Having played the original Mass Effect on the XBox 360 when it came out, the second game on PC, and not having a solid memory of playing the third game on anything, I had to pick this collection up. This was a day one purchase and a series I truly enjoyed replaying.
Over the years I forgot most of the story of Mass Effect. I remembered bits about splitting up your team on a suicide mission, Mass Effect relays, sexual relationships, and scanning planets for hours on end. Having just completed the collection, I’m drawn to the relationship with Liara that my fem-Shep carried through all the games. How I spurned the advances from my other team members. How we took down the shadow broker and revived a Prothean all while saving the universe.
The games do need to be played back-to-back to get a true feeling for the brilliance of this series. If you pick up the Legendary Edition, make sure you have the time to commit to the whole series, the payoff is all the better for it. The amount of time needed to beat each ones goes up with each game. Depending on trophy hunting and completion ration, you’re looking at 15-30 hours per game.
The first game is a little rough around the edges. The environments are really basic and there isn’t much depth to any aspect of the game besides the storytelling. While that sounds like a negative, it’s not a knock against the game. You’re already jumping into a massive trilogy, so feeling this first game out and seeing that it’ll be a relatively short and easy romp provides a good sense of motivation. There aren’t a lot of side missions to mess around with. Levels are pretty basic so you’re not going to get lost or frustrated. Just dig into the fantastic story and start learning about the lore of the universe. Spend some time getting to know all of the squadmates and engross yourself into the world.
I started the game thinking that I’d go renegade (dark side), as apposed to paragon (light side). From my first interaction I realized that I just can’t be a dick to people. I wanted to help everyone out, be the hero, get my girl, and save the day. So Paragon it was.
The first game has one really major choice for your character to make, it has to do with the squad-mate you send to die. You get to chose between Ashley and Kaiden, needless to say the guy took the bullet for the team on this one. He was a good soldier and understood the risks involved and was wiling to make a sacrifice for the galaxy.
I’m not going to dive deep into the story in this review because that’s the whole point of the series. The story is the main driving force and the relationships you form with your crew are all the flavor your little ice cream shop needs to stay in business. The first game does start surprisingly well. The voice acting holds up, even though the character animations and graphics don’t. It would have been really nice to have seen this series get the Demon Souls treatment and brought into the current generation of graphics. As it is, it’s a nice lookback of the evolution of the series and how their engine evolved over the three games.
The second game immediately feels tighter in the gameplay area. Combat is more strategic, you don’t have to just run around with a handgun shooting people in the head. The AI in the first game is pretty horrible, characters would just move left and right like big idiots, the second game bestows them with more of a brain and they’re now capable of using cover.
The biggest addition the second game makes is the introduction of the Illusive Man played by Martin Sheen. It’s a cool concept to have this perceived enemy, with crazy eyes and a room looking over a star that is controlling your characters actions and all that it implies. You get a mix of old and new crew along with DLC characters that are all included in this game.
The game world itself expands from the first, now worlds are more detailed and not as cookie-cutter like how the first game felt. The universe is a bit bigger and has more places to explore. You now get bespoke loyalty missions with each of your squadmates. These missions allow you to get some one-on-one time with your crew to help them out and learn more about them. They are each a great chance to play a cool mission while hanging out with your crew and making them happy.
This is the game that made planet scanning a thing. The thing is, and here is a tip for all you trophy hunters, you don’t need to scan that many planets. Just take it easy, every solar system does not need to get 100% scanned or drained of resources or anything like that. It’s a waist of time, trust me. It’s funny how scanning planets is a memory I clearly have from over a decade ago…
The hacking in this game is also so much better than the first one, you don’t have to do that simple puzzle game anymore, now you get a few different options based on the type of device you’re getting into, and they’re a little more stimulating this time which is good.
Some highlights from this game are taking down the Shadow Broker, Jack’s storyline, and the final assault where the whole team comes together to do a mission. Nobody on my team died because I looked at a trophy guide and made sure I ticked all the boxes, but it’s just fun to finally have everyone you’ve met get involved in a big mission. It made the stakes feel even that much more important to the story, especially for the player.
After taking down the second game, I was almost about to stop playing and mix it up a bit with another game. I am so glad I didn’t do that and just started up the next one. Now remember, I just got the platinum in two games in a row, even though they are much easier to get now than in the original trophy list, which was something I never even considered doing. So I had a few more hours invested in each game than someone else who just wants the story. I was immediately hooked in the story and just wanted to see it through the end. I loaded up my save character and got to work!
The best thing about this game is that you get to start with a bunch of level up points that you can spend on skills, and you start with a bit of money which makes everything a little easier.
Immediately you can tell this is a new game. It just felt even better to play than the second game. Movement felt fresh and you weren’t confined to the running stamina bar you had in the second game. Character models all look pretty good, the females in this game have bodies out of magazines, which is a look. The weirdest thing I found in all these games is the way Shepard walks, there is something about her gate. When you think about it you can figure out what is happening, I think they have one skeleton that they use for all their characters. That means that everyone will have the same basic proportions and the joints will be in the same places. To accommodate certain species and genders using one rig, something has to not look right, and it’s definitely female Shepard. As she saunters around the galaxy, looking like a cowboy or something. She has one of the oddest gaits of any character in a game. It’s not a huge deal, just an interesting artifact to uncover.
Another thing that shocked me was when I saw Ashley Williams. I guess being a Specter suits her well. She cleaned herself up, got a haircut and learned how to put on makeup. It’s pretty hilarious to see how her character evolved over the games. I wonder what happened in the meetings with the character artists as they were putting this game together.
The thing that blew me away with the third game was just how many different environments and art assets you see in your journey. You go from a mission on a crashed ship in the middle of an ocean where you dive down in a mech suit to the bottom searching for your goal to a densely populated city where you’re helping freedom fighters take back a city. It just adds to the world building and makes you feel more connected with an actual universe of people who are all counting on the success of your mission. Compare that to some of the previous games and it does feel like there is a bigger budget on this title.
This game adds a war assets feature where every good deed you do and every alley you recruit adds to a growing pool of assets. The more you get the better your outcome is in the end. Needless to say, you kind of want to get as many forces together as possible. Not just for the number or for the outcome it provides, but you want to stay in this world just a little bit longer. You want to get that flotilla together because you’ve been hearing about these people since the first game. You feel a need to make the rounds, to touch base with everyone you can and to join hands in stopping this genocide from happening.
Perhaps it’s because Liara is my girl and I stayed faithful to her throughout the series, but I did feel a connection to her. It’s a little sad that you can’t go full dating sim with her and that you only get a few scripted moments to have any real sort of connection. It would have been nice to get that a little more fleshed out, but that’s a criticism I have for a lot of games with this type of mechanic. In the end, they did do a good job with her relationship, so I’m not complaining too much.
Another great moment in this game is when you get to bring everyone to your apartment to have a party. It’s a great time to just have the whole crew together for a celebration, where characters can loosen up and get drunk. It was fun seeing everyone interact with each other, which doesn’t happen that often with the dynamics of ship life.
The funny thing about the ending is that I can’t say I was overly happy about the way it turned out. For those that want to know, you get to choose between three different outcomes for the universe, or go down a secret path were it’s basically game over and you fucked up. I don’t like how ambiguous the ending feels, no matter which one you choose. I got a little beacon of hope at the end, but I still would have liked just a bit more. It’s a little sad knowing that the new game, Andromeda, doesn’t really pick up on this character arc and they team decided to start so far away from this world and everything that was established in this trilogy.
Final Score – 9.4
This was a fantastic series. Playing through this legendary edition made me really love Mass Effect all over again. Time had worn down my appreciation for the series. It left it as a memory of something that was good, but today probably wouldn’t hold up. I was wrong. These games do hold up, and they tell a science fiction story full of depth, heart, and intrigue. I finished the series and had the same feeling I got from finishing a good TV show or movie series in which you’re fully invested in the characters and world for an extended period of time. You just want to live in it a little longer and digest everything that just happened. The only thing left for me to do would be to play through again as a renegade asshole. Here’s hoping that a remake of this series, similar to Demon’s Souls on PS5 is in the works.