Mass Effect: Legendary Edition – An apology and celebration

The review will not contain any story spoilers. All images were taken by me on a base PS4. 

Mass Effect has languished over the last few years, with the underwhelming performance of its most recent entry, Mass Effect: Andromedafailing to capture audiences attention. 

With the announcement that development on this franchise was heating back up and that we can expect its return in the future, it only makes sense for BioWare to try and wipe the slate clean and this remastered edition of the trilogy  does a lot to bring attention back to the series.  

The franchise has had a difficult few years but this remaster sets the stage for a strong come back.

All three games have seen a number of improvements, from textures, character models, lighting and effects being only some of the TLC given. ME: LE truly lets the best of the franchise shine through, even if it cannot avoid some of its enduring flaws.

The visuals are the easiest improvement to spot, with the original game seeing the most significant upgrade. Mass Effect’s uncharted worlds are breathtaking and the improved visuals go a long way to closing the 14 year gap between the original game’s release date to now. It doesn’t hold up against AAA games released today, but the old girl certainly doesn’t look half bad. The newly added photo mode allows you to experience these grpahical upgrades for yourself. 

ME: LE went further to also add some additional options in its improved and standardized character creation menu. Deeper skin tones, a couple of new hairstyles and improved face textures mean Shepard’s character model can actually look like a real human now, which is nice! These additional options are much appreciated. 

Character creation has been standardized across all titles and additional options have been added.

Mass Effect is known for its characters and story-telling and this is often done through dialogue. This is a remaster and not a remake, so conversations have remained mostly the same as they were in the original trilogy. The iconic paragon and renegade system allow you to build a Shepard who can be both compassionate and ruthless. Your status as a Spectre, an agent acting outside of galactic law, means both feel plausible. Anyone who has played recent BioWare titles or any other modern RPG should feel right at home with this system. It is intuitive and (for the most part) holds up to the test of time. 

Dialogue is BioWare’s strength and all three titles allow you to make decisions both large and small that ripple throughout your playthrough and across the galaxy.

Aside from conversation, exploration remains a large part of the series, particularly in ME1 with its uncharted worlds. These now look much better, but can become stale after a while. The repeated maps and lack of music do little to help, as ME1’s age and lower budget shine through. However, they are still fun for the novelty and with the improved controls of the MAKO, driving has never been so smooth.

Besides the uncharted worlds, the main story levels have been updated and now look, sound, and feel better than ever.  

Mass Effect’s uncharted worlds look incredible, but offer little depth aside from an easy ways to increase your renegade/paragon stat.

Combat was never truly the strongpoint of the original trilogy, but that does not mean that it has not seen its share of improvements.  

Combat UI has been standardized across all three games and BioWare did all they could with a game engine as old as this. Combat feels responsive and weapons pack a mean punch. Building your character into a biotic god or technical genius remains as satisfying as ever.  

Combat can be played strategically or all-guns blazing, depending on your class and level. It may take some players a while to get used to its more stop-and-start nature (this is a cover based shooter after all) but it does not take long to acclimate and get into a groove.   

Combat can be exhilerating as biotics can fling enemies into the air and engineers can bring robots down before they notice you.

But it has not been entirely smooth sailing. Initial reviews were more mixed for PC audiences, with bugs, glitches and a lack of FOV slider dropping down some review scores.  

Thankfully the bugs I encountered were mainly in ME1 and were minor. Shepard would suddenly turn sideways but continue running forward and on one occasion I did have to reboot the game to unfreeze myself. Your milage with bugs may vary but they are still present despite the new patch.   

ME: LE also contains all but one DLC from the original trilogy (clocking in at over 40+ pieces of DLC) but ME3’s multiplayer was removed. This was disappointing for some but there is hope yet, as project director Mac Walters has noted that implementing multiplayer later on may be done

Bugs are present but did not damper my enjoyment overall. However, different systems have experienced different levels of buggyness so caution is advised.

Overall, this remaster feels like a love letter to not just Commander Shepard and the crew of the Normandy. It feels like an apology for going so far astray and a promise to do better for both new and old fans alike. The universe of Mass Effect is enormous and there are countless more stories to tell. 

There is no news yet on what the next game in the series could be; whether a return to the Milky Way or continuing Ryder’s story in Andromeda. But BioWare seem to be turning over a new leaf with this release and can only hope the positive reception to ME: LE gives the developers the confidence they need to bring this series back to glory.  

We can also only hope that EA respects the renewed interest in the franchise and allows the studio all the time, resources and money it needs to get this series back on track.  

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