Bioware have had a pretty interesting last couple of years. Once a titan of single-player campaigns, they were turned into laughing stocks when they took to the live service genre, with the failed Anthem. Look back at the legacy of Bioware and you can easily see their pedigree. Perhaps in order to regain that trust and prepare for the next step, Bioware have remastered their beloved Mass Effect trilogy for modern consoles. For those who played these a hundred times before, you know the deal. For those who missed the series the first time around, is it the hype?
To make a very long story short, the story of Mass Effect concerns humanity finding its place in a galaxy where alien races have already established their dominance. Humanity is doing pretty great and almost cemented itself as one of the major alien races. You play as Commander Shepard on a covert mission, if successful not only will humanity gain even more galactic respect, you will be eligible for the Spectre initiative, being the equivalent of a galactic James Bond. Of course, things go horribly wrong and the presence of an ancient threat emerges. The galactic races refuse to believe the possibility of the existence of this ancient threat but task you with tracking down the rogue Spectre who caused the mission failure.
Watch the launch trailer below:
So that was a massive oversimplification of the first game and this is the tricky part, a summary of the entire trilogy! The first game sets up a simple cat and mouse plot, where you follow this rouge agent and uses that as a method of engaging you in its universe. The stakes get progressively higher, but the game does a good job of not over-blowing those moments and culminates in a naturally chaotic finale. The way the game brings you into its universe (and this is true for the entire trilogy) is mightily impressive and really does bring the fight to series such as Star Wars and Star Trek.
The second game is the edgier one, it deals with the aftermath of the first game, but switches to a darker and bleaker tone. It has the advantage of knowing that almost everyone has played the previous game, so it can have fun by getting into the nitty-gritty and the game shines with its emotional highlights and ends in one of the greatest final missions in gaming. The third game deals with the consequence of the first two games and brings with it a chaotic war. This is where the game is ready to say goodbye to this universe. That confidence leads to some incredible character moments throughout and the sense of urgency is palpable. The ending is somewhat of a stumble and while efforts have been made to improve it, the landing doesn’t quite stick. The journey, however, is simply one of gamings best.
Mass Effect is an action RPG and separates itself into three categories, combat, exploration and dialogue. As far as combat goes, the first game definitely struggles the most. Gunplay in the original just didn’t feel good, efforts have been made to improve this for the remaster and they work well enough. The squad-based power system works effectively, it’s simple but it works. On top of that, there are all sorts of weapons and loot to collect and yeah, the first game is passable in the combat department. The second and third game see quite heavy improvements and feel in line with the cover shooters of that era. If the first game is a little clunky for you, don’t worry, as they get progressively better.
Exploration in the first game sees you flying over a small map and selecting planets to visit. Some of these planets can be explored, although they are small, repetitive and barren. There is usually a single base or building to interact with on each planet, it’s basic and might be a little tame for some. You explore these planets with the clunkiest vehicle you’ll ever pilot and that’s with the updates for the remaster, in the original version it was horrifically frustrating. Outside of these tiny maps, there are the major planets. These are still very small but offer up a lot more interactivity and serve as hubs. This is where the game really shines, as these hubs always have something new going on. The second and third game trim down the fat from the first game, instead of having you drive around copy and pasted worlds, they put you right in the action.
Dialogue is the most important part of Mass Effect, if you don’t like long conversations, this series is not for you. Speaking with major and minor characters offer up plenty of ways to shape your character and the overall story. The level of depth to these talks is pretty insane and completely grounds you into the universe. The game has a morality system and you choose how your Shepard reacts to situations and the impact your decisions have across all three games is pretty staggering. However, and this will be somewhat of a tip for you, you are locked into either the good or bad options once you start making decisions. You can say whatever you want to anyone but the games punish you for this, you either have to pick all the good options or all the bad options otherwise the story will screw you over and not in a fun way.
We’ll talk specifically about the remaster when it comes to the technical aspects. While the original games looked great, there is a nice improvement here. The first game sees the most attention, this is above and beyond a simple resolution bump. The second and third game looks better than the PC originals but not massively so. On PS5, 4K60 is pretty much locked in, with no noticeable dips and the infamous loading issues are completely gone. The developers were stuck with the Unreal 3 Engine and while updating to UE4 would have been fantastic, these remasters are very good as a package. Voice-work and music are untouched and the voice-work is top-notch, but the musical score for the entire trilogy is just heavenly. Unfortunately, the trilogy does have a fair few bugs and these mostly hit the first game the hardest, nothing game-breaking but they’re noticeable.
Trying to sum up three huge games at once is a tough task, so let’s end on this. If you’re a fan, this package is essential, even if you own the PC originals, the improvements are more than worth the purchase. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to try this, I’d highly recommend it, it’s one of the best experiences in gaming history and comes packed with a stupid amount of DLC. Just know the caveat that there is a hell of a lot of dialogue, which may turn some off.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition was reviewed using a digital code purchased by the reviewer.
Publisher: EA Games Developer: BioWare Release Date: 14th May 2021 Reviewed On: PS5
Also available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC