Mass Effect Legendary Edition Review

Screenshot of Commander Shepard giving a speech to crewmates in Mass Effect Legendary Edition
There are lots of graphical improvements for the original Mass Effect

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Bioware
  • Publisher: EA
  • Release Date: 14 May 2021
  • Time played: 108 hours

What is it

Bioware is a company renowned for the development of critically acclaimed RPGs back in its heyday. During the late 90s and early 2000s, it developed games based off "Dungeons & Dragons" such as Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. It wasn't until 2003, with the release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, that Bioware tried their hand at an RPG that wasn't based on "Dungeons & Dragons" lore (although under the hood, it did employ the D20 RPG system). The game would pave the way for Bioware RPGs developed using their own IPs in the mid-late 2000s including 2005's martial arts RPG influenced by Chinese mythology called Jade Empire and 2009's dark fantasy RPG Dragon Age: Origins. But before Dragon Age: Origins, Bioware decided to release a sci-fi action RPG called Mass Effect which was released on Xbox 360 in 2007 but eventually found its way to PC in 2008.

The game was a critical and commercial success and resulted in the development of sequels (Mass Effect 2 in 2010 and Mass Effect 3 in 2012) that are often considered the best games of all time. Bioware released a spin-off title called Mass Effect: Andromeda in 2017 but never revisited the original trilogy for many years, until this one.

Amidst much hype, Bioware released Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, a collection of the original Shepard trilogy of Mass Effect games but all remastered (with the original receiving the lion's share of updates). The Legendary Edition also includes all DLC (except the Pinnacle Station DLC for the original Mass Effect) and has a new Photo Mode that allows you to take snazzy screenshots from different angles and using a variety of filters.

In terms of critical reception on PC, the game has a Metascore of 86 indicating "generally favourable reviews" and it's a similar story on Steam where the game has a "Very Positive" rating based on 93% of the 21,745 Steam user reviews being positive.

Critics praised the Legendary Edition for being faithful to the original games yet implementing necessary improvements. They felt the three games were now a single cohesive experience and that now everyone could experience the best sci-fi RPG in recent years with its epic story, well-written characters, vibrant visuals and streamlined controls. Criticisms were made with respect to the gameplay though and some critics thought the gameplay hasn't aged well. Some critics thought the improvements didn't go far enough and there were still a lot of bugs in the games.

How I got it

The Mass Effect franchise is one of my favourite video game franchises of all time. It hits the sweet spot between my love for games with strong narratives (such as adventure games and RPGs) and science-fiction. Best of all, you can take your character with you through the trilogy similar to what you can do in the Quest for Glory series (a series that is also responsible for my love of Mass Effect). So after receiving some credit for Christmas from my generous mother-in-law and her partner, I decided to use it towards pre-purchasing a copy of the Legendary Edition off Steam in March.

Screenshot of the crew on an alien world while using Photo Mode in Mass Effect Legendary Edition
Photo Mode is a welcome addition and allows for you to take some pretty snazzy pics

What I like:

Loyalty Quests in Mass Effect 2

This isn't exactly a new feature in the Legendary Edition, but it's possibly a reason why the second Mass Effect holds up so well even to this day. In Mass Effect 2, you're given the opportunity to gain the trust of your squad by performing what are called "loyalty quests". This usually involves helping them get closure on some aspect of their back story which is an excellent way for you to learn more about them and gain insight on how each of your party members tick. This in turn helps you decide who to pick for certain roles in the final mission as you'll know all their strengths and weaknesses.

Dismantling typical RPG tropes in Mass Effect 2

While some RPG veterans probably baulk at this inclusion to Mass Effect 2, I actually kind of like it: a typical trope in RPGs is the ability to leave the main quest alone for as long as you want as you go around completing side quests as if letting the Big Bad to continue its terrorising of the galaxy will result in no adverse outcomes for you. At one point in Mass Effect 2 however, waiting too long to continue on with the main quest can have quite dire consequences which actually creates a bit of a dilemma: do you go in half-prepared or do you play it cautiously, potentially causing more casualties in the process?

Having different followers matter

Like other Bioware RPGs, having different followers in your party during certain missions means they will chime in about different things, such as Liara having an opinion about anything involving her mother, Matriarch Benezia or Asari culture, or Garrus talking about the meaning of justice or C-Sec. Sometimes your followers will even have side conversations with characters you meet as they're already acquainted with each other. One of my favourite instances of this occurs in Mass Effect 3 when Garrus, Liara and Wrex stage what is almost like a Mass Effect 1 reunion, but it will only happen if you bring Garrus and Liara along with you.

Genesis comic

This is the first time I've experienced the Genesis comic which is an interactive comic that boots up before Mass Effect 2 starts. This allows you to pick which events occurred in the original Mass Effect and I suspect it's mainly for the benefit of those that never completed the original. It's a creative way of tailoring the setup of your Mass Effect 2 game.

Graphical improvements in the first Mass Effect

I'm liking the graphical improvements in the Legendary Edition and they're definitely most noticeable in the first Mass Effect which came out on PC in 2008: the high-res textures are a welcome addition as well as the removal of the film grain effect.

Reduced volume for Mass Relay cinematics in Mass Effect 1

Yes, these cinematics used to be really loud. It's kind of surprising they only decided to patch these now which is also why I find it one of the most amusing updates made to this game.

Almost all DLC included

I never really got to experience much of the DLC in Mass Effect 2 or Mass Effect 3 so it was the first time I was ever acquainted with Kasumi Goto and her heist loyalty mission as well as Project Overlord which reminds me of the plot from a 1992 sci-fi horror film called "The Lawnmower Man". I also experienced The Arrival DLC for the first time which is actually quite important in terms of the plot since it explains why Commander Shepard was facing a court martial in Mass Effect 3 (besides the fact he was working for Cerberus).

The DLC packs I experienced in Mass Effect 3 for the first time (i.e. Leviathan, Omega and Citadel) are quite memorable since each of them offer a unique experience and several hours worth of content each. You'll end up doing a whole bunch of funky things like exploring the bottom of the ocean in a mech or recapturing Omega with Aria T'Loak (and even meeting the cousin of a character in Mass Effect: Andromeda called Nyreen Kandros). The Citadel DLC is by far the best of the bunch though, and is definitely one for the true fans of Mass Effect. The DLC consists of huge fanservice as you experience a buddy cop style adventure with almost all your old squadmates. There are many laugh-out-loud moments such as Shepard becoming self-conscious of his trademark "I should go…" farewell or when Wrex and Grunt start a dialogue with Shepard by only uttering their names (possibly a reference to how Shepard normally ends conversations with his Krogan squadmates). And if the humorous moments weren't enough, you're also able to pick up a Lancer assault rifle which doesn't rely on thermal clips, similar to how the rifles used to work in the original Mass Effect!

Enjoyable combat in Mass Effect 3

Combat in Mass Effect 3 is the best out of the three games and it's probably because it feels closer to an action game than an RPG. You're able to add attachments to your guns and each gun is a unique weapon with different stats (a bit like the Battlefield games). Also, the stats for the gun aren't hidden like they are in Mass Effect 2.

Photo Mode

One of the biggest new additions to the series is the inclusion of Photo Mode which you can use across the entire trilogy. You can get really creative with the screenshots now and I think it's a great addition to the game, especially for veterans of the series.

Quicker, skippable elevator rides

Elevator rides in the Citadel are also much quicker now and even skippable if you choose to do so (I kind of like it when your followers learn more about each other though).

Unified look in character creator

The character creator now has a unified look across all three games meaning your Commander Shepard will for the first time ever look the same across the entire trilogy!

HUD revamp in the first Mass Effect

While on the topic of a unified look, the HUD in the first Mass Effect has also been revamped to look more similar to how it does in Mass Effect 3.

Always discovering new things

This is a testament to the replay value of this game but despite having played the original trilogy multiple times, I'm still stumbling across dialogue I've never encountered before. It was a pleasant surprise.

Steam Achievements and Trading Cards

With the Steam version of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, in-game achievements are now integrated with Steam Achievements and there are 127 Steam Achievements you can earn. There are even Steam Trading Cards to collect: 6 in total!

Screenshot of inventory management in Mass Effect 1 Legendary Edition
Ah it wouldn't be Mass Effect 1 with ridiculous inventory management

What I dislike:

Framerate drops

Something that I never experienced when originally playing the Mass Effect games were framerate drops and these seem particularly prevalent when driving the Mako around in the first Mass Effect. This seems to occur with a lot of players and despite tweaking the display settings to improve performance (e.g. disabling V-Sync and lowering the refresh rate) there seems to be limited improvement.

Also, while playing Mass Effect 2 the game crashed to Desktop after I experienced bad framerate drops. Thankfully, I only encountered one crash to Desktop while playing the entirety of the Legendary Edition.

Occasional Audio glitches

I encountered audio glitches in all three games and it usually involved speech samples cutting out when they shouldn't. I did however also experience some issues with really loud audio: one particularly annoying instance was while playing Kasumi's loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2. When entering the rocket transport room: the volume was set to such a deafening level that I'm surprised I'm still able to hear (although I'm sure my wife would disagree on that point)! Also, despite the developers patching the really loud Mass Relay sounds in the original Mass Effect they didn't seem to apply the same patch to all games.

Counter-intuitive Mako controls

This is a minor complaint since you can control the Mako using the original control scheme if you wish but the default mode in the Legendary Edition is terrible. I understand they're probably trying to make the game easier for those that haven't had much experience driving tanks in other games (e.g. such as Battlefield V) but causing the Mako to automatically move in the direction you point your turret seems counter-intuitive to me. It also means you can't take advantage of the fact a tank can move in one direction while firing in another.

Easy to forget where you've visited in the original Mass Effect

This was always an issue in the original game but what would've been a helpful enhancement in the Legendary Edition is if the game could mark systems you've completely explored. The only way to know for sure in the original Mass Effect is to visit each planet and spaceship in a system and then land since without actually entering the mission, you won't know if you've completely explored a place or not (unless you have a good memory or a piece of paper handy).

Too many items in original Mass Effect

Again, this is an issue that always existed and despite many improvements made to the original Mass Effect in the Legendary Edition, inventory management is still a pain, mainly because there are so many damn things you can pick up (I much preferred the streamlined system they had in the sequels).

Scanning Planets in Mass Effect 2

I was never a big fan of the grind associated with scanning planets for resources in Mass Effect 2 and I still loathe it. I guess it's going to be forever a part of the game, remastered or not.

Poor follower pathing AI still exists in the original Mass Effect

And while we're on things that badly needed improving it seems the follower pathing AI is no better in the Legendary Edition. They still manage to get stuck behind things and you end up unintentionally leaving followers on the other side of the base.

Bugs and Crashes to Desktop

As I mentioned earlier, I did experience a Crash to Desktop while playing Mass Effect 2. I also experienced other annoying bugs, like my character automatically using medi-gel whenever I used the Marksman ability as an engineer. Firing my weapon immediately after activating the Marksman ability would result in it also triggering the use of medi-gel. This results in me wasting a lot of medi-gel when I don't need to.

The game is HUUUUUGE

There's not much that can be done here but just be warned that when you install the Legendary Edition, you have to install all three games at once meaning you need at least 100GB of free hard disk space.

Score – 9/10 (Highly Recommended)

Mass Effect Legendary Edition takes three classic and beloved sci-fi RPGs by Bioware and remasters them so that veterans and newcomers to the series alike can enjoy the awesomeness that is Commander Shepard. Many of the features that have made the series great remain intact, such as loyalty quests, different dialogue depending on who you have in your party as well as the many hours of quality DLC content (with the Citadel DLC sure to be a fan favourite). There are also lots of improvements made, especially graphical improvements to the original Mass Effect as well as quicker, skippable elevator cutscenes. There is also now a Photo Mode so you can accomplish your dream of applying filters to your Commander Shepard selfies.

However, despite the many improvements, there seems to be many issues introduced such as new bugs, crashes-to-Desktop, audio glitches and framerate drops - issues that I never encountered when playing the original games prior to the remaster. The remaster also didn't fix everything so there are still annoying aspects of gameplay such as the ability to carry around way too much junk in the original Mass Effect or grinding your way through the Planetary Scanner mini-game in Mass Effect 2.

Is the game worth $89.95 AUD?: Yes. Although the games are quite old, the remaster alleviates many issues and there is a lot of content here for the money you're paying: three games and almost all the DLC associated with them too (over a 100 hours of gameplay). It'll be hard to find a better sci-fi RPG experience. If you're not convinced, the game has gone on sale before for a decent discount and I'm sure it'll happen again.

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[ LINK: Mass Effect Legendary Edition Official Website ]