Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
The Good: Snazzy, new graphics. Some positive gameplay tweaks.
The Bad: Do snazzy, new graphics make a game worth playing, or replaying for that matter? Some of the DLCs don’t work narratively speaking because they’ve just been shoved into the game.
The Ugly: I kind of forgot how annoying some pieces of ME series were, especially the first one.
As a game reviewer, I play a lot of video games (and probably start too many game reviews with that proclamation, but that’s another topic entirely). I’ve been doing it for over twenty years. In all those years, the pieces of some games stand out in my memory. The ride aboard the Half-Life train. My first glimpse of the city of Rapture. The first time a dungeon was truly 3D with one hallway passing over another (for me that happened in Daggerfall, though I’m not sure if that’s the first place it happened period). My point is that really none of those moments were all about graphics. My memory of my first glimpse of Rapture was more influenced by my fascination at the amazing conception of an entire underwater metropolis than about how pretty it looked. I can think of only one time that graphics absolutely blew me away, and that was in Oblivion where you come crawling out of the dungeon and into the meadow with the sky and the sunshine, and even that was more about the possibility of a dungeon crawler that no longer relegated you entirely to a dungeon than how pretty that meadow looked. I just can’t help but feel – and maybe I’m in the minority in this – that great graphics doesn’t make a bad game good, or even a good game appreciably better.
There’s no denying that Mass Effect series, the ending of the third game aside, was a good series, primarily due to the strength of its characters and writing, and it was very cool that you could import characters and choices from previous games into the later ones. That kind of continuity brought something into videogames I hadn’t seen before. I grew to care about these characters and how the choices I made impacted them. It was a sprawling science fiction space epic originally conceived as a trilogy, which allowed for a deeper lore than most games could dare attempt. That kind of storytelling, that was groundbreaking.
There were also some iffy bits, some of which I only remembered as I started playing. The combat uses a Gears of War style cover system, but I recall the first game required you to approach a cover barrier and hit a key to enter cover. You had to be in the right place and moving in the right direction for the cover command to work, and it could be shockingly fiddly. They fixed that issue in later games, and in the Legendary Edition brought that fix back into the first game. So that’s a plus. The kind of cylindrical Frogger minigame for hacking systems has not improved with time. The kind of hokey ‘omnigel’ that was both a floor wax and an ice cream topping (that’s an old SNL reference, for those who don’t get it) felt silly then and feels silly now. Another thing I had forgotten about Mass Effect was the dialog system, which usually presented you with only a few choices – one typically being “I’m an A-hole” and the other being “I’m a paragon of virtue.” For a game that was all about choice, and more importantly the impact of your choices (we can debate how all of that choice was flushed down the toilet in the third game at another time), it featured an astonishing lack of shades of gray in your options.I had also forgotten just how much time I spent reading the Codex (an electronic encyclopedia which contains everything you’ve run across in the game) to fill in holes in the narrative.I’ll add that some of the DLC, most of which I never played, now seem to occur at seemingly random places and times, out of order and interfering with the original narrative.
But beyond all of that, many people played Mass Effect, me among them, and enjoyed Mass Effect, and have fond memories of it, and got huge Mass Effect tattoos on their inner thighs. But this “legendary” revamp is almost entirely graphics, and at no time do I recall playing Mass Effect and thinking to myself “this game would be awesome if there were greater texture and detail in Miranda’s butt,” and I can’t figure out who the legendary edition was made for. Elements of the game feel dated. Heck, they are dated. The first game that was fourteen years ago. Even the third one is closing in on a decade old. I think new gamers coming at Mass Effect now are going to see that, and maybe the plot will hold them, or maybe they’ll get bored at the dated combat and empty hallways and lackluster NPCs in the Citadel and give up there. The series doesn’t play as well or as smoothly as Gears of War 5 or The Outer Worlds. And with all the secrets revealed and all the plot lines run out, I can’t see anyone other than a superfan going through the 100+ to rerun it all.
Look, Mass Effect Legendary Edition isn’t bad. It’s good. It’s as good as a revamping of the original series all delivered in one sleek package can be. I’m just not sure who has been asking for that.
Reviewed By: Phil Soletsky
Publisher: Electronic Arts
This review is based on a digital copy of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition for the PC provided by Electronic Arts.