After years of endless requests from fans, Mass Effect Legendary Edition is finally upon us, and I have had a far greater time with it than I would have thought. Part of that is because I've just simply been happy to be playing Mass Effect in general again, but the other part is because I do think this collection does a pretty great job of bringing all three installments into the modern age. Although BioWare could have done more to sweeten this deal, the Legendary Edition at the very least accomplishes its main objective quite well.
The original Mass Effect is the oldest title in BioWare's iconic trilogy, and it's also the game that needed the highest number of tweaks in 2021. If you haven't tried to play the first game in the series in quite some time before this remaster arrived, then you likely might not be aware of how old it started to feel. Not only is this true in regards to the game's controls and mechanics -- which felt dated mere years after Mass Effect first launched in 2007 -- but the visuals were slowly starting to look pretty rough by modern comparisons.
With Mass Effect Legendary Edition, the first game in the series is the one that has been blessed the most by the new overhauls. Environments now look more vibrant, character models and textures have been touched up, and the game runs at a consistent 60 frames per second. These visual and performance improvements are ones that extend to Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 as well, but it's clear that the first game has been the greatest beneficiary of this facelift. And since it's the entry I played the most in this collection -- I haven't finished the latter two installments in the trilogy at the time of publishing this review -- I was more than happy to find that this new remaster doesn't make this look like a 14-year-old game whatsoever.
While the tweaks to the graphics and environments in the original Mass Effect are wonderful, gameplay still isn't without its issues. In a general sense, gunplay does now feel better and the game's difficulty (especially in certain areas) no longer feels as overbearing as it once did. That being said, some mechanics are really starting to show their age and could have likely been tweaked a bit more by BioWare for this release. The cover system is one aspect that feels so clunky and antiquated, especially when compared to the strides that cover shooters have made over the last decade. I also still cannot stand the Mako, which is the vehicle that you'll find yourself in quite often during Mass Effect. Driving around in this clunky car over mountainous regions is still as painstakingly annoying as it was when the game first released. BioWare says it made the Mako better here in Legendary Edition, but they sure could've fooled me.
Fortunately, this is about where my complaints begin and end when it comes to gameplay. Mass Effect 2 and 3 have aged far more gracefully over the years compared to their predecessor. And while you're not going to find that either is able to match up to feeling as good mechanically to more recent releases in 2021, they're still very much approachable, especially to newcomers.
One thing that could have made Mass Effect Legendary Edition even more approachable, however, could have come with further options. In an age where accessibility is at the forefront more than ever before, it was pretty baffling to see how little BioWare added to the original options in all three Mass Effect games. Outside of a new calibration subsection to help properly adjust Legendary Edition for your TV or monitor setup, there's really nothing that has been added here for those that would like to adjust their own gameplay experience even more. This isn't a deal-breaker by any means, but it is a bit disappointing.
If there is another thing that I just truly find underwhelming about Mass Effect Legendary Edition, it is in regard to how bare the package is outside of the actual games. I think the value proposition here -- three remastered games with virtually all accompanying DLC -- is a great one, but I do also wish BioWare would have done more for hardcore fans who want to dive in even deeper. To throw in some fun extras like concept art, developer docs, or heck, even a roundtable conversation with some of the initial devs behind the series would have been wonderful -- but there's nothing of that sort included. I feel like Mass Effect Legendary Edition could have done more to celebrate the franchise as a whole and could have been a great way for those at BioWare to reflect on the lineage of the series. Instead, it's just three solid remasters bundled together and not much else.
I think what I have been most surprised about when revisiting Mass Effect through the Legendary Edition is that this series very much holds up. As someone who hasn't touched the trilogy since wrapping up Mass Effect 3 back in 2012, I was honestly worried about these games not hitting with me like they once did. And while some systemic aspects like the morality system are feeling a bit dated at this point, I still cannot get enough of this story, characters, and world that BioWare built.
Remasters are a dime a dozen nowadays, and more often than not, I find that most of them aren't done very well. Simply bringing a game forward and upgrading the resolution to 4K for any title often isn't enough to impress me. Fortunately, Mass Effect Legendary Edition does not fall into this category. BioWare has done quite a bit here to make this beloved series more accessible than it has been in quite some time, especially when it comes to the visuals. Whether you're looking to play through the trilogy for your tenth time or you're finally looking to give the series a shot for the first time, Mass Effect Legendary Edition is absolutely the way in which you should experience all three games moving forward.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Mass Effect Legendary Edition is available to pick up right now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. A code for Xbox One was provided by the publisher for coverage purposes. The game itself was also reviewed on an Xbox Series X console.