Mass Effect Legendary Edition Review

Richard Walker

It was almost impossible to predict almost fourteen years ago, when Mass Effect was first unleashed upon the world, how much of an impact the plucky sci-fi game would go on to have. But there was never any doubt about how ambitious BioWare's sprawling space opera was. Though it looked, on the surface, like the Canadian studio was taking another foray into far-off galaxies after 2003’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect released fully formed as entirely its own thing. Those first three Mass Effect games were, in retrospect, lightning in a bottle, and being presented with the chance to revisit them – especially after Andromeda prompted the franchise to be put on ice – is more than welcome.

That's close enough, shitty Husks!

From the first game’s battle against the deadly robotic geth and rogue turian Spectre Saren; to the sequel’s race against time as the Reapers bear down on humanity; and the escalating drama of the third game’s finale to cap things off, Mass Effect Legendary Edition houses all of those memorable moments under one roof. It’s exciting to see how the series evolved, too, honing its third-person cover shooter action with each iteration, focusing on the essential elements while stripping away any fripperies. All three titles hang together beautifully as part of a collection, and as a complete saga – steeped in deep and complex lore, myriad alien races, and intergalactic politics, framed by a looming threat that could spell the end of all known life – there are few franchises out there that match Mass Effect for sheer narrative intrigue and cinematic spectacle.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition also sees all three games lovingly remastered, draped in high-resolution textures, given a frame-rate boost, a nice bit of lighting here, a little extra spit shine there, and a plethora of quality-of-life changes. Naturally, the game to benefit the most is the first Mass Effect, which, given its vintage, shouldn't come as much of a surprise. What's amazing is how well the game holds up; BioWare's tinkering with and tightening up of the core mechanics makes the experience feel fresh, without compromising what made your first tentative steps into an exciting sci-fi universe as the first human Spectre, Commander Shepard, so memorable all those years ago.

Mass Effect 1 was always the least technically refined of the trilogy, but here it's been given a new lease of life, with smooth, high-resolution textures and overhauled lighting, albeit at the expense of some of the game's moodier moments. Scenes where colours were previously muted and the lighting was deliberately darker have been illuminated, draining them of their atmospheric impact – what the game gains in clarity and vibrance, it loses in generating a sense of mood. This isn't of such enormous detriment to Mass Effect that it sours the experience; indeed, the myriad gameplay refinements succeed in making an old game feel slightly more up to date. Doing away with the need to put stats into weapons to make them worth using – like the old swaying sight on sniper rifles – also makes the game much easier than it used to be. You can now run around blasting enemies using a powerful sniper rifle with impunity, as long as you remember to nestle behind cover first. Play at Insanity difficulty, however, and you'll still be challenged – just slightly less so than before.

The oft-lamented Mako sections are also far more bearable than before, with better camera controls and a handy boost button (in addition to the underside boosters) to help traverse those pesky steep inclines on uncharted planets far more easily. As a Mako apologist, it’s nonetheless easy to see that the alterations to the all-terrain planet exploration vehicle are sensible, that aforementioned boost button being particularly useful. Returning to the first Mass Effect so many years on, as part of the Legendary Edition, is, on reflection, fantastic: the smoothing out of the rough edges and tightening up of the mechanics bring it in line with the other games in the series, while its more intricate RPG trappings, unfortunately watered-down for subsequent entries, provide a neat layer of depth absent in the sequels.. And that brings us neatly on to Mass Effect 2, which, despite paring back some of ME1's RPG elements, remains the series' pinnacle.

Where the Legendary Edition has lavished much of its attention on Mass Effect 1, bringing its UI and gameplay more in line with the sequels, Mass Effect 2 and 3 apparently needed far less work. Both games still look sensational, the hike in resolution only enhancing what was already there, save for a few little scenic additions here and there to make the game's universe feel more immersive and 'lived-in'. Ten years on, Mass Effect 2 is still a remarkable achievement, streamlining and fleshing out what had been established in the first game, culminating in a nerve-shredding suicide mission to determine the fate of the galaxy. And while some may still be unsatisfied with how Mass Effect 3 ultimately concluded the Shepard saga (I'm not one of them), there's no denying that the trilogy as a whole stands as one of BioWare's finest moments.

Whatever you do, don't hit Garrus.

Since Mass Effect’s release in 2007 and the subsequent sequels in 2010 and 2013, you could argue that BioWare has struggled to match the high bar it set with the series. Playing the original trilogy again, especially after the floundering release of Andromeda, in 2017, only serves to confirm how strong the studio's mastery of storytelling was. Mass Effect Legendary Edition is more than a straight-up remaster of those games; it breathes new life into an essential sci-fi saga, and its developer has gone the extra mile to freshen and revitalise all three games, Mass Effect 1 in particular receiving some genuinely meaningful quality-of-life changes. If you've yet to discover Mass Effect, this presents the ideal opportunity to climb aboard the bandwagon (I can't help but envy you if this is your first time), while veterans of the series will no doubt relish the chance to do it all over again.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition

If you've never played a Mass Effect game before, you can consider purchasing the Legendary Edition an absolute no-brainer. If you fancy revisiting BioWare's seminal sci-fi saga (and frankly, why wouldn't you?), then, equally, Mass Effect Legendary Edition is essential. Bottom line: you need this.

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Jack Wall, Sam Hulick, David Kates, and Richard Jacques' synth score remains a high point (as does Clint Mansell's music for Mass Effect 3), while the voice acting is utterly superb without exception. Fantastic stuff.


The graphical improvements lend the trilogy a new lease of life, but it's the first Mass Effect that's the biggest change. Fourteen years on, the game looks fantastic thanks to a visual overhaul, but some of the lighting choices impact the mood.


Mass Effect has been brought more in line with the sequels for this collection, but Mass Effect 2 and 3 are more polished from a gameplay standpoint. However, all three games are a joy to play, especially with meaningful enhancements across the board.


A full-priced release it may be, but this is a remaster job that goes above and beyond, bundling three sensational games with every bit of DLC, brought bang up to date with up to 4K resolution, boosted frame rates, faster loading times – the lot. It's worth it.


A not-so-new achievement list, but one that has definitely been distilled into something far more manageable and a lot less grind-based than the old lists. Why the total Gamerscore isn't 3,000G is beyond us, though. Why not round up?!

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