Few releases in recent years have had as impressive an impact as the Mass Effect series has on the world of gaming. The original sci-fi trilogy, released on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, served as a showcase for what can be done in the medium of gaming when it is approached as a major artform with its own special qualities. The world building in Mass Effect is so vast and its galactic space opera narrative so engaging it could easily translate as a summer movie blockbuster in the footsteps of Star Wars or J.J. Abram’s Star Trek reboots.
Though video games, with their participatory nature, have the space and scope to accomplish far more than even the most ambitious cinematic spectacles. The Mass Effect trilogy places you in the role of protagonist Commander Shepard as you navigate dozens of hours of its dynamic storyline wherein your unique decisions play an instrumental role in the course the game takes. With an engaging play mechanic that blends the best of 3rd person shooter adventure games with action RPGs, developer BioWare served up a beautifully crafted experience.
BioWare’s last major project was Anthem, a game that shared some DNA with Mass Effect, but took it in a decidedly more action-oriented direction. It didn’t do well in the eyes of critics and fans alike who felt it was relatively unpolished and poorly realised. The last actual Mass Effect title was 2017’s spin-off, Mass Effect: Andromeda. The game was met with initial excitement, though with the benefit of hindsight it is generally considered to be a weaker game than the prime trilogy.
On November 7th (the de-facto Mass Effect holiday, N7 Day) in 2020 BioWare announced the return of the series with Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, a total rework and remaster of the original trilogy, with all 40 DLC packs included, set for release in the spring of 2021. It will be released on the Xbox One and Playstation 4, with forward compatibility to the PS5 and Xbox Series X next-gen consoles.
Legendary Edition will feature a host of graphical updates from improved character models and textures to more lighting and special effects, all in glorious 4K resolution. Mass Effect 2 and 3 both received this beautifying treatment, but the original title, released way back in 2007, required more substantial work. BioWare say the remaster of Mass Effect included in Legendary Edition is more akin to a ground-up remake, as they sought to bring its play mechanics and game engine more in line with modern gaming standards and conventions.
Another noteworthy update is that BioWare have wisely opted to omit the original ending of Mass Effect 3 in favour of the Extended Cut version, an amendment that was originally released as DLC in response to a massive backlash from players. This was due to the way Mass Effect 3 effectively rendered its reactive, branching storyline over the course of 40+ hours completely meaningless by providing three endings that, in the words of critical developer Jay Turner, “only really changed the color of the explosions” in the closing cinematic.
But Wait, There’s More!
Hot off the heels of this announcement, BioWare unveiled a teaser trailer in December at The Game Awards 2020 for what appears to be an entirely new Mass Effect game. Details at present are scarce and the rumour mill is in overdrive seeking to glean information from the trailer and the cryptic hints dropped by BioWare developers over Twitter. What we can know for sure is this will be the first Mass Effect game built from the ground up with next generation hardware and all the fidelity and graphical horsepower that it promises.
Some feel that, due to the presence of certain characters and settings in the trailer, that this title is a sequel to Mass Effect: Andromeda. However, given its release arriving hot-on-the-heels of Legendary Edition, it is thought most likely to be Mass Effect 4, perhaps with some narrative tie-ins to the Andromeda universe. We can expect to hear more as we move further into 2021 and will keep you posted!
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