It’s been roughly three years to the day since I first properly played a Mass Effect game, and then Mass Effect Legendary Edition drops into my lap. Yeah, I was very late to the party with this trilogy. I had tried it before, but action RPGs just weren’t really my thing at the time. Fast forward to 2018 and I am a different gamer, a more developed and mature gamer. So when I played it back then, I could have kicked myself for not playing it before. Instead of playing the usual first-person shooters, I could have been playing this space epic! Mass Effect opened my eyes to how truly diverse the RPG genre can be.
“Just another routine mission. Why do they always say that before a mission?”
For a while, Bioware had been teasing something about Mass Effect all over social media. Fans were left wondering what it could be. There was speculation about it maybe being a new game, while fans were clamouring for the original trilogy to be remastered. EA and Bioware were listening, and in November 2020 it was officially announced that the original Mass Effect trilogy was indeed…being remastered.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition was published by EA and developed again by Bioware. Bioware did have some assistance from Blind Squirrel Games and Abstraction Games to help optimise it on newer systems while still using Unreal Engine 3. The decision to stick with Unreal Engine 3 was to mitigate having to overhaul large portions of the game to run on Unreal Engine 4. This is a remaster, not a remake, and what a remaster it is with the most notable improvement being in the first game which was originally released in 2007.
A mere 6 months later, Mass Effect Legendary Edition landed on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on May 14th, 2021. Not only is it the original trilogy, but it comes with over 40 DLC including gear packs and missions that fit seamlessly into the game and seem quite essential to the whole thing. I am genuinely excited and slightly jealous that there are people out there that are going to don the N7 armour for the first time. So Commanders, let’s get right into it. This review will be spoiler-free and will focus on the remastered aspect of the game(s) and any gameplay and graphical enhancements it brings.
Did you play Mass Effect back in the day and have you played the Legendary Edition? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
So we are going to cut a very long story short here to avoid spoilers. It was just another routine mission. Commander Shepard and Kaiden Alenko are sent to recover a Prothean Beacon. What they weren’t expecting was for a rogue Spectre named Saren to be doing the same. Spectres are agents entrusted with the authority to act above the law using whatever means necessary, and at their own discretion. They have the power of life and death over all life forms and are employed to preserve galactic stability, no matter what the cost. This meeting sets off a chain of events that sees Commander Shepard become a Spectre himself and his mission, is to save the galaxy.
Mass Effect is the single greatest space opera in video games. It was perfect as it was, so how do you improve on that? I say perfect, it was perfect at the time, even with its minor bugs, clunky combat, and the controversy over the ending of Mass Effect 3. What the teams have done here is nothing short of phenomenal.
What we have is an action RPG, third-person shooter set in space. Once you get exploring, you will find the various worlds are full of lore, conflict, politics, and a wide variety of alien races. The beauty of these games is that something you may do (or don’t do) will likely have some impact in later games if you import your character from the previous game.
So starting the game you have a single launcher to access all three games. Naturally, I would recommend you play all three in order for story consistency. However, if you want to jump into any of the games, that is also fine. At the beginning of Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, there are the optional Dark Horse comics that will fill you in on the details from the previous game. If you played the previous game, then you will see your own actions as part of this comic. If not, then the comic is interactive and you are free to make those decisions yourself. A neat little touch which I believe was included in the special editions of the original games.
So, what’s new? With Mass Effect being the oldest of the games, this is where you will see the biggest difference. Thanks to the changes, it doesn’t look and play like a 14-year-old game.
There is quite a lot to talk about so let’s get straight into combat. The cover system has had some vast improvements made, most notably in the first game. If you are playing this on Normal difficulty or less, you may not notice. You can basically just run at enemies and not worry about the little damage you are taking. For players on Veteran or Insanity (which I played), the cover is a must. It’s a lot smoother to pop in and out of cover and to avoid heavy gunfire. This at higher difficulties can be a matter of life or death. Seeing your mangled corpse from a bird’s eye view as you bleed out. All too often in the original game, it was easy to die from a cheap shot by not getting into cover quick enough.
One of my favourite changes to the first game only is that all classes can use all weapons. Previously, weapons were restricted to a certain class, but no more. This means you can adapt your gunplay style to the situation better. Weapon upgrades are still class-specific which is by no means a bad thing. Aiming feels more precise across the board and thankfully, weapon sway has been removed from sniper rifles. Yes, that makes things less realistic, but also less frustrating as players of the original game will know about. Headshot damage is now a thing in the first game whereas it previously wasn’t. This damage has also been made proportionate as well as it should be. Weapon cool-down times have been improved as well as their specific weapon powers.
The Mako…oh god the Mako. The Mako, shown above, is the rover transport you use to explore planets. Previously it was an abomination (though not impossible) to drive. The Mako only appears in the first game, but with the significant improvements, I wish we could use it in the others. The devs took note of the Nomad from Mass Effect: Andromeda, by adding a previously absent speed boost. This is particularly useful when scaling alien mountain ranges to find Salarian ID tags, Asari writings, and Turian Insignias, or just murdering in general. The handling of the Mako feels less ‘slippery’. With a tweak of the physics, it feels a lot weightier, thus a lot more controllable. Shields recharge faster and as a bonus, when you fire your cannons or missiles, they actually hit the enemies.
Regarding inventory, you can now sell multiple items as junk. This is particularly useful. This was a feature not present in the original games but is sort of an RPG standard today. If you do not wish to sell, these items can still be converted into Omni-Gel to repair your Mako.
A Legendary Mode levelling system has been introduced which is your default mode. Classic mode can be enabled if you wish. Legendary Mode is where players can earn more points at the end of each level, but the level cap is brought down to 30 from 60. This means it is possible to reach the cap without having to start a new game. Additional autosaves have been added through the trilogy as previously these had been quite unforgiving at times.
That’s a general round-up of notable gameplay enhancements to Mass Effect and across the trilogy. The other two games have had some specific improvements too. In Mass Effect 2, ammo drops a lot more frequently than it used too which is an absolute godsend in a firefight. It is worth noting that there are infinite ammo respawns in the game, but they are less commonplace and sporadic. Tweaks have been made to the Paragon/Renegade system to make key decisions easier. This is important as they will affect your Galactic Readiness in Mass Effect 3.
Speaking of Mass Effect 3, the biggest change is that the multiplayer has been completely removed. Previously this played a huge part in your Galactic Readiness. What is Galactic Readiness I hear you ask? This is how prepared you are as Commander Shepard for the final battle. The more you do across the games, the more ready you are. This is where the Galaxy at War system comes into play to make up for the shortfall of multiplayer. Within this system, you gain influence by managing resources and gaining War Assets which will directly affect how the final confrontation plays out. The extended cut of the Mass Effect 3 ending is now the default ending.
Many, many bugs have been fixed, but a few kinks still remain which will hopefully be remedied in future updates. There were a few occasions where Commander Shepard would get stuck in a corner and there would be no way to move or even change direction. Thankfully, I was able to make a new save and restart from that point and everything was ok to carry on. A minor inconvenience yes, but it is fixable.
Overall, the changes made have brought the games into the current generation with quality of life improvements extremely well for new and older gamers alike.
For the trophy/achievement hunters out there, the three trophy lists have had a massive overhaul as well. So much so that to achieve that shiny Platinum Trophy, each game can be done in a single playthrough with a little bit of planning. Multiple playthroughs were required in the original to achieve such a thing. There is also a fourth trophy list, which covers stats across all three games for things such as rack up 2000 kills, romance someone in all three games.
Graphics and Audio
Much like the gameplay, you will see the biggest visual improvement in the first game. These games have been remastered in 4k UHD and look absolutely stunning. There are different performance options on whether you favour framerate or quality as shown below.
Pretty much everything has been improved upon from the details in the environments to the character models. It’s worth noting here that when you initially create your character, it is based on the Mass Effect 3 character creation model. This allows more options than were initially available and the iconic female Shepard, or Femshep from Mass Effect 3 is the default female character from the start.
Character models aren’t perfect as they are based on the original models, but they are so much more refined than what they were. Even their clothing and gear are just wow. The detail on Garrus’ scaley face and stitching on Tali’s hood just shows the level of commitment put into making this game the best looking it can be.
Lighting and cinematics have also seen much improvement. Which brings me on to another new feature in the game, Photo Mode. I love Photo Mode in any game, I spend hours playing around just to capture the moment. And there are many epic moments that you will want to capture. The photo above isn’t from a cinematic sequence. This was captured in-game just after I landed on Eden Prime and was fighting my way through the Geth and hunting for the Prothean Beacon.
I always loved the audio in the original games, especially the way a shotgun blast would echo around a small room as it tears the face off of a Batarian Terrorist. Simple pleasures! Now I am hearing this in 7.1 virtual surround sound and it still never fails to put a smile on my face. Then, of course, we can’t talk about Mass Effect without mentioning its incredible OST.
This is a sci-fi epic and it needs a score to justify the gaping vacuum the game sucks you into. Composed by Jack Wall and Sam Hulick, the score takes influence from sci-fi movies such as Blade Runner and Dune. And you can really hear it. It blends orchestral scoring with 80’s electronic music with occasional dark synthwave undertones. The music, for me, is just as much of an experience as the game itself and I find myself listening to it often. It is a journey, the perfect accompaniment to the most epic space adventure of your life!
If you were going to run through the trilogy, skipping side quests and DLC, you easily have 70 hours of gameplay across all three games. This is something I DO NOT recommend you do. You would miss out on so much in terms of lore, discovery, and additional story building. In a series like Mass Effect, you really do need to experience everything to fully appreciate just how amazing this trilogy is. To put it in perspective, I played the first game and did everything and I racked up about 45 hours.
If you play the trilogy how I believe it is meant to be experienced, then you easily have 170 hours of gameplay here, maybe more. There is so much to discover and it is all so interesting that you will look forward to stepping aboard the Normandy every time you fire up the game. That is a lot of content across the trilogy all for the price of a single retail game. The Mass Effect Legendary Edition is an absolute steal!
What are you waiting for? Just go and buy it. Buy it now! I am not one for replaying games, remember I had only played the original trilogy three years ago. In fact, it is one of the things I despise most when it is mandatory for certain trophies. But playing the Mass Effect trilogy again is just as magical as it was the first time around.
The day after I first played it I woke at 5.30 am. My first thought wasn’t to check my phone or get coffee. It was Mass Effect. I had to get up and play it. Whilst I was tired, I didn’t care. I wanted to carry on, build my crew, travel the galaxy, explore new worlds. The trilogy has had such a profound effect on me that it is all I can think about. It sucks you into this black hole of wonder and spits you out into a void of discovery and adventure.
This remastered trilogy strikes the perfect balance in its enhancements to appeal to newcomers and fans of the original trilogy. It has changed enough to fit into the modern gaming world, but the old school will be thankful for the refinements that have been made. If you made it to the end of this review, or just skipped to this part, there is only one thing left for you to do. Leave a comment below obviously, but you must go and buy this game right now!
I award the Mass Effect Legendary Edition the Thumb Culture Platinum Award!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.