Playing the Mass Effect trilogy again isn’t something most gamers are against doing, is it? Whilst Andromeda didn’t meet the standards that some fans expected, there’s no doubting that the first three games are some of the finest sci-fi RPGs that have ever released. Of course, they are older now and have certainly showed their age when compared to modern titles – they did originate on the Xbox 360 (and eventually the PlayStation 3), after all.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition takes those three original titles and modernises them, with enhanced visuals, gameplay refinements, and a host of other improvements truly revamping the series. This isn’t some lazy port or simple remaster, but one that actually makes the original trilogy feel like it belongs in 2021. Sure, there are some things that still feel a little dated, but this is the best way to experience Bioware’s glorious sci-fi trilogy all over again.
This review isn’t going to go through all of the ins-and-outs of the Mass Effect trilogy, because let’s face it, EVERYONE knows what they consist of at this point. Instead, it will focus on the improvements brought with the Legendary Edition and whether it’s worth your time fourteen-years on from the original game’s initial release.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition tells the tale of Commander Shepherd, a customisable hero that faces off against multiple threats across the galaxy. Of course, there’s a LOT more to it than that – there’s all sorts going on behind the scenes that easily rivals the antics seen across the Star Wars or Star Trek franchises. Going into detail about it here, though? It’d take a while.
“Player choice is actually a big deal across the entire series, with Shepherd able to make decisions that can either be seen as a heroic choice (Paragon) or a villainous choice (Renegade).”
Where it really thrives is with its characters. Shepherd earns the trust of multiple allies across the three games, with each bringing with them their own tale that ties into the overarching narrative. These are some truly colourful characters spread across multiple species, with the trials and tribulations they face certainly setting them apart from allies seen in other RPGs. This is most prominent in their individual side quests, which are optional to complete but make for some of the series’ most emotional moments. Each one brings something fresh to the table, whether it’s a perspective on a situation you face or simply the way they can worm their way into bed with Shepherd. Hey, you can find love in space, alright…
Best of all though, some of these characters make appearances across all three games, with the relationships you build and way you decide to interact with them carrying over. Player choice is actually a big deal across the entire series, with Shepherd able to make decisions that can either be seen as a heroic choice (Paragon) or a villainous choice (Renegade). Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t black-and-white choices that are seen as ‘good’ or ‘evil’, but rather moments that shape Shepherd’s personality, how others see them, and change how events may pan out. Some of the decisions are simple (who doesn’t want to punch a nuisance reporter, after all?) but others are a bit more meaningful… heck, you could even potentially wipe out an entire species if you wanted to.
“Everything across the three games looks so impressive, especially in the original Mass Effect which previously didn’t really match up to its successors.”
Ultimately, the narrative is one of the series’ greatest strengths and it remains as powerful and poignant today. Re-treading old territory with familiar faces felt good and re-living Shepherd’s plight all over again never got boring – even IF I’ve seen the tale play out multiple times before. You don’t have to be playing the Legendary Edition of the Mass Effect series to appreciate the narrative and great writing, with it easily standing the test of time without the need for improvements.
Right, now I’ve got the story out of the way, it’s time to talk about the improvements that Mass Effect: Legendary Edition brings to the fray. One thing that’s worth noting is that the second and third titles haven’t seen as many enhancements as the original game. It was with the release of these titles that Bioware really refined the formula, so returning gamers might not pick up on as many differences there. But hey, they certainly look prettier, so you won’t feel short-changed if you’re only interested in playing one of those (I know a few folk who were only interested in playing Mass Effect 2… crazy).
Since I’ve already mentioned it, it’s worth discussing the visual improvements. Everything across the three games looks so impressive, especially in the original Mass Effect which previously didn’t really match up to its successors. The alien environments you visit are packed with additional detail, whilst the improved lighting and particle effects really help bring each locale to life. Characters look better across the board too, even IF some of the animations do feel a little bit janky. You can’t fix everything, right?
“The first Mass Effect feels more in line with the second and third as far as the action is concerned, with the gunplay and mechanics seeing a big improvement over the somewhat clunky original.”
There are some truly wondrous sights to be encountered in each game, with it crazy to think that they originally came out on last-last-gen consoles. I played on the PlayStation 5 too, so had the extra benefit of playing in 4K at 60fps – it did suffer some drops here and there, but never anything substantial. They weren’t problematic enough to make me drop down to 1440p for a consistent 60fps, at least.
The first Mass Effect feels more in line with the second and third as far as the action is concerned, with the gunplay and mechanics seeing a big improvement over the somewhat clunky original. The same goes for the HUD, which is a lot clearer and more consistent with the other titles in the series. Everything just feels better, and whilst nothing was ever really problematic before, there’s an improved sense of smoothness to everything you do that ensures gunfights are still intense but more accessible. And hey, you can even sprint around outside of combat now too, so exploration feels better. That being said, the revamped visuals did make me want to take the world in a bit more, so there’s no rush to get about.
Can we really talk about the first Mass Effect without discussing the Mako? The driving sections never felt good and were the biggest problem in what was otherwise a sublime experience. Thankfully, the controls have been revamped here, with driving not only feeling smoother but also weightier. It’s much easier to get around, with less issues with the physics and more of a focus placed on making it possible to get to your destination fuss-free. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect, but it’s a LOT better.
“The multiplayer aspect of Mass Effect 3 has been omitted, but this has also seen the ‘Galactic Readiness’ aspect of the series get refined to make your choices from the first two games more impactful by the time you reach the conclusion.”
I could write thousands of words about what makes Mass Effect: Legendary Edition so good and detail all of its little improvements, but the bottom line is that it has made the three games feel like they belong on modern consoles – especially the original, which feels like the pick of the bunch as far as enhancements are concerned. Sure, there are still imperfections and some aspects of gameplay can’t be fixed without a complete rebuild, but the trilogy has never looked or played better than it does now. Best of all, it comes with all previously released DLC, so there’s plenty of extra content to dive into that a lot of players might not have experienced before. The additional DLC gear has been worked into the experience in a meaningful way too, so you won’t get a ton of powerful loot for nothing.
On the flip-side, the multiplayer aspect of Mass Effect 3 has been omitted, but this has also seen the ‘Galactic Readiness’ aspect of the series get refined to make your choices from the first two games more impactful by the time you reach the conclusion. This actually felt more fitting to the series for me, so it’s certainly a good change – even IF I did enjoy the multiplayer modes of the third game.
Want to know the best thing about Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, though? Gamers now have an easy way to appreciate one of gaming’s finest trilogies on their modern platforms. Oh, and the lift wait times of the first game are significant improved too; if you know, you know.
The Mass Effect titles were magnificent back when they originally released, but the Legendary Edition makes them even better and more fitting for modern consoles. There really hasn’t been a better way to experience Bioware’s epic sci-fi trilogy, with the original game’s refinements particularly standing out as being something special. There’s more consistency than before and it makes all of the decisions you make more impactful by the time you reach the third game’s finale.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is simply an outstanding experience and one that returning gamers are sure to love. Never played the series before? Now is the perfect time to jump in and see why it’s so fondly remembered by gamers worldwide.
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
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