There are some stories and experiences that just stay with you for a very long time. It is often not the overall plot or the narrative or the message that is being delivered, but rather the characters, their motives, and the journey you experience with them that will be fondly remembered.
But let us be honest with ourselves here, sometimes the media in which those stories are contained doesn’t age that well, which is especially relevant when it comes to video games. Mass Effect, released in 2007 is a clear case of this, which is why fans have been asking for a remaster for a very long time. And we finally got it back in May in the form of the Mass Effect Legendary Edition. It is the full package that not only include all three games in the trilogy, but all the story DLC missions (except for one) as well as all the weapons, skins, cosmetics, and a robot dog.
This review is about a month late, and the reason for this is that I, like so many others, took my sweet bloody time to do as much as possible and experience the 100+ hours with Shepard and the gang to the fullest. I won’t go into the story here at all, as it is something that you have already experienced, or need to experience for yourself if this is your first rodeo.
Few of us probably knew what we signed up for when we booted up Mass Effect for the first time. It was a true RPG with wonky controls, restrictive mechanics depending on your class and to be honest, it didn’t look all that great, even in 2007. Luckily, it is the game in the trilogy that received the most love from the developers, and their efforts really show. All three games benefit from improved textures and lighting effects, but improvements are much more evident in Mass Effect. Character models look more realistic, except for one or two NPCs, the environments look more alive, and the overall experience feels more modern. They also made some great changes to the skyboxes which was a great touch. The game still looks and feels like something from 2007, but with a fresh coat of paint. Environments can be a bit repetitive, and you essentially visit the same base layout for almost all side content, but this is more a product of the time and can be forgiven.
Other great improvements are made in the gameplay. The combat has been updated and feels a lot more modern and precise, though it still isn’t perfect. You are no longer restricted to using only specific weapons depending on your class, which is great if you want to experiment with different playstyles. Using powers can still be a bit of a hit and miss, literally, as I often found my own, or my squad mate’s powers missing completely or hitting the barrier right in front of you. The essence of the original Mass Effect game is still intact, and it shows in some aspects of the game. The Mako, the main form of transport while exploring planets, sees a massive improvement over the floaty, bouncy nightmare it used to be and is a very welcome change indeed.
One thing the whole series lacked was a universal Female Shepard across the entire series with a badass looking default character model only being introduced in Mass Effect 3. The character model has now been made available from the start of the trilogy, which makes the option of playing as FemShep more attractive for those of us who look for a bit more consistency or want to play with the defaults as it just sometimes looks better than anything from a character creator.
The overall experience of playing Mass Effect has been greatly improved in the Legendary Edition and it is a fantastic feeling to be able to recommend newcomers to play it and not just start at Mass Effect 2. Sure, it is still a bit dated, especially compared to the other two games in the trilogy, but the improvements make it so much easier to experience the start of this epic saga.
While Mass Effect set the stage, it was its sequel that really kicked things up a gear with higher stakes and bigger action wrapped in a slick new, more accessible package. In order to make things more appealing to a wider audience, Mass Effect 2 departed a bit from hardcore RPG elements of its predecessor while keeping the core feel that was established by it.
It is probably the one game in the Legendary Edition that received the least number of changes, as everything of the original is still there. I also feel that it was used as a yardstick to measure and improve the combat of Mass Effect on, as Mass Effect 3 might have been a bit too much of a departure. Combat is pretty much exactly as I remembered it, with maybe a few tweaks to balancing to improve the overall experience. That’s not to say there aren’t improvements. It still gets all the visual upgrades it deserves and looks fantastic. The higher resolution, improved lighting and textures make a helluva difference making the game look more like a game from 2015 than 2010.
The only real gripe I have with the game is that the Planet scanning for resources is still rubbish, especially with a keyboard and mouse, and I found myself rather reaching for a controller when doing that grind. Which it still is.
Mass Effect 2 is in my honest opinion the best game in the series. It not only improves on a lot of things from the first, but it just knocks it out of the park in terms of story, characters, action, and gameplay. It just goes to show how great this game is, that very little had to be changed to make it more appealing to a modern audience 11 years later.
If it weren’t for the groundwork that has been laid by the first two games, the impact of what transpires in Mass Effect 3 just wouldn’t be the same. The stakes have never been this high and the way this game plays with your emotions was unheard at the time as it will give some massive highs followed up by a few emotional gut punches for good measure. The bond and love you have built up with the characters over the course of the two games really comes to its own here and seeing how everything is at stake in this game makes the impact of your decisions feel so much more grounded and emotional.
Once again, the game got the expected visual upgrades like Mass Effect 2 and it also looks amazing. Combat in Mass Effect 3 is much faster and aggressive than what came before it. The weapons restrictions, in terms of proficiency for the different classes, has been removed completely and instead, it works on a weight system that influences your powers cooldown. Certain classes can carry more than others so balancing that with your chosen class and the weapons you like gives the game more options and playstyles. Mass Effect 3 also has the most and probably the best story-based DLC of the three games, and even though I’ve played the game numerous times before, I got to experience it all for the first time playing the Legendary Edition. Both the Omega and Citadel DLCs are incredible experiences and adds so much more to the already stellar experience.
The multiplayer from the original Mass Effect 3 has been removed which is both a good and bad thing. The good is that it removes the grind you had to do in the multiplayer to get the better ending, but you don’t get to experience what was essentially a great multiplayer experience. Removing it though was probably for the best as I’m not sure how many people will play it for an extended period.
To be the Shepard
The Mass Effect trilogy is undoubtedly one of the best ever created. It is an epic Space Opera with incredible characters, a fantastic story and some of the best lore you will ever experience. Yes, it isn’t perfect with some minor bugs and weird things happening with characters and facial animations, and yes, the first Mass Effect shows its age a bit, but nothing is big enough to diminish the absolutely exceptional experience of this 100+ hours saga. The Legendary Edition puts all that into one neat package that brings it to the modern audience with better visuals, improvements to combat, controls and general quality of life enhancements.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition is a fantastic package not just because of the sheer amount of content, but because of the story it tells and the experience you get throughout. It is hard for me to explain what makes it so special, as it is different for everyone, and the only way to truly know what the fans might be on about is to strap yourself in and be Commander Shepard yourself.