Understanding Mass Effect: Andromeda’s armor, gear and vehicle upgrades

Whereas most role-playing games just dole out items like candy and have simplistic vendor systems, Mass Effect: Andromeda makes players do a bit of legwork to get the loot they need. A scanning system, multiple kiosk interfaces and plenty of experience bars stand between you and a shiny piece of gear. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to use Mass Effect: Andromeda’s upgrade system and what’s worth your time and money.

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Mass Effect: Andromeda guide and walkthrough

How to pay for upgrades

There are two ways to pay for gear in Mass Effect: Andromeda. Cold hard cash (credits), or scanning the environment for research points, then locating the materials and making the gear yourself.

It’s your call, but buying and selling is the path of least resistance.

Scour for credits

You aren’t going to earn many credits throughout the course of the game through story missions, so you’ll need to sell items to keep your cash flow going. You’ll start either process the same way, through a buy/sell kiosk. One of them is conveniently located in your ship in the central area across from the galaxy map, but they’re also available in just about every town in the game.

Understanding Mass Effect: Andromeda’s armor, gear and vehicle upgrades

Don’t sleep on the easiest way to earn free money. The bottom of the buy/sell screen is an option titled sell all salvage, which you’ll want to periodically hit every time you load up a vendor kiosk. It sells trash items for credits instantly and is very easy to miss.

Focus on consumables

You’re able to purchase weapons, armor, consumables, resources, Nomad items, and special items from a vendor. We recommend that you focus most of your credit spending on consumables, which are relatively cheap and can give you a big edge in a boss fight.

Shield capacitors are the most useful consumable in the game, as they can instantly boost your shields back up (and temporarily buffs them) during a fight. If you find yourself getting hit by a critical shot or melee attack, calmly pause the action and use a capacitor.

If you’re thinking about buying weapons or armor the comparison function is off by default, so you’ll want to click in the right stick (on consoles) to see how to measures up to your old gear first.

Scan everything for research data

Scanning is a more roundabout way to acquire gear, but it can also be more rewarding over time. There are three types of technology you can scan — remnant, Heleus and Milky Way.

Our advice is to start scanning anything and everything early so you have as many research points under your belt as possible. If something is sticking out of the ground, scan it.

Understanding Mass Effect: Andromeda’s armor, gear and vehicle upgrades

The most important upgrade currency in the game is research data. Without it, you can’t research items, which is the first step of crafting.

All three types of research data pertain to their point of origin.

  • Remnant tech is gleaned from the robotic denizens of Mass Effect: Andromeda that litter every planet, especially the game’s tombs.
  • Milky Way tech is from past civilizations and is usually found in human settlements or the game’s core hubs.
  • Heleus technology is part of the Heleus Cluster, which is the most common category as it pertains to just about everything around you in the new universe of Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Scan everything

Instead of focusing on any single group, just make it your job to scan every object you can. Just get close to objects and mash the confirmation/jump button constantly. There’s no wrong way to scan something nor are there any limitations to the system. You just need to have your lens focus in on an object and commence the scan. Spamming is a perfectly valid way to scan.

Mine the galaxy for materials

While credits are the one and only currency for bartering, research and development requires research data and multiple materials such as lithium and iron.

Understanding Mass Effect: Andromeda’s armor, gear and vehicle upgrades

The easiest way to suck up materials is to find them on the galaxy map. It’s all text-based, so you just need to go from cluster to cluster clicking icons until you find an anomaly on the map (which is clearly announced on-screen). Hold down the scan button to instantly locate the anomaly, send out a probe and click on it.

Once you’ve landed on any given planet with the Nomad vehicle, you can also opt to mine its materials for free. Simply bring up the world map, click a node, head out there and press a button to mine it. As you complete missions on each planet, more of the map will open up.

How upgrades work

Understanding Mass Effect: Andromeda’s armor, gear and vehicle upgrades

Once you’ve acquired research data you’ll need to spend it at the R&D terminal, comprised of two sections — research and development. First, choose the item you want to build and spend the required amount of resource data to unlock that item.

Next, go to the development section and pay the required amount of materials to actually get the item. Each category works a little differently.

Armor and weapons are gated by tiers

Upgrades for armor and weapons come in five tiers, and you’ll need to research each tier to move on to the next. It’s a slow process, but going up the ladder requires the same type of resource so you won’t get confused as to what materials you need to continue your upgrade path.

Understanding Mass Effect: Andromeda’s armor, gear and vehicle upgrades

Once you’re ready to craft, access the R&D kiosk and head to the research section to access the blueprint. The first two tiers of an item don’t have any requirements, but to reach the third tier you'll need to be level 10, and to get to the fourth tier you'll have to be 20 — and the last tier requires level 30.

While developing a piece of armor or a weapon, you can place an augmentation in it, which is grafted onto that item and cannot be removed unless you deconstruct it. Deconstructing an item (which can be done by selecting it in your inventory and pressing a button) will permanently delete it, but you’ll get back any augmentations you attached to it.

Nomad (vehicle) upgrades aren’t worth the trouble (mostly)

You don’t need to upgrade your Nomad, especially since it can only be used in open world areas and is already kitted out nicely when you receive it.

But if you find yourself getting annoyed at the slow pace of driving it around, there are a number of quality of life changes you can adjust to make the experience a little more enjoyable.

Understanding Mass Effect: Andromeda’s armor, gear and vehicle upgrades

The Nomad’s upgrades are governed entirely by materials. Given that spending them directly takes away from your opportunity to boost your gear, there aren’t many alterations that are worth making that justify the high material costs.

Several upgrades stand out

However, several upgrades do stand out — improved suspension (which lets you get up hills faster) and vertical thrust upgrade (which juices up your jump jets). Both of them are practical enhancements that will allow you to reach areas faster, or touch down in areas that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach.

There’s only one offensive upgrade for the Nomad — emergency shield discharge — and it’s not worth spending coveted beryllium on. Just get out of the vehicle and manually mop up enemies.

Cryo Pod efficacy varies from player to player

After establishing a settlement on Eos a few hours into Mass Effect: Andromeda, you’ll unlock the ability to access extra cryo pods through the AVP status control kiosk in the central area in your ship.

You’ll want to revisit this kiosk often for reward pickups (granted periodically by select upgrades) even if you don’t have any pods to thaw.

Understanding Mass Effect: Andromeda’s armor, gear and vehicle upgrades

As one of the many currencies of Mass Effect: Andromeda, andromeda viability points (AVP) dictate how many cryo pods you have active at any given time. Think of cryo pods like meta-bonuses that make your squad better, even if they don’t all directly impact gameplay — such as faster mining, additional resources and bonus experience.

The game doesn’t make it clear how you actually unlock more pods

The game doesn’t make it clear how you actually unlock more pods, but it’s entirely related to your nexus level, which is located at the top right of the AVP status control screen. To raise your nexus level you’ll need to actually touch down on planets, scout them or complete missions on the ground. Story missions count, but you can only earn a finite amount of AVP through them without resorting to side missions.

If you’re the type of person who just wants to see the critical story path, don’t even bother micromanaging cryo pods. Just focus on upgrading the military path as much as possible. But if you’re a completionist or are tackling Mass Effect: Andromeda on a difficulty setting above normal, take on sidequests from the very start so you can earn cry pod bonuses immediately. For longer plays, go for the science and commerce categories immediately, as they provide constant rewards drip-fed throughout the game.

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Mass Effect: Andromeda guide and walkthrough

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