Whether you’re new to the game or an old fan, the Mass Effect series revolutionised the RPG genre, with epic, character driven storytelling across a life-or-death race to save the universe.
The original Mass Effect game was released in 2007 for the Xbox 360, so with the release of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition it’s brought together all three original games on PlayStation consoles for the first time. And so I finally got to play through the original game on insanity mode, having been familiar with the franchise from playing Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect: Andromeda. (Okay, I rage quit ME2 when Garrus wouldn’t finish his calibrations, but that’s another story).
It’s important to note that this is a PS4 release, but I played it on PS5 – and damn, it’s a beautiful game to behold in 4K. Textures and character animations have all been upgraded, and for the most part succeed in revitalising the game. The improvement in graphics is especially notable on the textures of the alien races – the Asari’s purple skin is near-fluorescent, and the Turians and Krogan have become especially world worn. Unfortunately, the eyes on many of the human characters could be improved, giving most people a startled, intense appearance.
Even if you’ve played the series before, it’s worth replaying the trilogy together for the whole storyline.
What is Mass Effect Legendary Edition about?
Mass Effect is an action RPG with third-person shooter elements. You play Commander Shepard, an alliance soldier tasked with investigating a rogue special operative, known as a Spectre. Along the way you uncover a threat to humanity’s very existence – the Reapers, a race of AIs intent on taking over the universe. This is space opera at its finest – and if you like Star Wars, Star Trek, or Battlestar Galactica, you’re in for a treat.
What sets Mass Effect apart from other games are the complex moral choices you’ll need to make during the game. You can chose to play as a Paragon or Renegade, but it’s not as simple as being good or evil. Sometimes the renegade choices have better consequences. And sometimes they don’t. Choices are heavy with consequences and feel weighty when you make them. But this is not a game where it pays to be neutral. Choosing a side opens up more dialogue choices and can even help resolve impossible situations without violence.
I highly recommend playing through this game not looking up choice guides. One great thing about Mass Effect is that you can port your choices and character through the whole series. And choices you make in Mass Effect one definitely have an impact on Mass Effect 3. So, choose wisely…
Of course, you can’t go it alone saving the universe, even if you’re playing full Renegade. You’ll need your trusty crew of aliens and humans. And while your human compatriots are a little lacklustre – Ashley is racist, not to mention with some weird face animation, and Kaidan is a wet blanket – some of the most memorable moments come from your alien companions, Wrex, Tali, Liara and of course, fan favourite Garrus. A signature of Bioware games is the option to romance NPCs, which can lead to some pretty hot and heavy scenes between you and your crew.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition: Gameplay
Even with the update, the gameplay is still clunky and faces bugs at times. Enemies get stuck, and sometimes I found my weapon pointing one way and shooting another. You can specialise in five different classes, which loosely translate to typical RPG roles – tanks, tech, and biotics aka space wizards. Flinging around gravitational effects is one of the most fun aspects of the combat system, especially when you can heft a heavy Krogan into the sky with lift. Having played Andromeda, it’s interesting to see how dynamic the biotic movements have become over time. Here they are accessed through a choice wheel which pauses combat as you aim, and essentially slows down the gameplay.
Side quests are confusing too – you’ll need to dig into the journal, then figure out what planet and system you need to go to. Forget about clear map markers when you land. Sometimes you’re not even sure if you’ve finished a side quest, save for the musical markers which hint at success. However, the side quests are meaningful, and serve the narrative of the Geth invasion. And side quests become even more significant in following Mass Effect games.
And I’d be remiss in not mentioning the vehicles you get around in – both the lobster-like Normandy, with ace pilot Joker, or the near-indestructible Mako. The six-wheeled Mako is tougher than a horse in Skyrim – fly it off a cliff and it’ll land flat, and it can make mince meat of the Geth in seconds with its onboard weapons. My only wish is that it could be upgraded to go a little faster on the endless plains of the many planets you’ll visit. Navigating the planets on ground is probably the least fun aspect of the game – you’ll be rolling in the Mako for minutes on end, trying to take shortcuts across lumpy terrain with no clear guidance how to get up mountains or to location markers.
Should you play Mass Effect: Legendary Edition?
Should you play Mass Effect: Legendary Edition? Yes. While the gameplay is clunky compared to more recent games, it’s a tribute to the storytelling that you’ll keep playing. I’ve always maintained that compelling storytelling can overcome most flaws in gaming, and this is no exception. If you’re interested in the development of video games, it’s an iconic game that stands the test of time. Plus, Mass Effect is a load of fun.
And who doesn’t need Garrus in 4K?