No game or series is as synonymous with the term “role-playing game” as the Mass Effect series. These space-faring action RPG adventures have garnered nothing but critical acclaim over the years for their in-depth world-building, excellent cast of characters (yeah I’m talking about you Garrus), and incredibly engaging stories. There’s very little wrong about the series to the majority out there, making it one of the most, if not the most, enjoyable RPG series to play. With that in mind, and the series beginning to show its age, it only makes sense for the team at BioWare to revisit the series and give it a much-needed facelift. With that, meet Mass Effect Legendary Edition. The question is though, does this remastered collection do such a monumental series justice? Find out in our Mass Effect Legendary Edition review!
A Paragon of Remastering
While the original Mass Effect no doubt was an influential RPG for its time, BioWare’s first foray into science fiction has aged like an amazing carton of milk left out of the fridge for much, much too long. It’s a relic of archaic game design and aged graphical prowess, something the realism of modern titles has exacerbated beyond compare. As someone who didn’t tackle the series until just a few short years ago, going into Mass Effect left a very sour taste in my mouth, one that made the experience a slog to work through. To truly bring Mass Effect up to expectations, the team would have to bring out the big guns and give it much more than a fresh coat of paint. On that front, BioWare delivered fantastically.
Nearly everything that has aged so poorly about the original has been modified significantly, giving it the true level of modern glory it deserves. The biggest standout of all being the Mako sections. Before the remastering, these sections were arguably some of the worst the series had to offer and served as a masterclass in exactly how a vehicle shouldn’t work in a video game. Thanks to some serious modifications in handling, aiming, and overall feel for the vehicle though, these sections are now a particular standout, so much so that I’m sad it isn’t seen throughout the remainder of the trilogy.
In between the relentless onslaught of geth troops blocking your path, these sections make for a great breakup in pacing, allowing you to slaughter hundreds of geth with minimal effort as you traverse to the next objective. Despite that level of power and the much-improved shields over the original Mako’s design, these sections still feel they hold an adequate amount of difficulty. You still feel that sense of power over your enemies, but not so much so that you’re the Doom Slayer on wheels.
That’s not to take merit away from the title’s other improvements either, which make combat much more fluid. It’s no longer a question of “will Shepard get into cover or will they be a moving pinata”, it’s now fine-tuned to the point where each scenario is an engaging puzzle of how you and your squad will tackle each objective. It makes the pacing so much cleaner, while still standing out with its lack of action movie thrills in comparison to its sequels.
Despite everything BioWare’s done to make this a wonderful modern RPG experience though, some of Mass Effect 1’s less redeeming qualities still show here and there. The AI for example is still abysmal, with squadmates attempting to fistfight targets, enemies running a few laps before finding a solid path to you, and some even running you down without any care for their wellbeing or survival. That’s not to say Mass Effect 2 and 3’s AI behavior is a godsend by any means, but it sticks out. Joining this are cutscenes restricted 1080p/30FPS, but that’s a misstep with the trilogy as a whole more than Mass Effect 1 in particular.
Still, considering BioWare took a nearly unplayable game in the modern-day and made it compete with some of the trilogy’s best, I’d say the team deserves a lot of merits. Mass Effect 1 is just as great as you remember it, or perhaps even better given its wide range of enhancements. If you were thinking of possibly skipping out on this title in favor of its absolutely excellent sequels, that’s a mistake you’ll very much regret.
Making the Best Out of Greatness
Ah, BioWare’s crown jewel. Mass Effect 2 is widely considered among many to be the epitome of RPG design, and for all the right reasons. The character design is excellent, the world-building is very solid, and the entire loyalty system, while not always done perfectly, is considered one of the best systems when it comes to storytelling. Given just how solid the game is, there isn’t a whole lot that the team could do to make improvements on it. And still, the team managed to make the best of a near-masterpiece.
This was primarily thanks to some serious improvements to both lighting and texture work, bringing the visuals much closer to modern standards. Character models have such a higher level of detail and feel much less like the clay models they were over a decade ago. And locations like Omega have a much more intricate atmosphere, with its lighting bringing you that much more into its sleazy underworld the original already built up so well. While ammo still proves to be an issue at times, the team did well to recapture the feel the game had over a decade ago, and with very little room for improvement to begin with. It’s a very great lesson in the term “don’t fix what isn’t broken.”
The End of an Era, and the Beginning of a New One
And that brings us to the final chapter, Mass Effect 3. This episode is often the subject of scrutiny, primarily over its finale lacking the weight of the previous two games. While I share in that sentiment, I share in that sentiment alone. I was personally a huge fan when the third game came out, being my first venture into the trilogy. There are so many improvements to the fluidity of combat over the second entry, taking the series that much further. And its remaster, while rough in a few places, overall does this entry plenty of favors.
As you might expect, these fixes were primarily made in the visuals department, improving texture detail much further to give it a much cleaner look. It’s not as much as Mass Effect 2’s playdoh-style facial textures, but it still goes a long way towards modernizing the art style. And still, the game retains its identity with its rather gritty visuals. Even some of the cutscenes are vastly updated, even if once again, they’re still locked to 1080p/30FPS like before. My only gripe here is the loss of the multiplayer, even if some would strongly disagree with that stance. It wasn’t perfect, but it offered up a rather unique take on AAA multiplayer for its time, along with playing into the end of the main game.
While not perfect, Mass Effect 3 still brings as fitting of an end to this wonderful RPG trilogy as it did so long ago. With some of the greatest aspects of Mass Effect 2, supplemented with modern enhancements, this entry still holds up beautifully in the modern-day.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition is, by far, the greatest way to play through the Mass Effect trilogy. It’s a genuine elevation beyond where the games once stood, especially in the realm of Mass Effect 1. It’s easily gone from by far my least favorite of the series, to a competitor with some of the best on offer. Even Mass Effect 2 and 3 have seen some solid improvements, even if much more subtle by comparison. Where it lacks in some areas, it adds upon the experience to make one of the best-remastered packages money can buy. Whether you’re a longtime fan of the Mass Effect series or are just stepping foot into the Normandy, Mass Effect Legendary Edition is calibrated to near perfection, and is a must-play for any fan of RPGs.
- Massive visual upgrade on the original title
- Solid visual changes in the follow-up titles
- Gameplay overhauls revive an otherwise aged product
- Mako sections feel incredibly fun to play
- Pacing has been vastly improved
- Less "playdoh" look on Mass Effect 2's character models
- The calibrations have been completed wonderfully
- Minor issues with the original
- Multiplayer is missing from Mass Effect 3