I would be telling a bald-faced lie if I said I wasn’t a big fan of Mass Effect. The Trilogy is just about my favourite connected story in all of gaming, Mass Effect 2 is just about my favourite game of all time and the original opened my eyes to a genre I had never really played before. All three games came at significant times for me, right as I was finishing high school, starting (and quitting) University and then beginning to work more regularly. They’re ingrained in my memory, with multiple playthroughs over the years that have always brought enjoyment. With the rumours of a remaster of the trilogy swirling, I held off on a replay of the original games for around 18 months, desperately wanting to jump back in but also wanting to wait for the opportune moment. Now, that moment has finally arrived. Given I’ve only had a couple of days with the game so far, I’m far from experiencing the entirety of Mass Effect Legendary Edition and have instead focused on the opening hours and missions of the original Mass Effect. Get ready to hit the Mass Relay and jump into my early review-in-progress of Mass Effect Legendary Edition.
Given Mass Effect has had the most work done to modernise it in the Legendary Edition, it makes sense from both a narrative and practical standpoint to focus on that game as the real linchpin of the remasters. With altered controls, reworked graphics and a range of balance changes, it looks as a potentially much different experience to the original. That was truly on display when landing on Eden Prime, the planet where the game’s opening mission takes place.
As soon as my boots hit the ground – now filled with the feet of the FemShep that was made standard in Mass Effect 3 – the changes were immediately noticeable. Beams of light shone across the screen, fog effects were more apparent and the general detail in the area was much higher. There was more clutter about, taking away a bit of the emptiness that sometimes permeated the original’s areas, and just about everything on screen was of a higher quality. I’m of the opinion that the lighting is a bit too aggressive, but beyond that there’s a definite and aesthetically pleasing bump. It does lose a bit of the charm and signature style that came with the grime of the original, but I didn’t personally find that to be an issue.
Entering into combat for the first time, I was amazed at just how much better combat felt. The original game was notoriously sluggish in its movement and shooting controls, and that has been rectified here. I was able to line up shots more reliably, while the lack of weapon penalties means that my Adept is a little more deadly with a gun than before, even if I don’t get the proficiency bonuses for using them. The cover mechanics were also much more reliable, which is an absolute blessing. Even with those changes, the game still feels like the original. It’s more responsive and some abilities are more useful than in the past, but it still uses the same underlying systems and doesn’t feel like the more action-oriented systems of the later games. With that said, having spent multiple playthroughs as an Infiltrator, I’m not a massive fan of the complete removal of sway from sniper rifles, which made lining up shops much too easy for my liking. A reduction in sway was definitely needed, but the complete removal of it feels like a step too far.
Where the limitations of Mass Effect’s uplift becomes apparent is in the game’s animations. Specifically, its facial animations. I swapped between both the original game (running in backwards compatibility) and the remaster a number of times, and to my eye it looks as though the animations between the two games is identical. Now, that’s exactly what BioWare said would be done, so it’s not a surprise, but in practice it’s a bit off-putting. With more detail to the character’s faces, the juddering mouths that rarely seem to open wide enough for actual speech was fairly distracting. There were definitely some moments where it was less noticeable, and I began to get used to it later in my time, but it was still disengaging most of the time.
While almost everything has been great so far, there was one major frustration I found: a number of bugs that I encountered on Eden Prime. I will note that I haven’t replicated any of these issues at other points in the game, but I was able to recreate some of them by reverting to an earlier save and also recreated one in the original game. Once I reached the Train sequence, all enemies there would flash black silhouettes whenever they were shot. Then, when I reached the bomb defusal sequence, the audio completely cut out for roughly 10 seconds. Next, both Ashley and Kaidan completely stopped firing at enemies, instead allowing themselves to be bludgeoned to death, a bug I was able to recreate in the original game. Finally, I had Kaidan completely disappear from existence and then had the beacon cutscene play with all of his dialogue and appropriate animations from the other characters, just without him actually being there. None of these were experience killers on their own, but the rapid accumulation of issues certainly had me wary as I progressed. I haven’t noticed many bugs since that point, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out as I progress.
There’s still plenty left to do in Mass Effect Legendary Edition, but my early time has largely been positive. Being able to jump back in to one of my favourite games, with a new coat of paint and more responsive controls, has been exactly what I’ve been looking for lately. There have definitely been some issues as well so far, so I’m interested to see how they shake out over the entire trilogy. Stay tuned for my full review in the near future.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is being reviewed on an Xbox Series X console, with a review copy provided by the publisher. The game will also be available on PC and PlayStation 4. For more information, check the official website.