In an era of remasters, remakes, and re-releases, BioWare’s Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is among the most requested and anticipated of them all.
The military science-fiction trilogy has amassed a devoted legion of fans in the gaming community, each of whom have fallen in love with it in their own way. That uniqueness and sense of agency are reflective of the games themselves. The original trilogy is packed with deep lore, great characters, and an ambitious amount of player choice. Earning loyal friends, devoting time to romantic partners, and living out the fantasy of being a military commander in space—that is the allure of Mass Effect, a game that is, thus far, unmatched across the gaming industry.
BioWare released the first Mass Effect on Xbox in 2007, Windows PC in 2008, and PlayStation 3 in 2012, to critical acclaim. Customizing your own Commander Shepard includes selecting their gender, tweaking their appearance, selecting their background origins as a Spacer, Colonist, or Earthborn, and choosing their combat class. While the third-person shooter combat is clunky and frustrating to deal with at times, it’s possible to set this aside for the joys the space opera story has to offer.
You learn about the mysterious Protheans who once existed 50,000 years ago, and the artifacts they left behind that warned of the terrible invasion that would wipe them out. The story of Mass Effect takes you through both that mystery and the imminent repeat invasion by the Reapers, a race of powerful, sentient machines. Along the way, you grow closer to your squadmates—Ashley Williams, a tough soldier with a tragic family history; Kaidan Alenko, a kind and considerate marine who acts with integrity; Urdnot Wrex, a huge, hulking krogan who’s always up for a fight; Garrus Vakarian, a smooth-talking former police officer who enjoys the freedom of being on your team; Tali’Zorah, a young quarian engineer who knows the best ways to keep your spaceship running; and Liara T’Soni, a shy asari scientist who specializes in studying the Protheans and offers your team her knowledge and expertise. As you get to know the other characters over time, you can befriend them, romance some of them, or even, if necessary, kill some of them.
Mass Effect 2 was released on Windows PC and Xbox 360 in 2010, and on PlayStation 3 in 2011. Following the events of the first game, Commander Shepard is tasked with leading their team to take down the Collectors, a race of aliens that are abducting human colonies and threatening humanity’s very existence. A giant leap forward in production value, the sequel received near-universal praise. The large, diverse cast of unique characters, improved third-person shooter combat, and impressive orchestral score brought in a huge new audience. While some criticized the main story as too removed from the first Mass Effect due to having little to do with the central Reaper threat, most players enjoyed the primary focus of squad interactions. This focus added tension to the final suicide mission against the Collectors, where some of your squad mates could die based on your choices.
Mass Effect 2 also allows you to carry over your decisions and the Commander Shepard you customized in the first game. This serves as a great incentive for players to go back and replay the first Mass Effect to perhaps make different story choices or choose a different love interest. Some of the series’ most beloved bunches of downloadable content stories emerged with Mass Effect 2, including the Lair of the Shadow Broker, where Commander Shepard helps their old squadmate, Liara T’Soni, take down the galaxy’s infamous Shadow Broker. By the end of the sequel, the Reapers’ arrival is just around the corner.
Mass Effect 3 was released on Windows PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U in 2012. The Reapers have finally arrived, and Commander Shepard leads the galaxy’s united efforts in the war. Carrying over saved files from both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 brings along all the decisions you made across the trilogy. Characters remember how you treated them in the past, which story decisions you made, who you chose to save or sacrifice, and even if you stayed faithful to your love interest. Everything comes down to your choices in the end, but this is where Mass Effect 3’s main controversy lies.
The ending is polarizing. For newcomers, depending on your expectations, you may love the ending or hate it. Maybe you’ve been spoiled already. Either way, there’s no getting around this glaring issue. For some fans, the series isn’t defined by its divisive ending. Experiencing the Mass Effect games again is sure to bring fans nostalgia and memories of old times and past feelings. The prospect of making new memories in the modern era is also quite promising.
With the release of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, longtime fans are excited to have the original trilogy back in the spotlight. Having modernized versions of Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3 is sure to bring in a new audience of fans as well. Updated character models, resolutions, and framerates are among the expected changes. Having access to previously cut content, such as removed romance options and deleted scenes, would be a great bonus. Furthermore, improving the clunky combat from the first Mass Effect would be a welcome change for newcomers and longtime fans alike. But plenty are excited simply for the chance to experience these games on current systems.
Many players were too young to experience the trilogy in its prime or simply weren’t sure about jumping in, so now is the perfect time to try the games out. Despite the controversies, there is a sizable community of devoted Mass Effect fans worldwide who still play the original trilogy on PC and consoles, create and experiment with mods, and so much more. These games inspired a generation of gamers to fall in love with a remarkable franchise. The Legendary Edition has the potential to inspire the next generation of gamers to do the same.