Welcome to our new Feature entitled ‘In defence of…’ which gives Roobla Creators a chance to vent controversial pop culture opinions and go to bat for something that we feel does not get the praise it rightfully deserves. For this introductory installment, it’s Bioware’s 2017 sci-fi epic, Mass Effect: Andromeda under the spotlight.

In terms of critical/fan reception, the original Mass Effect trilogy can be likened to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight saga: Impressive opener, masterpiece for the sequel and a third offering that was fantastic but couldn’t quite live up to its predecessor. However, Mass Effect went one further with Andromeda and, for a fourth Dark Knight movie to receive a similar reception, it would have to be a four hour documentary depicting Christopher Nolan in a Batman mask kicking movie critics in the groin.

It’s not to say that criticisms against the game are unjustified, at release it was plagued with glitches and graphical hiccoughs far below the standard that we’ve come to expect from Bioware and EA, scars from its turbulent development that made it look broken or incomplete, faults which belied the huge, varied, deep, enjoyable open-world behemoth beneath that stands shoulder to shoulder with the originals.

The original trilogy’s gameplay mainly centred around three things: Branching conversations with NPCs, third person cover shooting and exploring planets for minerals – which are all well and good but didn’t offer a huge amount of variety, whereas Mass Effect: Andromeda spices things up by adding a variety of other elements including jetpack platforming sections, puzzles, side-quests and most importantly, exploration.

Players are offered hundreds of optional side-quests and collectibles scattered across several unique planets – some are inconsequential, offering nothing more than experience points, others provide a deeper understanding of the planet and its inhabitants, raids on newly discovered enemy bases, a closer bond with your team and on the rare occasion, epic, mutli-stage boss fights against colossal ‘Architects’. The series’ move to open-world fits like a tailored suit of N7 armour, the format echoes the story’s themes of exploring the unknown and unraveling mysteries with no idea of what awaits on the other side and adds a richness to the worlds that were missing in its predecessors.

Your crew for this endeavour is a mixed bunch: Some are pretty bland (Liam, Jaal), some may not grab your attention at first but become much more interesting as you scratch away at their surface (Cora, Vetra) and some are attention-grabbing from the get-go (Peebee, Drack). Ultimately, it’s how you decide to treat your allies as either Scott or Sara Ryder that determines how entertaining each relationship is, with the possibility for great moments waiting on almost every path.

For example, embracing the reckless behaviour of the ship’s wildcard Peebee (to the chagrin of others) was always interesting and when it came to Peebee’s loyalty mission, the close connection Ryder had formed with her made the whole level a thrill and the decision at the end of it intensely investing. Conversely, Liam’s chipper nattering can be irritating, so you may rarely use him in your party and keep your exchanges gruff and blunt. However, when it comes to Liam’s loyalty mission, this dynamic plays out hilariously, like a buddy cop movie with the grizzled, put-upon veteran partnered with an overly eager, naïve rookie.

Mass Effect: Andromeda has a lot going for it: Fast paced, fun combat, plenty to do in a well designed and rich universe, side-stories and relationships that give each player a unique and personal experience. Sadly, these assets were all hidden behind an ugly shell, so they went underappreciated. Since release, the wave of fixes and patches have cleared up most of the glitches and graphical issues, meaning that the current version is a complete package that’s begging to be given a second chance.

So to anyone who still has a copy of Mass Effect: Andromeda laying around barely touched, or to anyone who sees the game on sale and is interested in trying it out, do yourself a favour and delve into the Andromeda galaxy. Explore, discover and find the treasures that this game has kept well hidden, you won’t regret it.

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