2007 was a wild one, wasn’t it? Avril Lavigne had the best-selling album globally, Spider-Man 3 killed the Raimi-verse, and video games had a phenomenal twelve months.
Between Halo 3, Fallout 3, and a little indie title called Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, there were debuts for Bioshock, Assassin’s Creed, and a Microsoft published sci-fi adventure called Mass Effect.
After fourteen years (and two sequels and that other one) that original Mass Effect title has finally been remastered as part of the Legendary Edition - and it might just be the new best way to enjoy one of the finest RPGs of the last twenty years.
Scrubbed Up Nicely
If you’re new to Mass Effect, then not only are you in for a treat but you’re also getting the best version of all three mainline games. Part of that is in the way the cleaned-up visuals highlight Bioware’s penchant for making locations that feel habitable - and not just in a sci-fi sense.
Take Mass Effect 1’s Citadel, for example. It’s actually a fairly rudimentary pair of hub layers conjoined by an elevator ride (more on those shortly), but the use of open-space and lighting make it feel much more vast than the Xbox 360 allowed back in 2007. The addition of fresh details and effects really bring it closer to passing as a modern-day release, although you’re still unlikely to forget you’re playing a game from two console generations ago just based on animations alone (see: Shepard’s weird sprint).
Alien faces also appear much more lifelike, and while character models have been given the once over, human characters struggle with lip-syncing. Switch over to Mass Effect 2 and 3, though, and there’s a definite improvement all round.
Everything looks cleaner and more detailed in the sequels, and players can essentially drag their version of Shepard right through all three adventures from within the same launcher.
Oh, and those elevator rides? Don’t get too comfy. While players can stay and listen to the various radio shows and announcements broadcast through them, you can usually expect to hop in and out of an elevator in seconds (at least on the Xbox Series X).
These Are My People
Still, updated visuals aside, many will no doubt be here for the story, either to experience it for the first time or reconnect with old friends in the ensemble cast.
Whether it’s Mass Effect 1’s intergalactic manhunt, the second game’s suicide mission, or the trilogy-closing all-out war, it’s just as you remember it - for better or worse.
While there will no doubt be a thousand op-eds about playing as a space cop with an itchy trigger finger, it’s the characters, not the action, that had me smiling fondly as I flew around the galaxy.
Whether it’s meeting Garrus for the first time, or the first firefight with Wrex by my side, there’s inimitable magic to the entire trilogy’s cadre of space misfits that I adore just as much now as I did when I met them the first time at 17.
While the third game’s ending certainly upset many, there’s some good news in that regard. While it still remains undoubtedly a controversial one, the blow is softened somewhat by the inclusion of the Citadel DLC which feels like a more fitting endcap.
Aside from meeting, greeting, and sleeping with alien species, most of Mass Effect’s missions come down to combat, and it’s here where the first game starts to show cracks.
A finicky auto-cover system aside, teammate AI, and that of enemies, feel a little on the broken side. It’s not uncommon to flank an enemy to find them staring at the floor, while the occasional ‘bullet sponge enemy will remind you that yes, this is an RPG first and foremost.
Oh and the Mako is still pretty rough to control, constantly feeling like it’s fighting the player one way or the other.
That’s not to say there haven’t been improvements, though. For one, combat controls are much more refined (no more pressing the ‘Back’ button to throw a grenade), but jumping into Mass Effect 2 or 3 sees a huge leap in the quality of the action. Still, if this is your first time, you may need to prepare yourself for a rough landing when it comes to your first few firefights.
A Galaxy Of Content
Aside from the Pinnacle Station DLC, all three games have their DLC included, and while multiplayer is absent from the Mass Effect 3 remaster, I can’t say I missed it personally.
Still, a trio of lengthy RPGs with a variety of play styles and a wealth of content is nothing to be sniffed at, with a good ninety hours of fun included across the trilogy at least.
Taking three of the best sci-fi RPGs of the last twenty years and putting them into one package with a variety of quality of life and visual upgrades nets out as you’d expect: the Mass Effect Legendary Edition is essential for Reaper War veterans and newcomers alike.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X (Xbox One version)
Review copy provided by the publisher