Mass Effect Legendary Edition Review

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Mass Effect Legendary Edition Review

Posted by Chanel Ferguson

11 Jun, 2021


BioWare brings the Mass Effect trilogy to modern audiences in an updated remaster—with improved visuals and gameplay changes to Mass Effect 1 but not much else.

Needing to fix their reputation after the widely panned Mass Effect Andromeda in 2017, BioWare hopes to restore any burned bridges with Mass Effect: Legendary Edition. The remaster brings the original Mass Effect trilogy to the current gen, including Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 in one package, with all except one piece of downloadable content included. BioWare has updated the clunky gameplay from the first Mass Effect while improving textures and character models across the trilogy. New players will get to see what made the original trilogy such a rewarding experience. However, existing fans will have varying experiences. Aside from the above-mentioned changes as well as a new photo mode in all three games, nearly everything else is the same. This includes the controversial ending to Mass Effect 3. The multiplayer function is also markedly absent, barring hints and teases from BioWare devs about a possible remaster for the horde mode co-op shooter. But if you’re looking to experience the single-player story exactly as it was a decade ago—flaws and all—you’re in good hands.

Mass Effect

The most ambitious entry, Mass Effect gets a facelift for the Legendary Edition. Most notable is the gunplay, which feels much sharper and more responsive than the original. No matter which class you play as—soldier, engineer, sentinel, infiltrator or adept—you get access to all guns from the start. You can run around as an infiltrator blasting enemies up close with shotguns, feeling that powerful kick to your shots, or you can play it safe and hang back with a sniper rifle in any class you choose. Combining your powers with your teammates’ for tech and biotic explosions is just as satisfying this time around.

BioWare also updated the controls to the infamous Mako rover truck, used for exploring planets out in the open. The Mako actually stays grounded on a planet’s surface, no longer causing headaches while driving. The truck will still bounce around if you’re going down a steep, rocky incline, but it will right itself whenever possible. However, you might still run into some bugs with the Mako, such as the truck randomly getting stuck while driving around. As another improvement, players will find a few more options to choose from while creating a character. Both the male and female versions of Commander Shepard have new hairstyles and skin tones to select from, including the choice to go with the default FemShep from the original Mass Effect 3 for the entire trilogy. 

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition brings improvements to the character models and lighting while still retaining the feel of the original game. Some characters, such as Joker, the Normandy’s pilot, and Kaidan Alenko, one of your biotic squad members, look generally the same. Other characters like Ashley Williams, the soldier on your team, look unusually different from their original models, as if they’re dolls made of clay. The new lighting doesn’t always help with this, often highlighting these strange details in any given scene. Some visual bugs are still present as well, such as characters’ eyes turning white whenever they interact with Liara T’Soni during certain scenes on the Normandy. 

Fortunately, Mass Effect’s story, cutscenes and side quests remain intact. You play as Commander Shepard, leading your squad of humans and aliens against Saren, a megalomaniac leading the galaxy into doom. While chasing down Saren with your team, you’ll uncover the galaxy’s vast secrets. The game’s lore weaves itself excellently into the main missions and the side quests, often posing questions for Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 to solve. For downloadable content, Bring Down the Sky is automatically available to play, but Pinnacle Station doesn’t make a reappearance. Overall, Mass Effect still makes you feel like a hero through Commander Shepard, whether you’re playing as a virtuous Paragon or a ruthless Renegade with your dialogue choices or somewhere in between. Every single one of your choices carry over into the next game.

Mass Effect 2

Compared to the first game, Mass Effect 2 doesn’t have as many drastic changes, mostly because it doesn’t need them. When the game first released in 2010, Mass Effect 2 was already a huge jump in gameplay and visuals compared to its predecessor. Legendary Edition makes that jump less apparent; it’s more of a seamless transition instead. You’ll still find some updated character models, like with Miranda Lawson, your second-in-command squad mate, who looks more like her original Mass Effect 3 model. Additional weapons and armor once locked behind DLC are now freely available to collect throughout the game. All of Mass Effect 2’s other DLC also carries over, such as Overlord, Lair of the Shadow Broker, Arrival, and two squad mates—the ex-mercenary Zaeed Massani and the master thief, Kasumi Goto.

Virtually everything else about Mass Effect 2 is the same. The story and lore are less of a focus this time around, leaving your many squad members to take the spotlight in a more character-driven narrative. The sequel also scales down the open-galaxy approach to Mass Effect 1 in favor of a linear experience. Maps and levels are generally a single corridor with one correct way to go. Enemies are less spread out, behaving more in line with a cover-based shooter. You can no longer use every type of gun and are instead restricted to what your class specializes in. That said, Legendary Edition does add more spare ammo when picking up thermal clips in the field, making up for the frustrating ammo scarcity in the original game.

For anyone who has played the original, you will find Legendary Editing familiar, aside from a few changes here and there. Meanwhile, new players should have an experience as close to the original as possible. Your choices from Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 will carry over into Mass Effect 3 as the trilogy’s conclusion. 

Mass Effect 3

Similar to Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3 is largely unchanged—for better or worse. The most notable change is that the multiplayer function no longer contributes to your galactic readiness in the war, simply because the multiplayer just isn’t here anymore. However, like with Mass Effect 2, the other changes are mostly cosmetic. Updated character models persist throughout the trilogy. Mass Effect 3 retains all single-player DLC, including From Ashes, Leviathan, Omega and Citadel, as well as all weapons, armor and alternate appearances once locked behind paywalls. The Extended Cut replaces the original ending, adding a few more scenes and additional context to the game’s final hour. The devs made sure to fix a few bugs, like during the Omega DLC, as well as the infamous “rock” glitch on a certain planet. A couple of other bugs remain elsewhere, like with enemies T-posing at times, but these aren’t too noticeable.

Mass Effect 3 still retains its phenomenal story, with payoff after payoff of all your choices throughout the trilogy. You get to see how your decisions ripple out to the entire galaxy, affecting the fates of entire planets and civilizations. Smaller choices, such as who you choose to romance, also play out to their logical conclusion. But Mass Effect 3’s other problems remain, such as the odd fetch quests Shepard “overhears” on the Citadel, your squad mates hardly offering unique conversations on the Normandy, the shallowness of a certain assassin antagonist, and your Mass Effect 2 squad mates not getting nearly enough screen time. Whichever camp you’re in regarding the game’s ending, Legendary Edition will likely not change your mind. This version of Mass Effect 3 exists to preserve the original, no matter how strongly anyone feels about it.


Existing somewhere between a remaster and a full-on remake, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition sets out to do one thing and one thing only—bring the original trilogy to today’s platforms. The overhauls to Mass Effect 1 help to standardize the game for modern expectations. Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 are as they were, mainly repackaged with all downloadable content included. New fans are in for a treat, getting to see what makes the original trilogy such a satisfying experience. 

Mass Effect 3 multiplayer enthusiasts may want to sit this one out though. Additionally, single-player and multiplayer mods on PC kept the original trilogy alive long past its prime, with an outpouring of fan support keeping the community active. With the right mods, the original trilogy already presents an experience close to Legendary Edition, if not surpassing it. Restored cut content, additional gameplay elements, different romance options for male and female Shepards, updated textures and lighting, more realistic hairstyles and faces—the mods offer all of this and more, which ends up beating out the Legendary Edition’s efforts. Still, for anyone who doesn’t care for mods, or who prefers to play on console only, this remaster should make a great addition to their library.


About Author

Chanel Ferguson

Chanel Ferguson is a novelist who loves gaming. She grew up with role-playing games such as Final Fantasy and Shin Megami Tensei. While pursuing an undergraduate degree in philosophy, she spent her free time writing fiction novels, crafting unique worlds and characters inspired by video games.

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