Reviews

Mass Effect Legendary Edition Review

I'm Commander Shepard, and this is my favourite trilogy on the Citadel.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition hits consoles and PC tomorrow, and Stevivor was able to put the remastered trilogy through its paces (at least, in part) on both Windows PC via Origin and Xbox One via Xbox Series X ahead of that time.

While it’s utterly impossible to have gone through every single minute of Legendary Edition‘s Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 in the two or so days I’ve had access to it, I come at the franchise with hundreds of hours already logged — and 171 of a total 179 Achievements across the original Xbox 360 releases. For a large chunk of those Achievements I put in another hundred or so hours back in February of this year gearing up for today. Simply put, I consider myself somewhat of an authority here.

Legendary Edition bundles the franchise’s first trilogy (but play Andromeda too because, frankly, it didn’t deserve the hate) and over 40 pieces of DLC (RIP, Pinnacle Station) in up to 120FPS on consoles — higher on PC — and up to 4K resolution. It’s decidedly not a remake — it’s the original games running in Unreal Engine 3 with a lot of uprezzed textures and effects — but I’ll be damned if I didn’t do a double take when jumping between the Xbox 360 originals (via backwards compatibility on Xbox Series X) and this new release.

The titles are available through a single launcher, though via Origin the interface seemingly hides a transition between three separate games; on Xbox it’s a bit more seamless, but that comes at a slight cost as well. While the Windows PC via Origin release will download all 100GB+ of the title as soon as you initialise it, the Xbox One/Series version will download a meagre 28GB in total. That corresponds to Mass Effect, requiring you to then launch the game to kick off the downloads of Mass Effect 2 and 3. Worse yet, you seemingly can only queue one extra download at a time on Xbox; I approved both downloads but found ME3 only downloaded overnight after I thought I’d have everything. Because they’re actually PS4 or Xbox One games, it’s likely the titles will install to your non-SSD drive on either current-gen console by default, requiring you to then move them to your SSD if you want to take advantage of faster loading times.

On the flipside, you can choose to uninstall a title after you’ve finished it, meaning once you’ve jumped into Mass Effect 2 — and, most importantly, imported your Mass Effect 1 save in doing so — you can then clear some space in your storage. All up, I wish Legendary Edition would have installed everything at once, regardless of platform, and made you aware you could piecemeal retain content once you’d gone through it.

Before I get into each game specifically, I’m extremely impressed that EA and BioWare have tweaked the games’ Achievement and Trophy lists, making it far less of a grind for those hunters out there. While there are numerous changes, I think those made to Mass Effect summarise it best; rather than having to run three full playthroughs with two squad members (and no others) each time, you can now earn Achievements or Trophies by taking squadmates through five missions instead. My time is valuable, and I’m glad this was taken into account. While less so on Xbox, the fact that multiple Platinum Trophies can be earned without an Insanity playthrough on PlayStation is also absolutely amazing. Well done.

Mass Effect 1 Legendary Edition

I thought the original Mass Effect looked a bit worse than its Legendary Edition counterpart… and then I actually went back and revisited it. It’s like night and day now, regardless of PC or Xbox platform. That all said, I found that cutscenes had some horrendous framerates on either platform, though some of that could just be how the camera frames the action. It’s randomly hard to tell at times.

Mass Effect arguably has the most amendments as part of the Legendary Edition release, with general combat benefitting from refinements made inside Mass Effect 2 and 3. For starters, Shepard can now sprint for a limited time at the press of a button, helping to close the distance between he/she or an attacker. It’s there, though, that the remaster of the 2007’s release still seems dated — you want to sprint by holding down on the left stick; instead, you squat. Nowadays, it’s prevalent to have to reload in a shooter during any downtime, and that usually means the press of the X button on Xbox to do so. In Mass Effect LE, that means I’ll throw a grenade by accident because reloading is not a thing (it’s a cooldown instead). This, of course, changes from Mass Effect 2 LE onward… so prepare to make your brain hurt as you progress through the trilogy.

When it comes to levelling, you can opt into a Legendary scale that lets you progress up to Level 60. Better still, the Liara Dig Site XP glitch still works if you’re prepping for an Insanity run — and that glitch works inside the new levelling scale too.

A number of changes have also been made to ME‘s primary vehicle, the Mako. It obviously handles better — you’ll sadly still want to tear your hair out at times on uncharted planets, frantically weaving from left to right trying to clamber up a small hill — but more importantly, LE has decidedly improved combat functionality. Holding the left trigger now zooms in and provides a scope when targeting, far superior to what was experienced on the Xbox 360. There are likely more subtle improvements, and they all come together for the win.

While we finally have the chance to skip overly long elevator rides, it’d also be great if we could skip cutscenes in general; if you can do it in some areas, you should be able to do it everywhere. And while a lot of bug fixes have been enacted across the titles, old bugs still remain; there were times on planets where I couldn’t get back in my Mako or interact with minerals or arfefacts; just like in the ol’ days, a quick save and reload would usually sort those issues out. Hacking mini-games on Xbox are the same as before — so quicktime-esque, mirror the prompts — but a new (new?) style on PC has you working outward in on a circle and I had a hard time wrapping my brain around that. That similar style is randomly implemented in some Xbox prompts and I’m left scratching my head as to why; mixing it up isn’t providing uniformity whatsoever.

While Mass Effect LE has a lot going for it, it’s still a dated game — while I’m happy to play through it again properly and eventually continue on, my husband has already decided he’s had enough. Quite honestly, after playing through pieces of DLC like Bring Down the Sky I don’t blame him; I spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to leave the main facility and I remember doing the same damn thing back in the day. Mass Effect 2 and 3 benefitted from more refinements — and general improvements to game design — at the time of their original releases and are largely more enjoyable as a result. As a counterpoint however, Mass Effect‘s relative simplicity also can be seen as a strength (despite most of the buildings on every planet looking exactly the same on the inside); while the fate of the universe is at stake, it doesn’t feel as pressing as in its sequels, meaning you can relax and explore.

Mass Effect 2 & 3 Legendary Editions

Mass Effect 2 and 3 benefit from the same texture, lighting and resolution improvements as Mass Effect, but obviously looked a little better to begin with so the difference isn’t as staggering. Nevertheless, these two titles are where it’s at, and where lots of us — wink wink, PlayStation players — fell in love with the franchise.

Simply put, Mass Effect 2 is my favourite title in the franchise, and that’s because BioWare made such an emphasis on the relationships between Shephard and his crewmates. A near-perfect narrative back in the day still translates to the same in the here and now.

My hubby — you know, the one who ended up dropping Mass Effect because it was a little too clunky for his tastes — decided to move on to Mass Effect 2 and thankfully got to take advantage of the Genesis interactive comic not only to catch up on the previous storyline but to decide how he would have played it out (the same is possible in Mass Effect 3 by the way). If you’re of the same mindset, the flexibility there is perfect, although I’ll maintain that he started playing the franchise with ME2 and just had a hankering to get back to the old and familiar.

Mass Effect 3 relied upon a robust multiplayer mode that worked in tandem with its single-player campaign; with the former removed from Legendary Edition, its Galactic Readiness scale has been tweaked to wholly rely on your actions with the campaign. While a lack of multiplayer is sad (I loved it!), that simply means that players will need to ensure they play through main quests, side quests and DLC (seamlessly integrated into the game proper, as is the case in all three titles) in order to work towards the good ending.

The “good ending”.

Anyways, wholly avoiding that powderkeg, Mass Effect 3‘s Extended Cut is canonically the trilogy’s ending (and good on that); more importantly, its Citadel DLC — a piece I didn’t play because I was so angered by how things played out, originally — is seamlessly part of the story and content that absolutely nails what made Mass Effect 2 so amazing and rewarding.

Aforementioned husband also reviewed Mass Effect 3 back in the day, so check out his original review here. That’s not to be confused with Matt’s — and that’s a different Matt, it should be said — review of Citadel alongside Nicholas’ reviews of Omega and Leviathan.

Should you play Mass Effect Legendary Edition? Of course you should. This is BioWare firing — for the most part — on all cylinders and hopefully is the dawn of a new resurgence of the franchise (fingers crossed for EA Play 2021!). Get in, get immersed, explore the galaxy and defend it from a once in a 50,000 year occurence. Then head on over to Andromeda to appreciate that before the next adventures in the Sol system take place.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition heads to Windows PC via EA Play and Steam alongside Xbox One and PS4 (also compatible on Xbox Series S & X and PS5) tomorrow, 14 May. Get excited.

8.5 out of 10

The good

  • The games are a tad dated, but still amazing.
  • (Most) all DLC is available and seamlessly integrated.
  • Mass Effect benefits from improvements made in Mass Effect 2 and 3.
  • A spectactular story and characters.

The bad

  • Why not just download all games at once, without fiddling?
  • Mass Effect may be too dated for some players, regardless of improvements.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition was reviewed using promotional codes on Xbox Series X (primary) and Windows PC, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition

14 May 2021
PC PS4 Xbox One
 

This article may contain affiliate links, meaning we could earn a small commission if you click-through and make a purchase. Stevivor is an independent outlet and our journalism is in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative.

About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.