Mass Effect fans have had their patience tested for nearly a decade now. The initial endings of the third entry left a lot of fans dissatisfied, and Mass Effect: Andromeda was polarizing at best to players and critics alike. Across the years, BioWare social media comments sections always seemed to have one comment in every thread: “Remaster the original trilogy!”

That time has finally come, as this collection, dubbed the Legendary Edition, incorporates all of the DLC of the entire trilogy, with upscaled visuals and quality-of-life improvements to shake off the age of the sci-fi series’ initial run. I’ll be reviewing this trilogy in three parts, as each entry warrants its own focus. With that being said, how does the game that started it all fare with a new coat of paint?

Mass Effect Legendary Edition
There’s lots to do before taking on your first Reaper.

Plot

Mass Effect‘s on-the-nose commentary of xenophobia/racism has aged like fine wine – whether you choose to be a virtuous Paragon or delve down the road of Renegade, Shepard tackles conversations with poise and certainty that makes him a master negotiator in every situation. You’ll need it to take on a galactic council, tense hostage situations, and even avoiding a final conflict is possible with the right dialogue dedication. Mass Effect was a pioneer in “choices matter” carrying consequences so severe they carry onto other games, which is as simple as starting Mass Effect 2 from the launcher.

Gameplay

While the second/third Mass Effect entries draw direct comparisons to the Gears of War series due to the tried-and-true formula of “sit in cover, shoot for a few seconds, rinse and repeat”, Mass Effect 1 has less of an emphasis on cover and more on acclimating to powers/weapons necessary for the situation. The guns may be less pronounced and the powers more basic, but the visceral nature of fights and battlefields are switched up a bit more than 2 and 3. When you’re not fighting geth/baddies, you’ll navigate the Citadel, the Galaxy Map, and conversate with crewmates. A big QoL change here is a more pronounced sprint outside of battle and a meter to better gauge it. The Mako also boasts new controls, so it only flies all over the place a fraction of the time it used to.

Visuals

Back in the day, Mass Effect was a pretty sight to see, but a modernization was necessary for the remaster as this title is sitting at 14 years old at this point. I played in 1080p back then and I’m restricted to that resolution now, so it wasn’t a drastic change on my screens. 4K players will get a nice surprise, though. Better yet, the game runs at a buttery-smooth 144fps at all times except theatrical cutscenes. Those got the remaster treatment as well, and are truly gorgeous.

Character models get a nice touch-up, but don’t expect next-gen visuals.

Audio

My personal highlight of the game is the bangin’ soundtrack from the likes of Jack Wall, Richard Jacques, Sam Hulick, and others. Whether it’s the enchanting Galaxy Map backdrop, the daunting Critical Mission Failure theme that greets your deaths, or the inquisitive Presidium jingle, you’ll want to keep the music tab cranked at all times. In addition, the weapons no longer all sound the same – unique gunfire was recorded across each gun type and model, adding an adequate differential for different combat situations.

The Biggest Improvements

Sometimes remasters are just reskins, and problems aren’t solved after several years of lying dormant. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition solves some of the biggest complaints that plagued the otherwise near-perfect initial entry. Countless memes have spawned from the long wait times spent on elevators – these now only last as long as the conversations within the lifts do, and have been shortened to mere seconds when no one talks. The Mako controls are considerably better, but the terrain traversal issues stem from the mountainous obstacles that are still a pain to get across. Enemies no longer only say “I WILL DESTROY YOU!” and Shepard has more lines than “I’VE LOST SHIELDS!”.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition Mako
The Mako: less jank than before, but you still have to deal with mountains.

Nostalgia Goggles Off: The Cons

As nice as the improvements to Mass Effect are in Legendary Edition, it still isn’t the perfect sci-fi game. Combat was restrictive compared to the series’ later games, which found its footing as a cover shooter better thanks to tons more options as to how encounters played out. I spent numerous minutes of game time sifting through inventory deciding what was best and what to scrap – a comparison system would have saved tons of time. Fighting Thresher Maws in a Mako were a time-sink with little reward. Romance felt like an easy decision, and I would have felt challenged to choose between Liara and Tali if the latter had an option in 1. Nitpicks aside, the game is fully-functional and a good time after all these years.

Conclusion

We got what we wanted, and what we deserved, with Mass Effect: Legendary Edition. It’s a familiar experience, but fixes the few things that needed attention. The only reason this review didn’t come out sooner was because I picked up Mass Effect 2 after the rush of this game and haven’t been able to put it down. This serves as a great entry point as much as it is a stroll down my youthful nostalgia of exploring this game back in the day.

So, why should you play it?

  • Excellent dialogue where tough choices really do matter.
  • Soundtrack for the ages, guaranteed to get stuck in your head.
  • Varied combat that keeps you on your toes.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Not a huge visual overhaul over the original product.
  • Too dialogue-heavy for those looking for nothing but action.

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