This was a remaster that was a long time coming.
I first played the original Mass Effect back when it debuted in 2007. It was one of two games I had received that Christmas with my Xbox 360. I was, like many people at the time, completely blown away. The world-building, the characters, everything was overwhelming. The first time I stepped foot on the Citadel was almost like a religious experience.
I would stay with this trilogy all the way up to the end, building relationships with characters and making decisions that would ultimately reach their crescendo at the end of Mass Effect 3. Now, a whole new generation of gamers can experience this epic story for the first time… minus having to wait a couple of years between installments.
What Is It?
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is the complete remaster of the original Mass Effect trilogy, created by Bioware and first revealed to the gaming world at large in 2007, before reaching its conclusion in 2012 (with some DLC here and there). Mass Effect became the gold standard for story-driven, choice-heavy gaming and is still used as a byword for games requiring careful dialogue choices and player morality.
The story of Mass Effect is far too large to attempt to describe here, and it steeped in extensive world-building and lore. Before you even begin the game, there is already extensive amounts of history and backstory that has already happened (some of which you get to choose). But the gist of it is this:
You are Commander Shepherd, a member of humanity’s Systems Alliance military and a potential candidate for the Spectres (more on that in a bit). Sent on a mission to Eden Prime to uncover the reasons for mass disappearances of colonists, you discover an ancient beacon of Prothean (an exinct alien race) origin. You also discover that the colony was attacked by the Geth, a machine race that has apparently given their allegiance to another Spectre named Saren Arterius. You accomplish your mission, but in the process create a diplomatic incident that ultimately culminates in your initiation into the Spectres, the first human to gain that title.
Being a Spectre gets you broad powers, as it is a special designation for those who have shown both great personal and moral strength and a sense of responsibility. A Spectre is a Special Agent (or Wetworks, if you want to be less charitable) answerable only to the Citadel Council (the galactic government) who is able to bypass much legal and government red tape to get the job done. The fact that your enemy in this story is himself a Spectre as well makes them equally dangerous, but as the Mass Effect trilogy unfolds, you’ll realize that he’s just the tip of a very terrifying iceberg.
Why Should I Care?
Obviously, the immediate draw of this trilogy is the world and characters, but let’s start with the visual and quality upgrades.
First and foremost: with a few exceptions, the first Mass Effect game has been almost completely retouched from top to bottom. Character models from the later games have been imported into this first game, as they were of far better graphical and visual appeal (and brighter, as the original had rather muddy textures). Textures are sharper, environments are brighter and more detailed. Things that were only hinted at graphically the first time around are now fully realized for you to enjoy. The Citadel really looks as expansive as it suggests. The skylines of exotic planets look as beautiful as they are alien. These graphical upgrades also go along with an upgraded HUD, closer to the one used in the later two games.
Of course, the other obvious update is the Mako. In the original Mass Effect, significant parts of the game take place in large, free-roaming environments that are traversed in an armored all-terrain vehicle called the Mako (similar mechanics would come back in Mass Effect: Andromeda). In the original game, this was a nightmare to play. Controls felt like suggestions at best, and the Mako was extremely brittle, resulting in a wrong turn being instant death. But now? The controls are intuitive, the Mako is nigh indestructible, and I actually found myself looking forward to the Mako segments.
After the first game, the touch-ups become less obvious. Some graphical issues from the original trilogy are fixed, as well as some particular issues that pissed off gamers back in the day (such as a certain Quarian’s photograph).
But other than that, the real draw to Mass Effect is the world. The universe of Mass Effect is a fully-realized future history, filled with alien races, wars, colonies, collapsing dynasties, and cosmic horrors on par with Lovecraft’s worst nightmares. The beautiful blue-skinned Asari, the reptilian Krogan, the dignified Turian, you’ll meet and befriend members of all fo them…and even fall in love with some of them. This is one of those games where you will become very attached to your teammates.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Honestly, that’s pretty much the long and short of it.
The game comes with all of the DLC (minus one non-essential example), and all three games can be played at any time. Of course, if you want to play the complete story you’ll want to start from the beginning and play through to the end (and not doing so will have significant effects on the story), but again: it’s your adventure.
If there are any major issues with this release, there are two: The first is the character animations. Animation in games have come a long way since 2007, and one can even see that evolution within this very trilogy…but animation kept evolving past 2012, and it definitely shows here. Human characters, in particular, look very stiff and automaton-like. For aliens, it’s much less noticeable (even with the very human-looking Asari), but for humans it is glaringly obvious (and your Shepherd isn’t exempt from this either).
The other issue: The jarring gameplay changes between games. Keep in mind that, back in the day, we had a good couple of years between releases, meaning that we had time to unlearn everything we had absorbed to play the previous title. But with all three games so easily accessible, you will definitely encounter a bit of serious whiplash between each game: cover-shooting goes from an afterthought to taking center-stage, weapons go from unlimited ammo to fixed ammo, travel between systems go from automatic to manual-piloting and needing to watch one’s fuel, etc. The later two games add new elements like mineral management and researching new devices and weapons, meaning that one has to work towards acquiring new firearms rather than just simply purchasing them (though you could also do that at a steep price).
But honestly, I have to admire how Bioware decided to remaster the entire trilogy as is, warts and all. Playing this new, remastered version of Mass Effect brought back so many memories and feelings from a by-gone era, and the fact that people half my age can now experience this epic at the same age I originally did? That’s a very special feeling.