After 600 years in stasis, you’ve finally made it to the Andromeda galaxy. Your goal as the new Pathfinder is to help move the Andromeda Initiative forward, and that means exploring planets and figuring out how to make them habitable.

After the initial mission on Habitat 7, you learn that the planets once deemed potential homes by the Initiative are actually not fit for life. The first planet you’ll get to explore is Eos, a desert of a rock with a bit of a radiation problem. We’ve put together nine beginner’s tips to help you start on the right foot. Make sure to check back as we update this gallery with more tips, and don’t forget to watch our video beginner’s guide.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is coming to PC, PS4, and Xbox One on March 21. For more on Andromeda, you can check out our behind-the-scenes documentary (don’t forget to watch part two), and don’t miss our full review.

Watch Out For Hostile Environments

Some planets are plagued by environmental issues that can make it dangerous, if not deadly, to explore in certain areas. (Of course, that’s why they’re uninhabitable in the first place.) Environmental hazards range from Tier 1 (mild) to Tier 4 (severe) and can include low temperatures, lightning, and radiation. You’ll know right away when you’re entering hazardous territory, and if you wander too far from the nomad or barriers around bases, you’ll pay for it.

Luckily, you have the Nomad, a six-wheeled exploration vehicle; it comes with a life support system that will shield you from some environmental hazards that would kill you while on foot. This will allow you to reach areas as you’re trying to establish initial outposts on the planets you explore. You’ll earn viability points by completing objectives, and once you reach 40% viability on a planet, you can establish an outpost that will then grant you more viability.

There are hazardous zones that the Nomad won’t protect you from, and for those, the key is to wait. If someone tells you to come back later, they mean it–the environments will clear up as you turn on world-terraforming monoliths and establish outposts, making planets more viable for habitation. Don’t waste time trying to find resistant armor that doesn’t exist (aside from a consumable you can buy on the Nexus that’s only good for small combat stories outside of the Nomad).

Keep The Nomad Close By

The Nomad is an important method of transportation and can even save your life. You can boost forward to get out of dangerous situations, for example. You can also use it to navigate unsafe terrain (and remember to switch into six-wheel drive if you’re having trouble with an incline, though you’ll want to switch out if you’re trying to move quickly on flatter surfaces.)

It’s in your best interest to stay close to the Nomad, since the planets you’ll be exploring as the new Pathfinder are huge and, again, not very friendly to organic life. You also can’t summon the Nomad to your position if you lose track of it, but if you deploy forward stations–pods that function as fast-travel points–you can travel to the station and call the Nomad from there.

You can also buy skins to upgrade your Nomad’s look on the Nexus.

Call In Forward Stations

With that in mind, don’t skip out on forward stations. To call one down, just approach a predetermined site marked on your map. It will allow you to fast travel, summon and repair the Nomad, change your loadout, locate mining zones in the area, and fully restore your shields, health, power cells, and life support. They’ll also provide safety from environmental hazards. If you’re ever struggling, a forward station probably has the solution you need–even if it’s just to fast travel to a place with no enemy or environmental threats.

Do Your Research

You’re equipped with a scanner that can analyze technology, flora and fauna, and more. Be sure to use it frequently wherever you go so you’re ready for some serious R&D–you’ll often get an audio cue to take it out in case you missed something.

There are three research categories: Milky Way, Heleus, and Remnant. You get Research Data for everything you scan, which you can then spend on augmentations and blueprints for weapons and armor in each of those categories. This will help you craft better gear (and find more augmentations in the field). Head to the R&D terminal on the Tempest or at a nearby research station to use your Research Data.

How To Craft Weapons

Once you have weapon and armor blueprints, you can craft them at the development portion of an R&D terminal. You’ll need to use materials you’ve salvaged from scanning planets, dismantling weapons and armor, mining with the Nomad, or even just picking things up when you see them. Check what materials you’ll need for your desired item at the terminal and look for a planet that might have what you need–you can see what minerals and resources a planet has from the Galaxy map view. You can also buy a lot of materials from vendors.

Experiment With Skills And Find A Loadout That Works For You

Combat shines in Andromeda, so don’t overlook it. The key thing to keep in mind is which skills are compatible–with each other and with your playstyle.

There are three types of skills: combat, biotic, and tech. Within each, you’ll also find both active and passive abilities. You can equip three active skills at once, which is where combos come in. One basic combo is Pull and Throw in the biotic tree; use Pull to bring an enemy in close and then Throw to send them flying for a good amount of damage. There are a lot more options, of course, and don’t be afraid to try different things. If you’re unhappy with the skills you’ve invested in, you can always head to the Tempest’s medical bay to respec for a small fee.

You can also change your overall profile (like Soldier, Adept, etc.) at any time, though you can only have one active at once. There are seven profiles available, each with six progression ranks.

Swap Your Weapons And Ability Loadouts On The Fly

It might seem obvious, but it’s easy to miss; in addition to switching weapons via the weapon wheel, you can quickly switch weapons by holding the reload button. You can change which weapons and consumables you have access to in the weapon wheel mid-mission by going to forward station, and you can carry more weapons by investing in the combat fitness skill.

Most notably, you can favorite your best skill loadouts in the Skills or Profiles menu and then select one of four favorites from the weapon wheel during combat. Your favorites will be cleared automatically if you respec on the Tempest.

Take Cover

Cover in Andromeda is contextual; approach large, solid objects with your weapon drawn and you’ll automatically take cover. If you see a shield icon at the bottom of your HUD, you’ve done it right. Cover is useful for charging your shields, and remember that you can swap the camera to your other shoulder if you’re having trouble seeing things on the field.

You Have Limited Control Over Your Squadmates

If you’ve played the previous Mass Effect games, take note: the tactical commands for squadmates are gone. Instead, you can direct your squadmates to a position or target either individually or together, and they’ll do all the work selecting specific skills and strategies.

An interesting read via GameSpot

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