Mass Effect Legendary Edition might not be the expansive remake that some fans were hoping for. The game’s pre-release screenshots and comparison trailers were heavily scrutinized by many, with some either failing to see a meaningful upgrade or angry that the original look of the game had somehow been compromised.
I was admittedly one of those detractors. I thought that the mottled skin textures, lifeless eyes and stiff animations would turn what was once an utterly compelling experience into a sorry state of affairs.
Thankfully, I was wrong.
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Mass Effect Legendary Edition is a respectful and considered upgrade of BioWare’s landmark trilogy. The game is now presented in pristine 4K resolution and runs at a silky-smooth 60fps on the new consoles (Xbox Series X owners can also opt for 1440p at 120fps). HDR provides an extra layer of visual flourish to a series that almost seems as though it was designed with high dynamic range in mind. The sci-fi setting, holographic interfaces and flickering lights of the Normandy’s many command consoles all benefit greatly.
Characters have been touched up significantly, too, with new textures, shaders and lighting all serving to make the interactions you have with the various alien species that inhabit the universe just as riveting as you remember. They’re a little rough around the edges, as you might expect, with some dull textures and rather angular outlines. But they hold up better than expected and don’t detract from the games’ ability to draw you in.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition also improves the games’ audio dramatically, and it’s honestly one of the most pleasing changes. Conversations sound crystal clear, weapons now pack a noticeable punch when fired, and the games’ evocative orchestral soundtrack is just as awe-inspiring as it ever was. It’s a joy to behold.
While these changes can be found in all three titles, it’s 2007’s original Mass Effect that benefits the most from additional enhancements. Remember the lengthy elevator rides that were used to mask load times? All but gone. The laughable handling of the game’s planetary exploration vehicle, the Mako? Drastically improved. And who can forget the game’s clunky combat? Well, that’s been significantly tweaked too. Again, none of these elements have been reworked from the ground up – you can still listen to the entire elevator conversations if you like – but it means the game feels noticeably better to play, yet instantly familiar.
That’s not all, though. There’s a new photo mode – a staple of most modern games – and the option to play as Mass Effect 3’s iconic female Shepard pre-set in all three titles, in addition to over 40 pieces of DLC included. If you thought Mass Effect Legendary Edition was just a fresh lick of paint, then, you’d be mistaken.
Where do we go from here?
As wonderful as it is to step foot on the Normandy again, mine planets for precious resources and marvel at Wrex’s gorgeous Krogan face in super-sharp 4K, it also serves as a bittersweet reminder of what BioWare were once capable of. And it’s something that’s hard to ignore.
Anthem and Mass Effect: Andromeda, to put it lightly, sullied the acclaimed studio’s reputation, with many wondering if BioWare will ever be able to reach the heady heights of the past. Dragon Age 4 is the studio’s next roll of the dice; however, it’s hard to predict whether it will be a triumphant return or another stain on the developers' once illustrious name.
Nevertheless, we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds. Right now, it’s fantastic that players who may have missed out on the Mass Effect series can finally embark on their own planet-hopping adventure. And I can’t help but feel slightly envious of those who get to experience one of the finest stories ever penned in video game history for the very first time.
There’s countless hours of entertainment to enjoy here, too, and even though we all have our personal favorite, all three Mass Effect games are genuinely worthy of your time. Mass Effect Legendary Edition ensures that the games look good enough to meet today’s standards, but crucially, it keeps the series’ soul intact.
It may have been 17 years since Mass Effect released, but this comprehensive collection means there’s never been a better time to go back, or set out on a truly unforgettable journey.