Mass Effect 2: Legendary Edition (PC) Review

“Choices matter.” This is a big selling point in modern narratives for video games, as the likes of Telltale and DONTNOD had us questioning our decisions in games such as The Walking Dead and Life is Strange. But what if the choices you made decide if several characters you’ve come to care about live or die? What if, during the experience, you begin to feel the weight of what you’ve done in a past game, too?

Mass Effect 2 does just this, following up the sci-fi epic that preceded it with the chance to import your save file helming quite a few big decisions made in the first title. With this and the ever-looming “suicide mission” impending at the end of the game, it’s widely-regarded as the best entry in the franchise thanks to its new combat style, the depth in choices, a bevy of new likeable squadmates, and a serious sense of polish. So, how does the Legendary Edition fare, after following up the essential first game?

Mass Effect Legendary Edition PC PS4 Xbox Jack
Jack packs a punch, and is one of many squadmates to meet across the galaxy.

Plot

Mass Effect 2 takes a narrative turn from Mass Effect 1 – Shepard gets taken down in the intro of the game and is presumed dead by all. That is, until Cerberus, mentioned as a pro-human antagonist in a fleeting side mission in 1, revives the Commander after 2 years of preparation. It is then made apparent that The Collectors, a cell of the Reapers, serve as the immediate threat to the galaxy. To combat them, Shepard must recruit several of the galaxy’s best fighters, minds, and allies for a head-on fight with a devastating enemy. It’s frequently dubbed as a “suicide mission”, and it will be unless you meet certain criteria throughout the game.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition PC PS4 Xbox Collectors
The Collectors are here to add Shepard to their lovely collection.

The meat of Mass Effect 2‘s story is spent preparing for the Omega-4 Relay jump. To do so, Shepard travels to several reaches to recruit everyone from familiar faces in Garrus/Tali to charming newcomers like Mordin and Grunt. I found it annoying how everyone you come in contact with dreads you working for Cerberus, but it reinforces how dubious the organization is as a foreshadowing for the third game. After some time on the ship, each ally will request your help in a personal matter they’d like taken care of before the suicide mission. Successful completion of these loyalty missions betters their chance for survival in the endgame, and gives them worthy character-building within some fun adventures. It’s possible for everyone to survive the suicide mission – and also possible for everyone to die. In my initial playthrough as a teen, I sped through the game and felt awful seeing them perish. I ensured my later playthrough had everyone coming home safe and sound – even Jacob.

Gameplay

The weak point of Mass Effect 1 is the combat – it’s barely functional as a cover shooter with baseline biotic powers and no more than a handful of different weapons. This got an overhaul for the second game, feeling more fleshed-out thanks to refined powers and a solid selection of guns. I have the most fun as a Vanguard, a high-risk/high-reward class with the powers Biotic Charge and Shockwave. The charge lets Shepard fly across the battlefield straight into an enemy, refilling their barrier and knocking enemies back at higher levels; the caveat to this class is only having access to SMGs and shotguns, leaving long-range combat out of the question. If you’re more catered to weapons, then Soldier is for you, letting you use any weapon in the game and punishing enemies with Adrenaline Burst. There’s options for any playstyle you’d prefer.

I enjoy a good cover shooter, but I felt that Mass Effect 2 only just found its footing before reaching a considerable peak in 3. 2 lags behind the third entry due to restricting weapon types per class, having less of a punch to each ability, and forcing you into cover for more than 50% of the duration of your encounters. There was more than one occasion where I was a few feet away from an enemy, saw their marker enabling me to charge, but the charge not going off. This frustration was compounded by Shepard shouting the same two lines whenever charge wouldn’t go off: “Can’t target them!” and “I can’t reach them!” reside in my brain to this point. Nevertheless, comparing 2 to 1, combat is a step in the right direction – enemies are formidable, allies are useful, and it’s a pretty good time.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition PC PS4 Xbox Galaxy Citadel
There’s so much to do in Mass Effect 2 – whether it be planet scanning, revisiting the Citadel, or surprise-meeting up with ME1 characters.

Outside of fighting across the galaxy, exploring and interacting is still a shining feat in Mass Effect 2. Scanning planets for materials is an engaging, satisfying use of time between missions. Paragon and Renegade choices now coincide with quick-time events during conversations that bring about compelling dialog and actions from Shepard at key moments. It’s great checking up on squadmates on the Normandy and figuring out who to romance, with three great (canon) options. There’s a strong amount of extra missions before the Collector fight, too.

Visuals

Much like Mass Effect 1, the visual upgrade is nominal and passable – shadow usage and varying environments make this better eye candy than the first title, but again, it’s only a real game-changer if you’re making the jump to 4K. Cutscenes getting an overhaul is welcome – you’ll see the mass effects being used plenty in your journey across the galaxy, so its animation had better look that good. I did notice a bug left in from the original version of 2 – when running across the Normandy after focusing on something, Shepard’s head would lock into place looking at the ground, creating a disturbing visual that still hasn’t been patched after all this time. Regardless, the game looks plenty fine, and it’s not a point of contention.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition PC PS4 Xbox Visuals Miranda
Once again, character models are prettier than before – that’s what Miranda was intended for!

Audio

Some of the soundtrack from Mass Effect 1 gets re-used in 2 – because it’s so downright perfect. Enter Shep’s cabin and your radio can blast the “Virmire Ride” theme among other tracks. Jack Wall returns to compose the score for 2, and delivers yet another powerful performance. “The Illusive Man” track that accompanies the closure of each mission rewards the player’s efforts in triumphant mystique. “The Lazarus Project” is an inquisitive piece that plays alongside Shepard being brought back to the land of the living. “Suicide Mission” serves as a guiding force in an impossible task, designed to uplift the player to take on the Collector base. It’s another score worthy of praise, comprehensive and a thrill at every turn.

In firefights, guns don’t all sound the same like they did in 1. One-shot sniper rifles carry with them a thunderous crack, whereas rapid-fire SMGs are a flurry of shell casings that hit the floor. Everything cuts out during a devastating Biotic Charge, where a Shockwave sends bass-laden ripples underground. Voice acting gets an upgrade, too – with more characters comes more personalities, and now more than one or two actors are used for each alien race.

The best of the three?

Mass Effect 2 regularly gets regarded as the best part of the franchise – and as much as I love it, I wouldn’t echo this sentiment. I found that BioWare branched out far in this game, and made plenty of quality-of-life improvements over the first game. However, the experimentation didn’t always pan out. Mass Effect 2 adheres to a formula – get a squadmate, let them sit on the ship a while, get their loyalty mission, do it, and either romance them or let them chill until they’re needed at the end. You’ll undoubtedly pick favorites – Grunt is invaluable in combat due to his tankiness, and others have great banter due to colorful personalities that will appeal to players differently. So members like Jacob, Samara, and the DLC characters Zaeed/Kasumi were unnecessary for a long extent. The formulaic nature also applies to combat level design – enter an area with cover, enemies will spawn in seconds, dispatch them, rinse/repeat. If the weapons/abilities weren’t so fun, this would get stale quickly, but at least there’s ample variety between enemy types. As soon as the combat came in 3, I saw immediate improvements – but that’s for next time. No matter which game is best, 2 is addictive, rewarding, and still a blast in the Legendary Edition form.

So, why should you play it?

  • Vast improvements over Mass Effect 1, so good that some skip the first game entirely
  • Side missions and activities are just as, if not more, fun than the required questline
  • Huge replayability thanks to Paragon/Renegade routes and differing combat playstyles

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Some glitches still remain from the original release, but nothing game-breaking
  • Time-consuming: not rewarding for gamers that don’t see merit in completion

Mass Effect 1: Legendary Edition (PC) Review

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.

TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight Review – PC

nocras is a name in the gaming industry you may not know, but one that deserves to be known. This individual is an environmental artist that has worked on the likes of Final Fantasy XIV, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and much more. Notable for grand-scale creations, nocras is an artist that 47k Twitter users follow closely, across language barriers and more.

nocras’ latest venture is TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight. One look at screenshots and one may be in awe at the vibrant, elaborate environments broadcast straight from nocras’ vision. Thankfully, there’s more to it than just that, as TASOMACHI serves as a platformer/collectathon in the vein of Super Mario Odyssey and the like.

I could have screenshot any moment of the game and it would prove to be a looker.

GAMEPLAY/PLOT

TASOMACHI tasks the player with navigating towns and collecting Sources of Earth to repair their airship. These are hidden in bushes, the ground, and in other hard-to-reach places, demanding the player to platform their way across town. Along the way, they will encounter shrines in the towns with four platforming challenges each. Once completed, the towns’ mysterious fog disappears and the cat-like villagers return.

VISUALS

Some of the gorgeous environments you’ll explore, scattered with Chinese-style architecture.

Likely the most significant aspect of why TASOMACHI is moving copies is thanks to the mind of nocras. Together with developer Orbital Express, the atmosphere, inspired by a Chinese imperial aesthetic, is eye candy. It feels worthwhile to complete the shrines and make the towns look abuzz with no obfuscation from the fog, a true night-and-day difference. While architecture gets a bit redundant, the color scheme between towns sets them apart enough thanks to varying level design.

AUDIO

Another big draw that I didn’t realize until I took a gander at the Steam page was that Ujico/Snail’s House provided the music for the game. This musical artist is near and dear to me, as they provided the backdrop for some hilarious TF2 SFM videos, and can stretch from quirky bops to scenic jams across their discography. They delivered a standup job in TASOMACHI, providing ambient grace in exploration sections and upbeat tracks during platform dungeons.

CASUAL

Those looking for a relaxed time, look no further. There’s no combat in TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight, and you’ll only lose a few seconds if you fall during a platform challenge. This laid-back pace will make it welcoming for casual players seeking pretty sights and sounds.

Towns are shrouded in fog until you clear platforming challenges within shrines.

CONS

Unfortunately, there are still some pain points within this game. The movement is fairly tight, a necessity for platformers, but requires some getting used to since it’s so floaty. One ability you unlock, “boost”, feels miniscule and nothing like a dash you may see in games within the genre. Text and animation feels similar to some that I’ve seen in early-access/shovelware titles, but not jarring enough to be more than a nitpick. Worse off, I encountered a crash every time I attempted to load the third town. This occurred within a mere 2 hours of gameplay and near to game completion, so it truly hampered the mood. Here’s hoping this gets patched soon.

CONCLUSION

Nevertheless, there’s potential to be had with TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight. It’s undoubtedly gorgeous, an aural pleasure, and a strong first solo effort for nocras. Perhaps the $20 price tag is a bit steep for the state the game’s in, as it currently sits with a “mixed” rating on Steam, but with updates, this could become something great.

So, why should you play it?

  • Relaxed, casual game to experience at your own pace.
  • Bangin’ soundtrack from Ujico/Snail House.
  • Unreal environments.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Game-breaking bug in my build.
  • Some platform challenges are a bit too tough, and need to be skipped.
One of several moments I had to stop and stare. And screenshot.

A PC code was provided for the purpose of this review.