Mass Effect Legendary Edition - Mass Effect 1 DEALS
Mass Effect remains one of EA’s biggest franchises, despite its mediocre fourth sequel and BioWare’s attempt at capturing the live service market. So much so that the initial trilogy just received an official remastered re-release on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
To do justice to each game, we’ve decided to split our review of Mass Effect Legendary Edition into 3 parts, each looking at each game in the package. So let’s begin with the first Mass Effect and see how it compares to the original.
The Invasion Of The Space Lobsters
Mass Effect really sold itself on its massive scope, though I found it a bit clunky in terms of writing. At least after replaying it for this review. A lot of characters don’t really do much beyond spewing exposition or codex information at you. Sure it helps learn about the game, but upon replaying Mass Effect for like the 100th time, it does get a bit boring.
But Mass Effect was the first in the series and a lot needed to be established, and that’s exactly what we get here. Shepard is established as the galaxy’s protector within the first couple hours of gameplay. We also meet some core characters fairly quickly as well, including fan favorites Garrus Vakarian and Tali’Zorah nar Rayya.
In terms of its sci-fi sensibilities, Mass Effect falls extremely close to the space opera feel of Star Wars. You don’t really get anything too alien. Most of the aliens have humanoid shapes, or shapes based on things we are familiar with.
A prime example is the main enemy of the game, the Reapers. Lore-wise, Reapers have an almost Lovecraftian vibe to them, appearing as elder gods that are going to wipe us out just cause they feel like it. But their design makes them just look like massive space lobsters.
This kind of “alien based on earth physiology” design language is seen all through the game. It kind of makes the game a bit hard to take seriously at times. But as any Mass Effect fan can attest to, it’s part of the fun.
A Slow Start
The biggest problem with Mass Effect becomes increasingly apparent on subsequent playthroughs. The beginning of the game is an absolute slog. After your first mission you’re dropped on the Citadel where you’re subjected to the absolute worst part of Mass Effect.
While the Citadel provides a ton of lore and exposition, it gets overbearing to the point where almost every single character you meet there is a lore dump. In addition, nearly all of the quests require you to go back and forth between the various places on the Citadel. You can only fast travel between the different places once you have gone there by elevator.
Luckily the Legendary Edition makes you able to skip the elevator rides and speeds them up significantly. It lessens some of the frustration, but the start of Mass Effect is still the biggest issue with the game.
The Legendary Edition features some rather heavy tweaks to the gameplay of the first game. The most notable change is the inventory system. You can now mark items as junk and then sell all your junk or convert it to Omnigel. It’s a welcome addition that cuts down massively on the amount of inventory management, even though there’s still a lot of it.
Another noteworthy addition is the reduced level cap of 30 as opposed to 60 from the original game. You can still use the old level cap if you want to, but having it set to 30 massively decreases the play time needed to get high level gear and speeds up leveling drastically. Given the games are meant to be played in succession, it feels nice not having to completely be devoted to New Game + in order to see everything the game has to offer.
Of course, it can also make the game a bit easy, and indeed it does. Even on Normal the game becomes way too easy with the Legendary leveling enabled, and I recommend veteran players choose the higher difficulties if they want a challenge.
The most drastic change in my opinion though is how the weapons function. In the original Mass Effect, guns largely functioned the same, and only had minor differences in their accuracy, overheat time and damage. In the Legendary Edition, every single gun model is unique in some way, with some having varying fire rates, sound effects and feel to them.
Recoil has also been reduced and a lot of the guns have much beefier sounds to them. A prime example are the sniper rifles, which now sound like freaking assault cannons if you get the right configuration for them. It helps combat feel a lot more satisfying, something the original game definitely needed.
One change I am not a fan of is that they combined the sprint and use key like in the sequels. While this may work great on a controller, on PC it becomes more of a frustration. At least it is something you do get used to.
The Mako also received an overhaul and you now have some choices as to how it controls. You can either go for the original style, where the camera moves independently from the Mako, or have the Mako follow the camera. The latter is an option for those who don’t like the original style, but in my opinion it makes driving the Mako worse.
The Mako was clearly designed with the original style in mind. The turret is supposed to move independently from the Mako itself. Snapping the Mako itself to where the turret is aiming just feels wrong. It makes it feel like the controls are fighting against themselves when making evasive maneuvers. Think of the Mako as essentially a tank and you get the point.
A noticeable change about the Mako is the ability to shoot your cannon anywhere you want. In the original game, the aim of the cannon largely adhered to where it was placed on the Mako, which felt more realistic. But let’s be honest, being able to actually hit things is probably better.
Not Smooth Sailing
Though not everything about the Legendary Edition is perfect. I came across numerous minor bugs and annoyances that simply did not exist in the original game.
One bug I came across was the fact that sometimes after exiting the Mako the use button simply stopped working. I had to reload my save to get it back to working order. I have no idea how this was even triggered.
A huge bug in the game that still has not been fixed is the fact I was unable to toggle helmets for my team members. No matter what team member I had selected on the Squad menu, the Toggle Helmet button would only toggle Shepard’s helmet.
In addition to that there were performance issues galore. Especially while driving in open terrain with the Mako where the game would suffer from massive stuttering.
Nothing I changed in the options would fix the issue. My framerate would drop to around 30-40 around these areas. The game performed perfectly smooth in any interior level, even some of the main driving sections like Therum and Virmire.
I also had some minor bugs such as Shepard disappearing from the squad menu, and menus feeling unresponsive in general. Especially the squad menu when assigning points, where stuff would feel like it became “deselected” after getting/upgrading a power.
A known problem with the original game is the squad AI. Members will repeatedly get stuck behind doors, fire at terrain instead of enemies and generally be in your way. They will also repeatedly use weapons they are either not trained to use by default, or use weapons not suited for the distance. This means you have to constantly manage your squad’s weapon usage and positions, just to keep them from making a complete fool of themselves.
I really wish the AI could’ve been overhauled like the rest of the gameplay, it really is one aspect of the original game that needed attention. Just having some systems in place to improve how your team mates act would’ve gone a long way to improve the gameplay experience. But alas, we see the same problems occur in the Legendary Edition. Combat feels unnecessarily clunky as a result.
Since I’m playing on PC I also experienced issues that would be exclusive to this platform. It might not be a problem for everyone, but the game does require an Origin account, even if you bought it on Steam. The game launches through Origin and uses the Origin service in the background. Like I said, it’s not a huge issue, just something to be aware of.
Though that’s the least of the problems I encountered. In addition to the aforementioned performance issues, I noticed that the hacking minigame was pretty much butchered in this edition. The mouse controls for it feel extremely sensitive, so much so that a slight move of the mouse would send the cursor moving several pixels.
In the original game, the hacking minigame felt really smooth and responsive, if not a bit slow. It feels like they tried to solve this issue by making it faster, but by doing so they made it unnecessarily difficult. Late-game this become less of a problem due to the abundance of Omnigel, but early game it is a huge issue. Especially if you plan on opening a lot of the secured crates in the game.
I also had trouble when alt-tabbing Mass Effect, where the game would act differently depending on what it was doing. If I alt-tabbed during a pre-rendered cutscene, the game would become quiet. If I alt-tabbed during an in-engine cutscene it would play as normal, with audio and all.
Alt-tabbing during the normal gameplay would pause the game, but not how you might think. Animations would still go on in the background, the HUD would still animate, but everything else would freeze. The most interesting thing is that alt-tabbing during conversations would have no effect and the game would run as normal.
This made it really difficult to multitask while playing Mass Effect as I might want to alt-tab during an elevator ride or whenever the game did not require my full attention, but alt-tabbing during those moments would either mute or pause the game. And alt-tabbing when the game DID require my attention, such as during cutscenes, would make it play as normal. It was a very strange experience.
A Graphical Overhaul
The main draw of the Legendary Edition is of course the graphics. I can certainly say that the level of detail is a lot higher across the board, although some objects in the game still look pretty bad on close inspection.
The first Mass Effect was clearly made with a lack of detail in mind, and a lot of in-game objects reflect this design philosophy. Things vaguely look like what they are supposed to be, such as computer banks and crates. So increasing the detail doesn’t really add anything where there wasn’t much to begin with.
That’s not to say that the Legendary Edition doesn’t take artistic freedom with the source material. The lighting has been improved but also looks drastically different. Settings like Eden Prime and Feros now look completely different from the original game, and not always in the best way.
I’m not sure if I’m a fan of this change, and we’re of course reminded that this is an EA game from the late 2000s by the heavy amount of bloom and lens flare in the game. It becomes frankly a bit too much in some spots, where the lens flare will cover the entire screen.
Not Really Enough
The graphical overhaul honestly doesn’t have that much of an impact though. Animations still look a bit stiff and clunky. Facial animations in particular can at times look a bit weird with the new lighting. I had a bit of a laughing fit on the character creation menu seeing Shepard just staring blankly into space with their mouth half open and a completely empty look on their face.
On PC you barely have any options to tweak the graphics anyway, with no options to adjust texture resolution, amount of bloom and lens flares, or tweaking post-processing stuff. The Options menu is disappointingly barebones in that regard, only offering to tweak things like Motion Blur and Film Grain.
The Sound Of Space
Mass Effect’s soundtrack by Jack Wall and Sam Hulick is still as great now as it was back in 2007. I noticed the Legendary Edition provides a few new variations and remixes during some of the key scenes in the game. It changes things up where needed and adds a bit of additional emotional weight. I also remain grateful the game introduced me to the band Faunts who provided the end credits song “M4 Part II”.
Still, the soundtrack hasn’t really been heavily changed, not that it needed it. It’s still as great now as it was back then. Relying heavily on synthesizers, it features Jarre-esque soundscapes and a unique sound that I definitely love about the game. A lot of AAA games rely heavily on orchestral music, which is fine, but in a sci-fi game like this, it’s welcome to hear a more futuristic sound.
Some of the voice-lines might have been re-recorded or using alternate takes, as I’m not sure if they were in the original game. The biggest change is how the guns sound, with a general beefier and punchier sound overall. Especially noticeable is the Mako’s new cannon sound, which is just… perfect.
There are some mildly confusing ambient noise choices in the game, such as hearing seagulls on Virmire. I’m not sure if seagulls are invasive enough to make it to the other side of the galaxy but what do I know. But I can’t complain, as a whole the sound design is great and improves a lot on the original game.
In conclusion, the Legendary Edition of Mass Effect brings a lot of welcome improvements to the table. I can’t help but feel like it’s not really enough though. As a whole the package feels a bit lackluster. While a lot of things are improved upon, it does not do anything to fix the broken team AI or clunky combat.
I also would’ve loved to see some interviews with the developers and voice cast of the game. Some additional material like the novels or the comic books would’ve been nice too. It’s also hard to overlook the many issues currently plaguing the PC version of the first game. I can’t help but feel that on PC, this remaster feels a bit unnecessary due to the amount of mods you can download for the original game.
But if you’re a fan of the original games and you’re looking for an excuse to replay them on a modern system with improved graphics, you can do worse than the Legendary Edition, even though you sure as hell can do better.
Stay tuned for part 2, where we take a look at how the second game in the series plays in the Legendary Edition. In the meantime, let us know what you think about Mass Effect Legendary Edition in the comments!
Mass Effect Legendary Edition - Mass Effect 1
The first game in the Mass Effect series receives a massive overhaul in the Legendary Edition but fails to address core issues like the problematic AI and even adds in new problems such as bugs and performance issues. It also massively changes the atmosphere on some levels. Despite this, the Legendary Edition remains a decent way to experience the original game, even if it didn't completely blow us away.
- Improved gunplay, guns feel unique
- Many quality-of-life improvements
- Improved graphics and lighting
- Excellent sound design and music
- Some unwelcome artistic changes
- Performance issues
- Several new bugs specific to the Legendary Edition
- Lacking graphical options
- Fails to fix the broken squad AI
Sound & Music