|RPG, Action, Shooter
|Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PC
|May 13th, 2021
The original Mass Effect dropped on November 20th, 2007 as an Xbox 360 exclusive. Almost 14 years later, the series has received ports on PS3 and PC, allowing its story to capture (and often break) the hearts of millions. Whether players saw their Shepard through to the disappointing ending of the trilogy or jumped on board with the second installment, there has never been a better time to enjoy this iconic sci-fi epic! Launched on May 13th, 2021, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition bundles the entire trilogy together in a package that seems fully prepared to take on the coming onslaught of next-gen releases, much like Command Shepard’s eternal crusade against the Reapers.
Language: There is cursing a-plenty throughout the trilogy, though some of it uses primarily fictional expletives (just wait until Tali gets ticked off). This is an M Rated series meant for adults but the foul language is used sparingly and only when it seems appropriate for the high stakes, high-stress situations Shepard and crew always seem to find themselves in.
Sexuality: Starting with the first game in the series, players are given the option to romance various squad-mates and are additionally able to view cut-scenes that feature various levels of undress. There was some controversy stirred when the first game launched back in 2007 as characters in these scenes are shown nude from the side and back leaving all but their naughty bits exposed. That being said, these scenes are entirely optional depending on the choices made by players. There are also bars throughout the series with exotic dancers, though no nudity is shown here. They are dressed in the equivalent of a one piece bathing suit.
Violence: As a Spectre, or Special Tactics and Reconnaissance, Shepard is able to go wherever and do whatever he/she pleases. This often leads to conflict with various aliens, bandits, terrorist cells, and the menacing wildlife of uncharted worlds. However, the first game rarely if ever shows blood and there is no gore to speak of. As the series progresses, Mass Effect 2 & 3 play much more like traditional shooters and feature a significant amount of gore and disturbing imagery (especially when players learn how the Collectors find new recruits). Players will happen upon charred and badly mauled corpses throughout the series but it’s not quite at the level you might encounter in, say, DOOM. The violence is more on the level of the Halo series.
Drug Use: Some characters are literal drug dealers that you must confront and stop, while others may struggle with substance abuse due to their biotic implants or other factors. Bars appear frequently and players can choose to have Shepard drink his/her fill.
Spirituality: Players will have many opportunities throughout all three games to engage squadmates and others in conversation about the creators of life within the Mass Effect universe. Some characters believe in Christianity, while others, like the Asari, believe in the Maker and will often exclaim “By the Goddess” when they see or hear something exciting or frightening. The jelly-like Hanar race worship the Enkindlers and the main antagonists of ME1, the Geth, view the Reapers as gods.
It’s finally here! Recently confirmed after months of teases and speculation, the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition (ME:LE) is the definitive way to experience the acclaimed trilogy. Including 40 pieces of DLC (with the exception of Pinnacle Station from ME1), players who never experienced Shepard’s incredible journey can jump in with no concerns over missing anything important. The aforementioned DLC was more of an arena type horde mode and not very impactful to the story so, while it’s a bummer that it wasn’t included, it does not have a mass effect (I’m so sorry!) on the overall story or ending of the trilogy. ME3‘s multiplayer was also not included as it was one of the first games to use micro-transactions and the development team weren’t sure how fans might react, nor were they certain how to best monetize it for today’s gaming ecosytem.
I can’t talk about ME: LE without immediately pointing out the elephant in the room. Yes, this game is a remaster. Nothing new story-wise has been added but everything that fans already love about the series (and a few things they didn’t) have been addressed and vastly improved here. For starters, there is now a photo mode included in the start menu which is really the only change to the UI across all 3 games. Load times have drastically reduced to the point that I never even saw the Auto-Save pop up during gameplay. What I initially thought were stutters and frame drops were actually just those moments from the original games where the action would pause temporarily to auto-save. As is to be expected for a new release, even a remaster, there are a few bugs but none that break the game, unlike what I experienced with Mass Effect: Andromeda.
The best new additions are the graphical enhancements. What Bioware managed to do here visually across the entire series is nothing short of amazing. These games look brand new, especially Mass Effect 1, which recieved the vast majority of changes. With the graphical improvements, all three games look on par with one another visually so it’s not a case of ME1 getting the most attention to where it ends looking better than the other games.
Several gameplay and quality of life improvements have been included as well. Again, most of these are specifically for Mass Effect 1 which felt the most like an RPG. While the inventory system, which was often tedious to organize and manage, has not been changed, guns feel more impactful and less clunky to use in combat, and assault rifles no longer feel as useless as they did in the original game. A bigger crosshair and less recoil, which can be further reduced with acquired weapon mods, really help make assault rifles a much more viable option in combat this time around. Since this encourages more frequent weapon switching and experimenting with different loadouts, it makes for a vast improvement over the original.
Another change is that the much-maligned elevator section loading screens can now be skipped entirely. However, I don’t recommend this for ME1 as they don’t take very long and players will miss out on some squad banter, information about side quests, and updates on previously completed quests by skipping these segments. In what has become an internet meme itself, the Mako Tank returns, and players have the option of keeping the original controls or opting for the new and improved control scheme which makes handling the Mako much less of a headache.
Other changes include an entirely new and more streamlined leveling system that caps at level 30 as opposed to the original level cap of 60. This can be less confusing for newer players who may not be used to pouring tons of skill points into each member of their squad as this makes it much simpler and more refined with far less to keep track of with each level up. This feature is also entirely optional though and players will be asked which leveling option they prefer upon creating their Shepard.
While character creation (and carrying that character across the entire trilogy) was always a unique staple of the series, it has also been improved and refined here. With a much wider range of customization options, all three games now use the same character creation system. That being said the one for ME1 remains the most robust as it also has you choose Shepard’s background, which can unlock exclusive side quests only available to that particular background. Mass Effect has always been an incredibly replayable series as players often find something new in every playthrough, even when using the same character but making slightly different decisions. This only further enhances the wonder and enjoyment of coming across a new character or sidequest that may have been missed on a previous playthrough.
While the one change most fans have likely been clamoring for was not included (nothing has been done about the horrid endings to the series), ME: LE does so much to modernize the series outside of just the visuals that even the most diehard fans will start to forget that the first game came out 14 years ago while ME3 graced our consoles only 9 years ago. Playing this remastered trilogy is like coming home for Thanksgiving to your loved ones after being gone for years. Seeing old friends (who doesn’t love Garrus?) and experiencing the series like it was the first time I had ever played these games was mind blowing to me. With a new Mass Effect on the horizon featuring the return of fan favorite Asari, Liara, it would appear that Bioware isn’t quite done with Command Shepard or the crew of the Normandy.
I highly recommend this series to fans of sci-fi, especially Star Wars fans, as Mass Effect includes much of the same things fans love about Star Wars. A lovable and instantly recognizable cast of misfits, bounty hunters, and outcasts coming together to defeat the biggest threat the galaxy has ever known with quirky aliens, futuristic weapons and tech, and plenty of laughs and tears along the way. If you missed the trilogy the first time around, pick up the Legendary Edition. It’s a game that actually works at launch, demands no additional money from you after the initial purchase and you’ll easily get hundreds and hundreds of hours of gameplay out of the series.
The Bottom Line
This is hands down the best way to experience one of the most iconic RPG series in the industry, one filled with loveable characters and an epic war against an intergalactic threat.