Mass Effect: Andromeda's skill/class/levelling system explained (by me)

EatChildren

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Well, kinda, because I'm just winging it based on the info we know so far, the gameplay trailers, and patching shit together. There seems to be a lot of confusion so here's me in all my time wasting glory trying to clear some stuff up. Also to bounce my own thoughts around because fuck it.

What's different?
At it's heart Andromeda has cast aside the traditional, rigid class system of the trilogy. The classes are present but can be swapped on the fly (more in that in a minute). The current system is not simply the same old skill/class system with total freedom. The way you approach builds and swap between skill loadouts has changed. It's based on game systems and skills introduced in the trilogy, but the formula and levelling process has changed.

But why?
A multitude of reasons, most likely. In part accessibility; rigid class locking for 30+ hour experiences is becoming a thing of the past, as more and more RPGs and ARGs offer the ability to respec. The availability of respeccing varies, but it's more or less become the norm.
The other reason is likely due to the type of game Andromeda is. While the trilogy were fairly tightly contained narrative and gameplay arcs, Andromeda is attempting to emphasise more open play space less linear adventuring with a lot of side content and questing that can be done out of sequence. This includes post-game play, open planet zones, etc. Context and style of combat encounters is likely to vary wildly, and the amount of time a player could spend with a single Ryder playthrough will likely eclipse previous games. Thus the encouragement to leave more tools open to play with in one file versus locking skills off.
This decision may also have been influenced by Mass Effect 3's multiplayer, which is cited as a major influence on Andromeda's combat. In ME3's multiplayer half the excitement came from juggling multiple characters with different skills to try new things. Perhaps BioWare are attempting to translate that to single player.

I hate it! RPG is dead!
I dunno; fucking deal with it I guess? Don't buy it? Easy?
Again, it's basically the norm. It doesn't hurt other ARPGs (The Witcher 3, Dark Souls 3, Bloodborne, etc), even if the means of doing it here is different. Honestly, the core of it isn't even respeccing. It's the skill loadouts.

HOW IT WORKS: A SHORT ASSY GUIDE BY EATCHILDREN

You play as Ryder. Ryder gains XP. XP levels up. Levels reward skill points.
Skill points are spent on skills. Skills are not dependant on classes. Skills include both action and passive abilities.
Ryder can have three skills active at a time (not sure if this is required for passive skills). These are used in gameplay. These can be swapped around based on unlocked skills.
Classes are gone. They are replaced with Profiles. Profiles are like classes and are named the same, with the addition of "Explorer".
Profiles are an active state of buffs and bonuses for your player. You can swap between active profiles to juggle buffs.
Profiles are levelled and buffed by active/unlocked skills.

Let's take a closer look, shall we.

Here is the main pause menu with its various options. Note both Skills and Profiles.


Two profiles (what were once classes) are demonstrated; Soldier and Engineer. Each offers various buffs to a style of play, in addition to a perk that is a special function or ability. In this case soldiers are granted escalating damage bonuses via consecutive kills, and engineers get a passive drone. Both soldier and engineer profiles are "Rank 1". Curiously Sentinel, Adept, and Vanguard are locked/unavailable.



Now we get into skills. They are divided into three categories: Combat, Biotics, and Tech. Pretty self explanatory.


Skills operate similarly to Mass Effect 3. They range from action (circle skills) and passive (upside down triangle skills). Skill points are used to unlock skills and upgrade them along a maximum path of six. Here we can see the tech action skill Flamethrower and its upgrade tree. This is identical to Mass Effect 3 in the sense that the first three tiers of upgrade trees are linear, while the last three are one of two options. This allows you to not only choose which skills to unlock, how far to upgrade them, but also how to spec those skills to your play style.



And now we get to the part where Skills are linked to Profiles. By unlocking certain skills best attuned to specific profiles, said profiles will likely be unlocked and upgraded. In the demo we see an example of this. By upgrading the tech skill Flamethrower to level six the player unlocks "TECHNICAL OVERSEER" which buffs the Engineer profile to Rank 4.


SUMMARY
While the old class system might have been replaced by profiles, the intent is to be more freeform in build diversity for a single character, with emphasis on skills.
You're still required to level up Ryder and use your points to unlock skills (action and passive), which depending on skills and how far you level them up will access to the class profiles (I suspect Explorer is the default starting profile), which in turn can only be levelled up by acquiring more skills relevant to that class profile.
So while yes in theory you can juggle between all six traditional Mass Effect classes via profiles, this isn't entirely true. Access to profiles and the effectiveness of said profiles will be limited by the skills you've chosen to buy and upgrade.

It's almost like a reverse of Mass Effect trilogy. In the trilogy you select a class/profile first, and that dictates available skills, which you then upgrade based on levelling.
Here you upgrade skills first by going up levels, which then allow you to access and by association level up class/profiles, which can be selected and swapped based on availability.

What we don't know: How skills are made available and if any are acquired. Given the context of certain skill descriptions I strongly believe that not all skills will be available up front. Example:
various Remnant tech based skills are available, and given their importance to the plot I can't imagine you have access to them straight away
. It's entirely possible that like how completing loyalty missions in Mass Effect 2 unlocked new skills to add to your loadout, so too may certain skills be locked off until you meet criteria in the story and quests.

Additionally, and as a side, armour/gear now has a similar approach to the first Mass Effect. Gear is ranged from Roman numerical level I to X, and has percentage buffs for specific skill types and play styles.


The end.
 

Maledict

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Thanks for the explanation.

Your outline of the skill and class system seems really interesting and I look forward to trying it. I guess my main issue is the 'moving away from a tightly scripted narrative' bit, which is the last thing I ever want in a mass effect game. But i know that's a bit unpopular at the moment... ;-)
 

Coxy100

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Great OP. Personally I don't like the change - for me it's dumbing down. I like choosing a class and sticking with it for the duration of the game - role playing.

I will miss the old mass effect system - but as long as I can use my old Adept powers I will still enjoy it :)
 

Aalvi

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Respec'ing is very very important to me. I usually stall playing the games and fear I don't build my characters right. There's more to it than that; one example would be in bloodborne I want to use other weapons but emphasized different stats(for the katana), and I would basically have to replay the whole game and do all the things I did to get a proper save again(which I didn't feel like doing). DSIII definitely fixed it and I'm looking forward to playing it.
 

Lom1lo

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Respec is great, but it should come with a cost. I like the souls approach most.
 

kurahador

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If only Bioware is care enough to explain the gameplay properly.

Really not down with this gameplay.
 

Hoje0308

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As a newcomer to the series, I like the idea of not having to fret over class choice before I've come to grips with the game.
 

The Silver

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Great OP. Personally I don't like the change - for me it's dumbing down. I like choosing a class and sticking with it for the duration of the game - role playing.

I will miss the old mass effect system - but as long as I can use my old Adept powers I will still enjoy it :)
Dumbing down? Making the system far more complex with tons of variety is dumbing down?
 

Ferr986

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Being able to learn different skills and use them seems more "role-playing" that being stuck with the same class without any chance on learning anything else because "reasons".

I dunno, OP info sounds good to me. People seems to be panicking because a change has been introduced, without thinking how they will affect them. If done right, it can expand the possibilities of customization far more than stiicking to an old class.
 

ShdwDrake

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Great OP. Personally I don't like the change - for me it's dumbing down. I like choosing a class and sticking with it for the duration of the game - role playing.

I will miss the old mass effect system - but as long as I can use my old Adept powers I will still enjoy it :)
How does more choice = dumbing down? Choosing one class and going with it and just having that skill tree is the most simple trait of RPGs. Being able to combine things together figuring out how to best make the way you wanna play work its alot more complex.

When your locked to a class its, "This class gets this skill and this other one gets that" or "You wear heavy armor and you wear light". Its "What skill should I get next? How will this work with the skills I have? How does the armor that I have effect my skills?"
 

Coxy100

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Dumbing down? Making the system far more complex with tons of variety is dumbing down?
Ok maybe dumbing down is the wrong phrase per se - but what I mean is switching profiles or whatever on the fly is too simple. I prefer an RPG to lock down our choice - it is role playing after all...
 

Widge

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As a newcomer to the series, I like the idea of not having to fret over class choice before I've come to grips with the game.
It looks interesting, you still get to specialise but it is specialty within classes across all classes.

TBH, I didn't really pay a huge amount of attention to classes across the entire ME series. I effectively went with whatever gave me some nice biotics and paired myself up with team members I liked, rather than what their skills were.
 
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Respec'ing is very very important to me. I usually stall playing the games and fear I don't build my characters right. There's more to it than that; one example would be in bloodborne I want to use other weapons but emphasized different stats(for the katana), and I would basically have to replay the whole game and do all the things I did to get a proper save again(which I didn't feel like doing). DSIII definitely fixed it and I'm looking forward to playing it.
Respecing will be a cheat engine away whether devs implement it or not!
 

Coxy100

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How does more choice = dumbing down? Choosing one class and going with it and just having that skill tree is the most simple trait of RPGs. Being able to combine things together figuring out how to best make the way you wanna play work its alot more complex.

When your locked to a class its, "This class gets this skill and this other one gets that" or "You wear heavy armor and you wear light". Its "What skill should I get next? How will this work with the skills I have? How does the armor that I have effect my skills?"
To be honest - you've started to persuade me that actually yeah - this new system might be ok :)
 

Rad-

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Sounds deeper than the system in the original trilogy. Thanks for explaining.
 

iFirez

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Lil' worried about the fact some of the profiles are greyed out - I played Vanguard in the previous games and was planning the same here. Maybe you have to play to a certain point to unlock profiles? Kinda lame imo.

Edit: Just thinking about this some more. I wonder if as they've made classes switchable on the fly via profiles and split skills out, maybe you have to have specific skills unlocked to be able to switch to specific profiles. For example maybe you have to get the skill 'Biotic Charge' which then unlocks the Vanguard Profile and gives you bonuses to that and other passive abilities on top of that (Shotgun increase...etc).
 

Widge

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I prefer an RPG to lock down our choice - it is role playing after all...
I mean you can obviously specialise if you want to, but why bother. I don't think locked down speciality is necessarily a mandatory part of RPG. I'm thinking things like Final Fantasy 7 & 8, where you can mix up your role as you see fit to suit the situation.

RPG is possibly for too intangible a concept nowadays, where everyone can (validly) have their say on what that actually means.
 

Sanctuary

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Ok maybe dumbing down is the wrong phrase per se - but what I mean is switching profiles or whatever on the fly is too simple. I prefer an RPG to lock down our choice - it is role playing after all...
It's not dumbing down as much as it's removing the choice and consequence aspect of pretty much all RPGs ever.
Good thing the Mass Effect series was never just an "RPG" though.
 

EatChildren

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Lil' worried about the fact some of the profiles are greyed out - I played Vanguard in the previous games and was planning the same here. Maybe you have to play to a certain point to unlock profiles? Kinda lame imo.
It's either that or profiles don't become available until you've accrued/unlocked a certain amount of associated skills.

My guess is that everyone starts with the Explorer profile by default, which is a jack-of-all-trades profile with general perks. As you start dipping into the skill pool and unlocking action and passive abilities that suit your playthrough, so too do relevant profiles become available. And the more associated skills you upgrade the higher your profile upgrades too.

So unlocking a lot of early biotic powers might open up Vanguard and Adept profiles for use, but choosing and upgrading more Vanguard-like biotics will further upgrade that profile over Adept.
 

AnthonypUK

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Great OP. Personally I don't like the change - for me it's dumbing down. I like choosing a class and sticking with it for the duration of the game - role playing.

I will miss the old mass effect system - but as long as I can use my old Adept powers I will still enjoy it :)
But this is not stopping you doing that, you don't have to switch, you can pick a profile and stick with it from the start, building your charcater to that profile.

I really like the flexibility in it, should let me try out classes, because i dont want to do a play through for each class.
 

Renekton

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Thanks for the writeup!

- I wonder if they should have ditched "profiles", just have multiple trees or one giant tree to put points simultaneously.

- I like the UI style.
 

iFirez

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It's either that or profiles don't become available until you've accrued/unlocked a certain amount of associated skills.

My guess is that everyone starts with the Explorer profile by default, which is a jack-of-all-trades profile with general perks. As you start dipping into the skill pool and unlocking action and passive abilities that suit your playthrough, so too do relevant profiles become available. And the more associated skills you upgrade the higher your profile upgrades too.

So unlocking a lot of early biotic powers might open up Vanguard and Adept profiles for use, but choosing and upgrading more Vanguard-like biotics will further upgrade that profile over Adept.
I added an Edit in which I assumed as much. Thanks for elaborating though. I wonder if profiles could be locked to specific skills such as Biotic Charge for Vanguard or Singularity for Adept - meaning you would have to go down the Biotic Skill Tree to unlock these rather than the combat tree. Maybe Vanguard requires a skill from combat and biotic as that is that skills classic gameplay balance.

Edit: This thread is clearly the thread in which I revisit my posts and add more to them than I had initially intended. The profiles are probably more likely to give you these classic skill abilities like Solider gives you Marksman's Focus and Engineer gives you the Combat Drone. So maybe to unlock vanguard you just need 2 (for example) skills from combat and 2 from biotic; with 4 (for example) from biotic unlocking the Adept profile.
 

Van Bur3n

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A system I much prefer over choosing a class at the beginning of a game (a concept I find is growing outdated and in many RPGs proves meaningless in the long run). Rather than making this important choice at the very beginning of the game without knowing what exactly your play style will be, the game will allow you to develop it on your own as you play. Whatever skills you choose based on your play style, the game will unlock the profile those skills specialize in to fit the way you play.

If anything, there is so much more choice available in how to build your character with the skills than the single choice of pick this class you will stick with for the rest of the game and level up the skills you're now stuck with.
 

Widge

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But this is not stopping you doing that, you don't have to switch, you can pick a profile and stick with it from the start, building your charcater to that profile.
This will be a possibility but I would imagine the game would be designed around the change it up mechanic and you'd be hamstringing yourself by not doing it.

Dresspheres for ME:Andromeda 2 pls!
 

Tenacious-D

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Thanks for the post. :)

Does anyone know when we'll be seeing more gameplay? The game is meant to launch in March, and we've barely seen anything. A nice long demo would be nice.
 

Maledict

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I suspect when we start we wllt not be the full 'pathfinder' so will just have the explorer set unlocked, and then once we finish the first act / intro we'll unlock the ability to spend points to get the other classes as we prefer.
 

Moonlight

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My reasoning for not exactly being into the change doesn't really have anything to do with any objection to the mechanical aspect of it. As a role player though, and someone who likes creating little stories about the characters I play in stuff it sort of bothers me. One of the draws of the games for me was picking my class, my origin, etc, and just filling in the blanks in my head. If they were a biotic, you imagined how they got there and what they had to sacrifice. They could relate to situations in a unique way. Sure it didn't really matter, but it helped give a sense of ownership to the character. Ryder doesn't really get the luxury. They'll always be an amazing soldier, an amazing biotic, and an amazing engineer all at the same time and that's kinda lame? If you saw a protagonist like that in in a novel or movie you'd roll your eyes because that sounds excessive.

I dunno. Shepard was never written to be anything other than Space Jesus, but it was easier to pretend otherwise.
 

RSP

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I can't see myself handling more than one "profile".

Too much hassle for me.
 

BossDarkseid

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My reasoning for not exactly being into the change doesn't really have anything to do with any objection to the mechanical aspect of it. As a role player though, and someone who likes creating little stories about the characters I play in stuff it sort of bothers me. One of the draws of the games for me was picking my class, my origin, etc, and just filling in the blanks in my head. If they were a biotic, you imagined how they got there and what they had to sacrifice. You could relate to situations in a unique way. Sure it didn't really matter, but it helps give a sense of ownership to the character. Ryder doesn't really get the luxury. They'll always be an amazing soldier, an amazing biotic, and an amazing engineer all at the same time and that's kinda lame? If you saw a protagonist like that in in a novel or movie you'd roll your eyes because that sounds excessive.

I dunno. Shepard was never written to be anything other than Space Jesus, but it was easier to pretend otherwise.

You can still just stick with one, I think? I think wanting that more restricted class-style is probably going away with more RPGs moving towards a more flexible approach...and I seem to remember seeing some thing about the class changes having a narrative explanation vs purely pick your loadout. It depends on the powers but I'll probably stick to 1 "class" unless they really give variety to the enemies that say requires you to be Vanguard for one planet, Infiltrator for another (to counter the strengths and weaknesses). To me, that could be pretty cool..
 

Mivey

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Why would people even expect a BioWare game to have proper RPG mechanics? We are not in the 90ies anymore, grow up and buy a Larian game.

If they can capture the exploration feel of the first one and not completely mess up on side quests, I'd probably enjoy this one.
 

Maledict

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My reasoning for not exactly being into the change doesn't really have anything to do with any objection to the mechanical aspect of it. As a role player though, and someone who likes creating little stories about the characters I play in stuff it sort of bothers me. One of the draws of the games for me was picking my class, my origin, etc, and just filling in the blanks in my head. If they were a biotic, you imagined how they got there and what they had to sacrifice. You could relate to situations in a unique way. Sure it didn't really matter, but it helps give a sense of ownership to the character. Ryder doesn't really get the luxury. They'll always be an amazing soldier, an amazing biotic, and an amazing engineer all at the same time and that's kinda lame? If you saw a protagonist like that in in a novel or movie you'd roll your eyes because that sounds excessive.

I dunno. Shepard was never written to be anything other than Space Jesus, but it was easier to pretend otherwise.
That's a fair point I guess. My infiltratrator was the sarcastic renegade in ME2, my vanguard was the gooder than good paladin. Locking you into classes does have its advantages as well in terms of replay ability - I've recently changed my mind on Diablo, and think it would be a better game if it didn't allow respecs for example (which is a huge swing in opinion for me).
 

Vitor711

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Dumbing down? Making the system far more complex with tons of variety is dumbing down?
Yeah, this is way better. Asking players to make permanent ability choices early on, before you understand the flow of the game and overall balance isn't smart game design. It's always bugged me.

The fact is, most games do a poor job outlining skill usefulness just through text/stats because there are too many variables (AI, level design etc.) which can impact them.

This is good.
 

Maledict

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Why would people even expect a BioWare game to have proper RPG mechanics? We are not in the 90ies anymore, grow up and buy a Larian game.
Roleplaying game means different things to different people, don't be so pointlessly smug. Mass Effect delivered some of the best roleplaying experiences I've ever had in a computer game.

As great a game as it is, setting fire to a barrel has absolutely nothing to do with roleplaying.
 

truestatic

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My reasoning for not exactly being into the change doesn't really have anything to do with any objection to the mechanical aspect of it. As a role player though, and someone who likes creating little stories about the characters I play in stuff it sort of bothers me. One of the draws of the games for me was picking my class, my origin, etc, and just filling in the blanks in my head. If they were a biotic, you imagined how they got there and what they had to sacrifice. They could relate to situations in a unique way. Sure it didn't really matter, but it helped give a sense of ownership to the character. Ryder doesn't really get the luxury. They'll always be an amazing soldier, an amazing biotic, and an amazing engineer all at the same time and that's kinda lame? If you saw a protagonist like that in in a novel or movie you'd roll your eyes because that sounds excessive.

I dunno. Shepard was never written to be anything other than Space Jesus, but it was easier to pretend otherwise.
But don't you only become an amazing soldier/biotic/engineer by investing in that class? Aren't you, even with this flexibility, ultimately choosing where to invest your points? It might be that there's no cap on points per character, only on points per class, but I feel like unless you intend on NG+ing or doing absolutely everything, being an amazing everything won't really be a problem anyone has.

Unless I've misunderstood the system?
 

Maledict

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Yeah, this is way better. Asking players to make permanent ability choices early on, before you understand the flow of the game and overall balance isn't smart game design. It's always bugged me.

The fact is, most games do a poor job outlining skill usefulness just through text/stats because there are too many variables (AI, level design etc.) which can impact them.

This is good.
That's a fair point. Maybe a good compromise would be starting out generic and then picking your class as you go, once you understand a bit of the game and have a feel for what you like?
 

Coxy100

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My reasoning for not exactly being into the change doesn't really have anything to do with any objection to the mechanical aspect of it. As a role player though, and someone who likes creating little stories about the characters I play in stuff it sort of bothers me. One of the draws of the games for me was picking my class, my origin, etc, and just filling in the blanks in my head. If they were a biotic, you imagined how they got there and what they had to sacrifice. They could relate to situations in a unique way. Sure it didn't really matter, but it helped give a sense of ownership to the character. Ryder doesn't really get the luxury. They'll always be an amazing soldier, an amazing biotic, and an amazing engineer all at the same time and that's kinda lame? If you saw a protagonist like that in in a novel or movie you'd roll your eyes because that sounds excessive.

I dunno. Shepard was never written to be anything other than Space Jesus, but it was easier to pretend otherwise.
This. This is much better than my explanation why I'm not keen on it further up the page.

I also hope you don't have to switch profiles to beat certain enemies. No matter which profile you should be able to progress fine. (Yes I know it's simple to switch profiles by the look of it)
 

Blue Ninja

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Thank you EatChildren, that sounds great.

I already know I'm going to spec into Vanguard, anyway. Having the option to add some other cool powers is really welcome. I hope I can flash-freeze a dude and then charge into him to shatter him. Or set a guy on fire and throw him into another group of enemies.

Create a singularity and charge into it for a biotic explosion. Oh my.
 

SPCTRE

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Thanks for the writeup, OP! This all looks like it should work very well with the ME franchise. If I want strict class based systems, there are a ton of options out there for that.

I had no idea roman numeral armor is making a comeback, awesome.
 

The Silver

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This will be a possibility but I would imagine the game would be designed around the change it up mechanic and you'd be hamstringing yourself by not doing it.

Dresspheres for ME:Andromeda 2 pls!
Not really, you can change profiles but skills are what determines a profiles effectiveness and you can't respec skills on the fly.(as far as we know) That kind of thing usually ends up being that going all in on one thing is more effective than being a jack(with few exceptions)

The bottleneck will be how many skill points you can reasonably acquire over the course of the game.
 

patapuf

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My reasoning for not exactly being into the change doesn't really have anything to do with any objection to the mechanical aspect of it. As a role player though, and someone who likes creating little stories about the characters I play in stuff it sort of bothers me. One of the draws of the games for me was picking my class, my origin, etc, and just filling in the blanks in my head. If they were a biotic, you imagined how they got there and what they had to sacrifice. They could relate to situations in a unique way. Sure it didn't really matter, but it helped give a sense of ownership to the character. Ryder doesn't really get the luxury. They'll always be an amazing soldier, an amazing biotic, and an amazing engineer all at the same time and that's kinda lame? If you saw a protagonist like that in in a novel or movie you'd roll your eyes because that sounds excessive.

I dunno. Shepard was never written to be anything other than Space Jesus, but it was easier to pretend otherwise.
Bethestha RPG's don't have classes, and yet people still think up their stories and specialise in the skills that interest them.

There's just not a big label on the level up screen.