Mass Effect Legendary Edition Review – Iconic saga hits new heights

Mass Effect Legendary Edition gameplayBioware

Commander Shepard’s entire journey has been pushed forward into a new generation as the Mass Effect Legendary Edition evolves and refines one of gaming’s all-time greatest adventures.

The Mass Effect trilogy remains one of the boldest projects in video game history. Three separate titles, all with their own stories to tell, characters to meet, and worlds to explore, overlapping in a rich sci-fi universe where each individual component builds towards a greater overall experience.

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Decisions made on a whim throughout the initial chapter could lead to galactic consequences in the final act. Companions you meet in the first hour could be with you for the next hundred as the true stakes of the third-person RPG begin to unravel.

As daring as the series was when it kicked off in 2007, nothing has since come close to matching the ambition BioWare had when moulding its iconic saga. Now, almost a decade removed from its finale, the entire Mass Effect experience has been updated and repackaged in the ‘Legendary Edition’. 

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Whether you’ve led the Normandy into battle a hundred times or you’re looking to jump through your first Mass Relay, there’s never been a better way to enjoy one of the greatest trilogies in any medium.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition – Key Details

  • Price: $59.99 (USD), £54.99 (GBP), $99.95 (AUD)
  • Release date: May 14, 2021
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, & Xbox One

Mass Effect Legendary Edition Launch Trailer

The best way to experience Commander Shepard’s journey

At its core, Mass Effect is a polished third-person shooter with deep RPG systems embedded throughout. Across the more than one hundred-hour journey, you’re constantly leveling up your version of Shepard, finding new gear to boost a litany of stats, while also evolving your companions in the same way. Combat is always engaging as you plan out squad positioning, ability usage, and general tactics against a rich variety of targets. While it is often dazzling, especially as the trilogy rolls on, it’s the characters you’ll meet and the places you’ll go that have always been the main draw of Mass Effect.

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The talented team at BioWare flexed its creative muscles more throughout their spacefaring series than perhaps any of its other creations. What begins with a straightforward mission soon expands into an unavoidable conflict of galactic proportions. One which thrusts you right into the heart of it all with no looking back. Assuming the role of Shepard, a relatively blank slate for you to fill in, it’s up to you how your hand-picked squad will navigate each situation and how you’ll go about unifying species to fend off a common threat.

Mass Effect legendary Edition gameplayBioware
All three Mass Effect games and their accompanying DLC are bundled together in the Legendary Edition.

From minute subplots with characters that are gone in a flash to unprecedented struggles that will have you considering your actions for days to come, stories big and small contained within the trilogy are among the best gaming has to offer.

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The smallest details are just as intricately woven into the overarching universe as are giant, world-altering plot threads. It’s an extraordinary balance that keeps you hooked at every turn, even if you’ve already racked up multiple playthroughs.

The sheer amount of content on offer is staggering. The considered lore of every single inch of the universe is remarkable. The branching narrative is a genuine sight to behold when tensions come to a head. All of this and more is waiting for you to uncover in the tidiest package yet.

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Bringing Mass Effect into a new generation

The Citadel has never looked more inviting.

An up-resed bundle merging all three Mass Effect games would have been enticing in its own right. Especially one that brings every piece of DLC together under one roof. With the Legendary Edition, though, BioWare has taken the time to refine the experience. Each title has been hit with a plethora of bug fixes, visual enhancements, and key gameplay tweaks to smooth out some rough edges.

No game received more attention than the very first Mass Effect, however. Having kicked off in 2007, the trilogy took some huge leaps over the following five years. From refined mechanics to smoother gameplay and less obtuse systems, each release built on the last as you would expect.

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In order to modernize the first installment, Mass Effect 1 was the top priority here. With all the enhancements crammed into the Legendary Edition, it’s safe to say BioWare knocked it out of the park.

The 2007 classic received a major facelift for the 2021 release.

Everything looks and feels more in line with a contemporary third-person shooter. As soon as you land on Eden Prime you’ll notice a more vibrant planet thanks to updated textures and enhanced lighting. It won’t push your hardware to the absolute limits, but for an update to the classic title, it’s about as good as you could hope for. The Legendary Edition strikes a perfect balance between ‘not enough’ and ‘too much.’

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The first game hasn’t been completely remade from the ground up, but all the originally bland areas, all the outdated models, essentially everything that needed to be touched up has been touched up with ample respect for the classic experience. It comes across as a finely-tuned upgrade from developers who cared about preserving what made it special more than a decade ago.

If you’re a Mass Effect veteran you’ll know that the first title was never renowned for its combat. While the action came with a unique depth that was scaled back in future iterations, it was never the smoothest experience. Thankfully, Legendary Edition polish tightens everything up to boost the original game in line with its successors.

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Guns are more precise, new button mapping is more natural, commanding your squadmates isn’t quite as clunky, the inventory system has been simplified, and it’s all made even better with a refined HUD. The jump between titles feels less jarring than ever as a result of these upgrades to the original release.

Landing in lava is no longer an insta-kill in the first Mass Effect. It’s the little things.

While such improvements make the first title more palatable to a modern audience, BioWare has even gone as far as to keep some classic downsides in effect for those seeking the most authentic replay possible. Take the MAKO as a key example. In the original Xbox 360 release, your go-to vehicle was infamously difficult to control. It was floaty at the best of times so accidentally launching into a pit of lava was all too easy.

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The Legendary Edition comes with a more polished version of the MAKO so that newcomers never have to endure these old frustrations. Though veterans eager to relive the painful memories are still able to do so by flicking through the in-game settings and toggling on the original gameplay setup.

This is just one instance of how BioWare has catered to both new players and veterans alike without emphasizing one demographic over the other. The same can be said for the game’s leveling system that now only requires one playthrough to max out. Though if you’re a purist, the classic 60 level cap is still there.

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Moreover, lengthy elevator sections can even be skipped in the Legendary Edition. But let’s be real, why would anyone want to do that?

Legendary calibrations across the board

Mass Effect legendary Edition gameplayBioware
Mass Effect 2 & 3 are just as stunning as ever.

The start of the trilogy may have received the most attention. However, by no means have the following titles gone amiss. All three games benefit from 4K resolution and buttery smooth FPS boosts. You have the choice to favor one or the other but playing with the highest quality settings available didn’t lead to any noticeable performance dips on the PlayStation 5.

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One considerable improvement felt throughout the entire trilogy is reduced loading times. This may sound quite menial in the grand scheme of things, but across the original games, you could easily rack up a few hours traveling from system to system, exploring the Normandy, riding elevators, and opening doors. Even fast traveling through the Citadel used to be a nuisance.

In the Legendary Edition, you’re never out of the game for more than a few seconds at a time. It keeps you right in the action, letting you progress quest lines and explore new solar systems until your heart’s content.

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While everything on the surface feels more polished than it ever has, smaller details also stand out for the latter stages of Shepard’s journey. For instance, if you’re an experienced player and just want to dive into the final chapter without playing the rest, that option is there for you thanks to the inclusion of the Mass Effect Genesis comics. BioWare certainly didn’t have to bring these back considering the entire story is right there waiting for you, but they’re available nonetheless, giving you even more options on how to spend your time with the new bundle.

Mass Effect legendary Edition gameplayBioware
All bonus characters and side-missions are now integrated right into the core experience.

To that point, if you want to play through some of the few dozen DLC packs on offer, they’re now neatly integrated into each title, rather than mostly being restricted to post-game unlocks. Additional weapons and armor sets are also available in stores, meaning you can grab them at any time.

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A series-first photo mode is accessible through the entire trilogy, letting you capture the updated environments in all their beauty. Emotional moments with the unforgettable cast, large-scale battles, or even simple moments of quietude on a tranquil new planet can all be captured and stored forever. Another addition that was by no means necessary, but extremely welcomed to add that little something for returning players. 

With unified character customization, you can even keep the exact same model across all three titles now. It’s these finer touches that help form the ultimate Mass Effect experience. They’re born out of a respect for the original games without changing or limiting what was once there. When the sum of its parts come together, the series is something truly special. Now, there’s no better way to play through one of gaming’s best adventures than with the Legendary Edition.

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Our favorite trilogy on the Citadel

The Mass Effect series remains one of BioWare’s most profound accomplishments. A daring three-part story that more than delivers on its lofty goals. Through unforgettable characters, remarkable RPG systems, choices with unmatched ramifications, and rich world-building, you’ll want to continue exploring long after the credits roll.

Rating 10/10

If you’re yet to play through the series, there’s truly never been a better time to start. If you’ve played through Shepard’s story already, Legendary Edition upgrades do more than enough to make it feel fresh once again. It truly is the ultimate package for newcomers and longtime fans alike.

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