It’s almost time to step aboard the Normandy SR-1 once again, Commander Shepard. Mass Effect Legendary Edition is out tomorrow, and here are our first impressions.
If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting for this massive remaster with bated breath—and I can tell you now that the wait was worth it. I was fortunate enough to play the start of Mass Effect a few days before launch, as review codes went out alongside a substantial day one patch, and I’m very pleased with BioWare’s updates.
I played the trilogy for the first time just last year, so the experience is still fresh in my mind, including the original game’s jankiness. The inventory system was tedious, combat could feel clunky, and exploration was saddled with load times. Fortunately, all of these have indeed been addressed, judging by the opening hours. (For more details on the exact changes, check out this breakdown from last month.)
Battles now feel more natural, and more consistent with later installments. The first Mass Effect‘s unique traits are still present but Shepard handles more like the sequels. In fact, I didn’t really realize just how much the game was working against me in the original version until now. Thanks to big changes beneath the hood, gunplay is intuitive, without the more volatile tabletop RPG elements affecting your shooting. Having access to all weapons, not just the two class-dictated firearms, makes a world of difference as well—especially since I just finished Mass Effect Andromeda and gotten accustomed to its nigh-limitless arsenal. The dedicated melee button is equally welcome.
For the most part, the visual overhaul looks fantastic. Loading times between areas are smooth and short on PS4, and the infamous elevator sequences can now be skipped. The improvements become clear as soon as you open the character creator, especially if you’re playing a female Shepard. I have a recurring problem in BioWare games, and to an extent any game with a character builder, where my creations look great until I actually put them into the game—but this is one instance where my creation looks as good, or better, in action as they do on the drawing board.
There are a number of new creation options for Shepard, like a larger diversity of female hair options and hair colours, including two shades of purple and a wine red. Male options saw fewer additions, and there still are no long hair options there. Either way, Shepard looks great in the game itself, which is a relief, considering how long you’ll spend gazing at their face.
Other characters run the spectrum of quality, however. Captain Anderson, for instance, seems somewhat off to me, as does Ashley’s, and Doctor Chakwas looks too young for her years now. Meanwhile, Ambassador Udina’s (very punchable) face got a glow-up, as did some small-time NPCs like Fist or Conrad. Alien species look great, however, thanks to the improved textures; Tali really shines in this department.
However, since Mass Effect Legendary Edition is still running on Unreal Engine 3, some of the less natural details have been retained, like NPCs that may seem a little wooden during cutscenes. Plus the first game’s ugly armour sets are still along for the ride, unfortunately, as are the Simon Says minigames to unlock doors. The inventory system remains tedious, though the ability to tag items for sale later brings some relief.
And sorry, I still don’t like the Mako.
Small qualms aside, Mass Effect Legendary Edition has already blown me away, and with this much care shown, I’m really looking forward to reliving the rest of Shepard’s journey. Stay tuned to CGM in the coming weeks to catch our full review!
Now, I should go—back to playing this, that is.