Mass Effect: Legendary Edition review - the Normandy has never looked better
BioWare could've done more with this remaster, but Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is still our Game of the Week.
If you have never played a Mass Effect game before, brace yourself for an epic journey of action, adventure, heartbreak and tragedy. Since this sci-fi gaming franchise burst onto the scene in 2007, it has captured the hearts of gamers everywhere, and now there's a new way to play it on modern systems with the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.
This trilogy of games remains beloved for good reason. It's a satisfying story with operatic scope, spread across three sizeable titles. It's always been easy to get immersed in this galaxy of interwoven stories - to fall in love with it, even - and that is still true in the Legendary Edition, a retooled re-release that arrives on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC this week.
All three Mass Effect games (sorry, Andromeda) are here, remastered and ready to be experienced as one epic saga. And in some ways, it is a fantastic experience to relive the adventures of Commander Shepherd, to reassemble the crew of the Normandy, and to once again take down iconic villains such as the Reapers.
Where to buy Mass Effect: Legendary Edition -
- Buy the PC version from CD Keys (£39.99)
- Buy the Xbox One version from CD Keys (£58.99)
- Buy the PS4/PS5 version from Gamebyte (£49.95)
If we were reviewing these games as if they were new, and we had never played them before, they would get a collective five stars. All that we loved about the trilogy remains intact here - it still holds up well, with an intricate narrative that is compelling and only improves as the games go on.
Interacting with your crew remains a joy and they feel like real characters with their own quirks that will either endure them to you or drive you away. Once again there was not a single conversation that we wanted to miss, and the relationships formed felt meaningful all over again – we still did everything we could to not fall out with Jack, for example.
If you have never played Mass Effect before, this is the shiny new way to play through this groundbreaking trilogy, and we're happy to call Mass Effect: Legendary Edition our RadioTimes.com Game of the Week. That being said, though, long-term fans of the franchise may come away feeling like this remaster could've done more to improve on the classics.
As a long-term fan, it is hard not to walk away from the Legacy Edition without thinking it was somewhat of a missed opportunity. Don’t get us wrong, we loved so much of our time spent with the game, but the developers from Bioware did promise that they would be “unifying the trilogy” here and making all three Mass Effect games blend together better than they originally did. And that does not really feel like it has been done. Sure, your character will remain the same throughout all three games and the old DLC has been woven into the narrative in a better way, but that seems to be where the unification of the trilogy ends.
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Let’s start with the positives, though, such as just how good the game looks. We have known for some time that this was not a ground-up rebuild, so animations still look mostly the same and you will still notice some questionable facial animations, but the game has been given a massive paint job and looks better than ever. This is most noticeable in terms of the first game, which the bulk of the work has gone into, and it instantly makes this the go-to version of that debut entry to play. Photo Mode, added in all three games, is a lovely inclusion and we spent more time than we would care to admit playing about with it and lining up some incredible shots.
The tweaks here are welcome. Shooting is easier than it was before, abilities work better and the dreaded MAKO vehicle has been given an overhaul to make it far less frustrating than it was before. It’s still not exactly fun to drive and we accidentally flipped upside down on several occasions – but nowhere near as much as we did originally.
Back to the “unifying experience” that the remaster was supposed to be, then. It is starting Mass Effect 2 that makes you realise that some things you might've expected have not been done. It still feels like you are playing a whole new game when it starts up, as opposed to a continuation of the first game. The cover system is dramatically improved after still being clunky and clumsy in the first, shooting is more fluid, the power wheel is more effective – all great things that have always been strengths of the second game, but it begs the question of why this was not the case in the first. Time was clearly spent making Mass Effect 1 a smoother experience, so why were several irritating elements of it left in and not fixed to be more like Mass Effect 2?
Mass Effect 2 and 3 also benefit the least from the refined and improved graphics, although they looked great to begin with. The differences between how these two games looked and how they look now are negligible. They look better - the colours jump off the screen and the 4K looks gorgeous - but those hoping for something more than that will likely be a tad disappointed.
There are other frustrating aspects to this remaster too. For example, it was always annoying that you could never go back into the first game, after rolling the credits, even though you'd like to finish up the myriad of side missions and planets that still need exploring. When that game is done, so are you, so you will need to manually create a save point to go back to earlier in the game – and you aren’t told to do that.
So, if, like us, you want to experience the main story points in one epic playthrough, you can’t really, as you’ll be spending hours and hours working through everything before you move onto the next game. Modern open-world games often give players the chance to keep playing after the credits, so it's a shame not to have that option here.
And of course, there are still bugs. These will hopefully be fixed with a patch soon after release, but they are there, and we found several. A couple of highlights here are random explosions going off in cut scenes during Mass Effect 1 - sometimes you see the blast, sometimes you just hear the bang. Or how about a wall towards the mid-point of the game that you can fall through and tumble down below the map – annoyingly forcing a restart at the previous checkpoint.
And those aren't the only moments that feel a little off, either. Those classic awkward moments are there, such as a pause every time Shepherd and Kaiden start a conversation. Shepherd also has a habit of facing the wrong way in a lift and staring blankly at his teammates, which must be unsettling for them.
Foibles like this have always been a part of Mass Effect, though, and their inclusion here doesn't alter the fact that these are still great games, and they've never looked better than they do in this Legendary Edition.
We loved revisiting these characters and their epic journey, and the game still broke us emotionally on many occasions while having us cheering and laughing not long afterwards.
It is one of the greatest space-based stories out there and that has not changed, but the question is whether the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition does enough to warrant its existence. Returning fans will enjoy seeing the extra polish, and new fans will be grateful for this handy way to access the games in a single package on modern systems.
But still, we would've liked to see some bigger changes, and Mass Effect 1 hasn't been revamped in quite as huge a way as we'd hoped. And if you don't fancy forking out full-price for this, it's worth remembering that the original Mass Effect games still exist - and they're all available on Xbox Game Pass!
The Normandy has never looked better than it does in the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, but some fans may not feel that it's worth the price of admission.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition launches May 14th for PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.
Play our previous Game of the Week picks:
- Resident Evil Village is delightfully devilish
- Qomp, the unexpected sequel to Pong!
- Nier Replicant - great game, rubbish name
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