving about environments. Not only did it make it easier but also fun to explore the worlds, it also had big impact on the combat. I liked how BioWare decided to give more than just the ability to quickly dash into cover using the jet pack, such as the ability to hover above the battlefield to gain a height advantage.
Guns, Biotics and Krogan Hammers
The combat systems saw an overhaul since ME:3 and mostly for the better. The most obvious changes are the pace and how dynamic the combat is. I found myself moving around cover to out flank the enemy or to gain a height advantage over them, whereas, I used to normally find a good spot in cover until I was forced to move and relocate. The ability to dash with the jet pack encourages you to be more mobile. The cover system has changed, now when you get close to cover you automatically use it whereas before you pressed a key to enter cover. There are pros and cons to both approaches at first it took me a while to get used to automatically entering cover and how not to leave cover by mistake. However, as the combat is more fluid than the previous games with an emphasis on mobility, the automatic cover system makes a lot of sense. Having the press a key to enter cover would no longer be a tactical decision but rather a chore.
Another addition to the combat system was the Profiles that replaced the traditional class system, allowing the player dynamically change class during any point of the game. Each profile gives bonuses to different combat styles and abilities. Each profile is unlocked based on what upgrades you have unlocked. I really liked this addition and the move away from the class system. From being an Infiltrator attacking from distance being able to track enemies to quickly becoming Solider getting close using grenades and deployable barriers to finish off the enemies. The removal of the class system and allowing all upgrades to be unlocked was a welcome and refreshing change.
As in the previous ME games, Biotic and Tech abilities have returned and still pack a punch when used in combination with each other. In the older games, I always felt like I had to choose which style of play I wanted, Biotics or Tech due to the class system, but no longer :D. The addition of more melee weapons, as well as the range of weapons, was great, it was hard to beat performing an aerial attack using a Krogan Hammer on some poor soul. Weapons and armour also had an overhaul, now being from one of three technology groups. Each group has their own benefits and drawbacks, this was also a nice addition and fitted in well with the story of travelling to a new galaxy, as why would everyone be using traditional bullets? Although it did remind me of the changes seen before, Remnant weapons used an overheating system like weapons in ME:1 did, which isn't a bad thing.
The return of Mods to armour and weapons was great to see. For weapons the attachments that could be added was similar to the previous games, there weren't many new attachments that I found that I couldn't recall seeing before. Which is a bit of a shame, although I did attach a mod that allowed bullets to bounce off surfaces which was cool. For armour, I found that mods really had a larger impact on gameplay based on the player's style, such as losing 50% health to gain 50% shields. I really liked the range of armour mods, as I didn't attach them lightly without really thinking about the consequences of attaching them. One of the issues I had with augmentations, is the actual end result of using them when crafting a weapon. Once the weapon is crafted you cannot remove the augmentations, or at least not a way I could find, which means you are spending resources on a weapon that might not be what you thought it would be. I crafted an assault rifle with an augmentation that turned the bullets into a stream of electricity, which at first was really cool, strong vs shields and would bend a small amount around cover especially if I had a height advantage. The downside was it reduced the rifles range massively, which I didn't expect and after some time I came to the conclusion that its probability wasn't worth it. I wouldn't use it again on a rifle, but on a short range weapon like a sub-machine gun, I would think it would be great. There are two ways that I can think of to avoid this, first to have more detail descriptions and even include a comparison chart between the standard and potential modded version, similar to what you have when comparing weapons. The second is having a virtual target range or assault course that allows the player to try out mods on weapons before crafting the weapon to really get a feel of what the mod will do.
Up to this point, almost everything about the combat at first glance is great improvement or new change, however, the one issue I have with the combat is the lack of hotkey bindings for abilities. I'm in no way expecting large amounts of slots on the UI like you would expect in Dragon Age or similar games, but being limited to three abilities wasn't great. This is somewhat mitigated by being able to change your Profile, but I found when I did that all abilities then went on cooldown, which still isn't great when some abilities have long cooldowns. As for consumables, I generally just forgot I had them on me most of the time as they are not shown on the HUD without opening the weapon wheel, which on PC I've always found to be less pleasant to use than hotkeys or even select-able tiles on the HUD. This meant that after the first few hours I found the three abilities that worked well together with a Profile the complemented them along with the same two companions where ever possible just to max out the amout of combos that could be triggered in a fire fight. This is one of the biggest drawbacks I experienced in the whole game, no longer did I take different companions with me and discover more about their character, hear the banter between the different companions etc. The only time I took different characters was when I first gained a new companion to work out if they were a strong Tech/Biotic character, or when I did their loyalty mission. Personally, I would have allowed for more abilities to be available at any one time, it doesn't have to be loads more, the traditional 8 or so slots including consumables would be good.
Characters, Conversation and Story
I'm not going to go into too much detail about the characters and the story as there are fewer gameplay systems to talk about, however, it would be unfair to ignore them all together as they are one of the main parts of most BioWare games. I thought the story overall was strong and played to the strengths of the Mass Effect Universe. The length of the story, or at least it seemed to due to the number of side quests, was longer than the previous games which was great. The characters that are your companions were good, it was a much smaller crew vs ME2's and ME3's crew and additional characters, taking into account that many of those characters were developed over multiple games. The diversity between each of the characters was nice along with how most of them defied the normal trends that you would normally associate with their species. PeeBee and Vetra I found are great examples of characters that are different from others of their species that I encountered in past ME games.
The Conversation system has moved towards the DA:I style of dialogue wheel, showing the style or emotion that each dialogue option will play out as. I really like this system as it really helps to let the player decide what type of dialogue would match their Ryder. The removal of the Paragon and Renegade system wasn't much of a loss, although I liked that system with Shepard, it does make your character more two dimensional of being good or bad. Although I am glad BioWare kept the limited quick time events, which was normally associated with the Paragon/Renegade actions, as they work really well as a way for the player to respond to an event in a particular way without the need for conversation. Such as being able to fire a weapon at someone or even hug a fellow companion whilst you are listening to them talk about something that has upset them. It is one of the systems that I am glad was kept from the previous games.
Of all of the Mass Effect games, excluding of the addition of the amazing multiplayer introduced in ME3, Andromeda has some of the biggest gameplay changes that for the most part are for the better. The return to exploring the galaxy, discovering alien plants, animals and structures whilst driving the Nomad was incredibility fun. The combat has seen a refreshing overhaul, pushing towards higher mobility and dynamic fire fights that were well designed and executed, despite the few issues I had with the limit on the number of abilities active within a single Profile. All tied in with a strong story with a diverse set of companions. Resulting in a very fun game that is true the Mass Effect series.