Mass Effect Legendary Edition Review
As promised from our review in-progress article, our Mass Effect Legendary Edition review is now ready! Going through all three games certainly brings about the same nostalgia and excitement we enjoyed when we first experienced the series, though I would honestly say personally, my nostalgia has been tickled. I wish my excitement for the series when it first dropped back years ago could’ve been exactly replicated, but I appreciate BioWare’s gesture nonetheless.
If there’s a year that perfectly invites a revisit to the bridge of Normandy, traversing the known galaxy with our Mass Effect relays, 2021 is definitely that year. While a part of me didn’t look forward to repeating an experience I’ve already gone through multiple times, writing the Mass Effect Legendary Edition review is the break I was looking for after several game reviews.
Is it mainly nostalgia that motivated me during this experience? I can honestly say that after getting my “space legs” back after hours of fully acclimatizing onboard the different iterations of the Normandy spanning the legendary Commander John or Jane Shepard’s exploits, I’d have to say that there’s always something new to discover traversing this world.
This Mass Effect Legendary Edition review tackles all that and more as I embark on a historical trip, playing the trilogy the way it’s meant to be played, preserved perfectly for the time periods it released on.
Mass Effect Remastered — A perfectly preserved artifact of its time
The funny thing with Mass Effect Remastered, if you take away the graphical uplift as well as the performance modes, you’re left with 2007’s Mass Effect. While that may be good news or bad news depending on where you stand, one thing is for sure, that Mass Effect Remastered really preserved the original game in almost its original state. That would mean very dated mechanics and some quality of life benefits from future games are missing, and you’re basically playing the game in its original state with a few tweaks.
We’ve covered quite a bit of those quirks on the previous review in progress, but on this Mass Effect Legendary Edition review, we’ll go into detail with certain aspects of the mechanics as we delved deeper into the game. One thing that will be a bit jarring for some is the time it would take to get used to the old school controls. I feel that most players will be broken in around an hour into the game, especially when you start to stretch your space legs on the Citadel and do some missions.
For previous fans who are dying to get to Mass Effect 2, one thing we have to take account of is if you’re playing on Legendary Mode, which compresses 60 levels into 30 over the same amount of XP, you will be gaining more Talent points to spend every time you level up. You can even put the game on auto-pilot by letting the game fill in the character points to progress. You could always switch it back to Classic Mode if you want the full fat experience from years ago, which may or may not be to your liking.
While I did mention that skill usage and giving orders to your squad mates have improved from the last time I’ve played the game, they still do hit a snag every once in a while. Squad mates get stuck in corners and surroundings, especially bigger characters like Wrex. The weapon wheel weapon selection does get cumbersome, and the quick switch will become your friend. This will continue until Mass Effect 2 when you can easily select weapons from the weapon wheel even with the redundant cross button confirmation.
I also had to get used to the new control mapping, where I wasted a few grenades due to the grenade button being the reload button in more recent games. Dashing with the cross button isn’t fun when we’ve been conditioned to use the L3 to dash and cross to crouch. Here, these motions are reversed, and it will be consistent all the way to Mass Effect 3. I do appreciate that they brought back the square button for reload in Mass Effect 2, allowing me to save my grenades as well as removing the fatigue component when dashing during encounters.
Class restrictions have been made more lenient, as a Biotic character could equip weapons that are more suited to a Sentinel or a Soldier class. However, armor, omnitools, and biotic equipment are still restricted for specific classes. My Soldier can equip Heavy Armor when their skill tree has unlocked the capability to do so however higher grade Omni-tools and Biotic Amps are restricted to specialists of such tools such as a Sentinel or an Infiltrator.
Another new aspect that I enjoyed is the Photo Mode, where I could pause the game during an eventful scene and just see how the entire stage has been set. For the entirety of the Mass Effect Legendary Edition review, this mode is consistent and adds a bit of a treat for those traversing their nostalgia trip.
There were some technical glitches in Mass Effect Remastered, such as enemies who seem to blink to a new spot during firefights. These glitches seem to occur too frequently with Krogan and Geth enemies in Virmire especially when Krogans regenerate. There are also progression breaking glitches that require you to reload a save, but they’re few and far between. The audio may dip sometimes and the textures/lighting can get somewhat inconsistent, but they are minor bumps that don’t necessarily break the whole immersive experience.
Just for science, I switched the Mako controls to Classic for the sake of this Mass Effect Legendary Edition review. One thing that’s definitely been fixed is that it doesn’t matter what planet or satellite you’re on, the gravity isn’t as free-flowing as the original. I did enjoy the zero gravity feel of the Mako as it floats throughout the surface of the planet. While the improved motion controls are definitely a plus, using your turret and rockets are better with the improved controls as you could target hostiles easier rather than shooting from the hip and hoping for the best.
After a while, I appreciated this historic walk in Mass Effect‘s history and could definitely be worth the novelty for newcomers. I do suggest switching on the Legendary mode and the improved controls once the novelty wears off, because trust me, the mechanics are so dated. The role-playing aspects of Mass Effect Remastered as mentioned earlier has been preserved – it’s still the same and it’s still fantastic.
While the story and most if its dialogue remains highly expository compared to its later counterparts; I’m more critical now because of my time. Back in my mid-twenties, I had plenty of time to burn. Now, a sliver away from forty, I have significantly less time. I don’t have the time to check every codex entry, to scour every planet for its resources, and even goof around with my zero-gravity Mako. If you have time and would like to see how the Mass Effect of the past worked, I commend you, but now… let’s finish this game ASAP to get to the more polished titles.
Mass Effect 2 Remastered — Aged like fine wine
While most have a good experience with Mass Effect 2, my experience in the past involved adjusting from Mass Effect. In my experience, I feel that Mass Effect 2 has two parts—the “jet lag”, which is the first half of Mass Effect 2 and the “wow moment”, when you hit the second half and where the brilliance of BioWare kicks in. For the purposes of this Mass Effect Legendary Edition review, continuing from the original Mass Effect Remastered to Mass Effect 2 Remastered removes much of the “jet lag” as my gaming standard now leans closer to Mass Effect 2 rather than the original Mass Effect.
So much has been fixed in the transition between sequels. The button mapping is so much better despite the weapon wheel and dash button still being cross instead of L3. Otherwise, crouching has been relegated to the much improved cover system. Grenades and medi-gels have been streamlined into the powers wheel and I have to say that “power mapping” onto buttons have made power usage so much more smooth. The L3 and R3 buttons are now you compass buttons to find out your objective as in previous game, getting lost is quite easy.
While I hated when they took away some of the old school RPG mechanics in Mass Effect in the past, I feel that with the quality of life adjustments, it makes the game more accessible to non-RPG fans. Other RPG gamers may find the move a little annoying, but as I mentioned, for those of us strapped for time, it’s a welcome adjustment. The equipment screen has been replaced by the research and weapon loadout booths. The planetary scanning is a great addition to the planetary surveys compared to the old Mako surveys. On the PS5, planetary scanning has been improved with haptic feedback becoming more sensitive when you’re close to a resource motherlode. While I’m still annoyed at the “Mission Completed” screen as personally it’s the biggest immersion breaking mechanic for me, it’s a give and take as the original Mass Effect has become too cumbersome for my taste.
One thing I realized with my replay is that it’s so much more fun on Renegade. I feel that old fans owe it to themselves to pull a Renegade run just to see how it plays out. Sure, you’ll lose some of your beloved characters, but killing off some scumbags or punching journalists in the face is oh so worth it. You get to be part of a rogue organization, might as well have fun along the way.
Speaking of the infamous Miranda’s butt, which they changed in this version of the game, I never really noticed it the first time around and taking away some fan service didn’t affect my overall experience. Maybe I’m not a “butt guy”, but I’m definitely more of a “face guy” as I really felt the uncanny valley effect after a while. Miranda’s face really feels off and I can say the same with Shepard’s creepy bug-eyed stare. I probably didn’t notice it because I was into Yvonne Strahovski well into the final seasons of Chuck around that time, and I never really got into Handmaid’s Tale recently, so there’s that.
BioWare really does know how to create a world, and your experience here really lies on the relationships you make with your ragtag group of misfits. Compared to the previous Mass Effect, the relationship between you and your comrades felt stilted while here, maybe because Shepard’s working in a more rogue status, the characters are more relaxed. The bulk of your experience in this game is choosing which loyalty missions to prioritize. With that, your relationship with your party members increase and the dialogue and interactions feel more fluid and natural. There is this natural impulse to get to your crew a lot better than on the original Mass Effect even if you’re just in it “for the story”.
Yet as I write this Mass Effect Legendary Edition review, one thing that will not be replicated is that deep anticipation for Mass Effect 3. As I complete the suicide mission, still fresh in my mind, I can go ahead and load Mass Effect 3 in its full glory without the wait. To me, the best parts about Mass Effect as a whole is the second half of Mass Effect 2, the anticipation to the third game along with its celebrated DLCs (most notably Lair of the Shadow Broker), and then the first half of Mass Effect 3. One thing is for sure, after going through Mass Effect 2, I could honestly say that this title is definitely a game of a generation and a definitive sci-fi single player epic that hasn’t been matched to this day.
Mass Effect 3 Remastered — Another look at this divisive masterpiece
While little has actually changed in terms of story content for Mass Effect 3, I feel that taking away the multiplayer aspect of the game improves it in the long run. Personally, I enjoyed the multiplayer in the past, but I felt we were forced into it with the War Assets mechanic. This time around, I appreciate that we can attain maximum military strength just through a single player experience.
The single player edition of Mass Effect 3 Remastered takes all of your collective choices from the first Mass Effect into account and greatly affects your overall galaxy readiness. So your choices do matter to rally all your allies to fight the common enemy that are The Reapers. I feel that this really extends an olive branch to players who enjoy the single player experience and adds value for money that doesn’t require any additional micro-transactions or multiplayer modes to elevate the experience. Also, you need not go through the entire Mass Effect trilogy to gain maximum military strength, but if you did, you’ll get to see the fruits of your labor especially if you made “all the right moves” in the last three games.
If you hated the endings and still hate the endings, I don’t blame you, your arguments are valid. I’ve reconciled them as endings that work to fit the thematic core of Mass Effect 3, but a poor way to conclude an entire trilogy. One thing that you really have to appreciate with Mass Effect 3 was until the halfway mark of the game, it was a fantastic ride that cranked the action to eleven.
Though, one thing that I didn’t enjoy was going Renegade in this trip, while it’s all fun and games in the last two titles, being the “bad guy” in this run feels a little hurtful. Yet, checking out the DLCs such as the Omega and Citadel DLCs add more to the title and brings back some fun into the Renegade alignment it lost with the many cold-blooded actions throughout the mainline story.
That being said, I did have an issue before with the “Role Playing” option in the past when asked to select it from the start, but now that I’m playing it and really enjoying the “Action” side of the game, it’s great to see it from this new perspective. In a way, I’ve streamlined my Role Playing enthusiasm with my newfound Action appreciation. I appreciate this new light and am now enjoying Mass Effect 3 as a whole knowing what’s coming.
It’s great to take all your squad for one more run, with Commander Shepard making do with whatever resources and allies that have stood by them as they make their final stand against The Reapers. Almost ten years after Shepard’s last stand, I enjoyed the final stretch as well as overcoming Shepard’s personal journey and getting over his or her guilt as I finally see their personal journey come to a close. Shepard’s personal climax is a quiet resolution to a grand intergalactic quest of dire importance.
What we liked:
- The same generation defining saga, 100% preserved and ready to play.
- Mass Effect 2 and 3 has not changed at all and feels like a shooter RPG that’s released today.
- Mass Effect Remastered is an amazing way to preserve the original Mass Effect‘s legacy by having it feel like you are playing the original game with updated graphics and interface.
- A true single player experience streamlining the galaxy readiness mechanic in Mass Effect 3 to accommodate all the decisions made in the last three games.
What we didn’t like:
- While so much work has been done for Mass Effect Remastered to preserve its historical relevance, it could’ve been polished to reflect Mass Effect 3‘s role playing mode providing the best compromise to experience the series.
- Button mapping in Mass Effect Remastered still feel dated such as the non-intuitive weapon wheel and holding down the cross button to dash clashes with how we play contemporary shooters.
- Minor technical glitches as well as audio dips and inconsistent textures/lighting are a minor blip but doesn’t fully throw you off the experience from Mass Effect Remastered.
Verdict: Buy It!
It was a wild ride writing this Mass Effect Legendary Edition review. Sure, it was fueled by nostalgia and it brought up some old feelings of excitement, anticipation, tears, frustration, rapture, and above all reliving that power fantasy of a beloved Space Opera where the celebrated hero in the form of Commander Shepard brings together the collective might of the galaxy against a nigh-invincible foe.
I do feel that there are some aspects of specific games that are products of their time, while of course I do wish that everything would control like Mass Effect 3, doing so would take away from the historic journey that BioWare is trying to imbibe to its many newcomers. A part of me appreciates the inclusion of the Classic mode as a way to experience the collection from how it used to be. In terms of content, besides the irrecoverable Pinnacle Station DLC, it’s hard to argue the collective value of three complete games plus their respective DLCs.
Otherwise, these three games are a generation defining series that have shaped many players’ lives, that I actually envy some people who are able to experience this for the first time. To some, this may even be the best trilogy of games ever created, with Mass Effect 2 possibly being up there in the “greatest of all time” conversation. This shared experience causes many of them to bond over their distinct adventures, cry over lost squadmates, and share their common frustration with driving the Mako or the divisive conclusion. Either way, it was a fantastic journey, and while not all of our collective emotions could be bottled up and re-lived, it feels so nice to be back in the shoes of Commander Shepard once again.
*Mass Effect Legendary Edition was reviewed on a PS5 with a review code from the publisher.