If you are sitting down to read this review, you are more than likely to fall into one of two main groups – those that have played Mass Effect, and those that haven’t. Winners, and losers.
If you are the former, you will be curious to see if the game holds up, is it as good as you remember? Short answer: Yes. Mass Effect Legendary Edition contains all the space soap opera twists and turns you remember, and thankfully the gameplay has aged like a fine wine.
If you are one of the latter, you will be wondering if Mass Effect, a series that is well into its teenage years (with the original game releasing in 2007), is worth your time. Short answer: yes. With all the updates and DLC included, I could tell you Mass Effect was a brand new series releasing this year, and with the source material being so good, I’m sure you would believe me – the game does enough to justify a purchase, and it still holds up by today’s standards.
But let’s start from the beginning. You have made it this far. You probably already know that Mass Effect is a massive space opera spanning a trilogy of games where you play as Commander Shepard as you travel the Galaxy in an effort to save it from the Reapers – it’s all your standard sci-fi stuff, but the fact is Mass Effect does it so damn well that even today it is held up as a master class in the genre – and with good reason.
Starting up, Mass Effect Legendary Edition looks the part. Running at 4K and up to 120fps (on PS5), the game looks and feels like any modern release. An updated HUD in the original Mass Effect means that the game is in line with the other two games in the trilogy, and the updated aesthetic just feels and plays better. Updated textures, models and tinkering under the hood means that all three games run and look a lot better too – my only complaint was the odd facial animation during some dialogue segments that made characters look like they had some muscular atrophy, but that’s easily overlooked.
It’s a testament to the source material that with a bit of spit and polish, the gameplay of Mass Effect holds up. Granted, the original Mass Effect does feel the clunkiest out of the three, with character models looking a bit stiff as they run around. The controls feel a bit clunky, too, but as you play through the trilogy you see the evolution happen, and by the time you hit Mass Effect 3 (should you decide to play them in order) the evolution is complete and the game looks and plays like any modern release.
These updates are most felt in the original Mass Effect, with the updated controls helping it to play better overall. With this being the oldest game in the remaster it stands to reason that this would be the game needing the most work, and that being said, what has been done works and works well.
Controls, although still a bit on the rough side, aren’t as jarring as they were originally and I didn’t have much to complain about during my time completing the campaign. These additions carry on into Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 as well.
The beauty of Mass Effect Legendary Edition is that all three games can be launched from the in-game launcher, meaning should you wish to have a break between playing Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, you can, and without losing any progress in between. Starting up a new game is a case of deciding if you want to load up your Commander Shepard from the previous game, including any decisions you made, and carry on from there. The system is slick and elegant, and I had no trouble as I made my way through the trilogy, seeing the ramifications of my earlier decisions.
Having played each game in sequence, it feels like this is the definitive way to play the Mass Effect trilogy. One of the big talking points about Mass Effect is how seemingly small, inconsequential decisions can have massive ramifications later on – do you choose to spare or kill the Asari who was part of a science team experimenting on humans in Mass Effect? How will this decision play out later?
One of the many joys when playing Mass Effect is that sometimes these decisions don’t even have an impact on that particular game in the series- the above example was something that had further-reaching consequences in Mass Effect 2 and beyond, even though it felt relatively minor at the time. In playing each game back to back more depth is added, and I was able to remember decisions I had made earlier as they were made a few days previously, and not a few years ago as was the case when the game first released.
All is not lost if you wish to jump into Mass Effect 2 or Mass Effect 3 without playing any of the previous games – Mass Effect Legendary Edition includes Mass Effect Genesis, an interactive comic that retells the story of the previous game, allowing you to make the major decisions concerning the narrative as you play through it. Although this may feel like a cop-out for some, it is there should you wish to skip a game for whatever reason – who are we to judge?
Another aspect that stood out when playing each game one after the other was how certain gameplay elements feel more refined, while some are flipped on their heads altogether. It wasn’t as clear to me before just how much Mass Effect transitioned from RPG with cover shooter elements in the first Mass Effect to cover shooter with RPG element by the time Mass Effect 3 rolls around, but that stands out here with the shooting gameplay feeling like a focal point by the time the last game boots up.
This isn’t a slight either – Mass Effect does both genres so well that whether you are looking for a new cover shooter to play or a solid RPG with plenty of lore to get lost in, Mass Effect has enough of both worlds. Having all 3 games collected into one handy pack I felt like I enjoyed the lore much more than I usually would, and I attribute this as much to the fact that I knew where the game was going as much as to the fact that I was invested and interested in what was going on.
Sitting down to play Mass Effect Legendary Edition for the first time I was curious to see if the game would hold up by today’s standards. That and the fact that I was playing it to review, I probably went in a little harder than I normally would in playing a game I had just picked up off the shelf – does it hold up? Does it look good, sound good, and most importantly, play well? The answer is yes, yes and yes.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition is an amazing collection of games that feel as relevant now as they did when they first released, and they are a worthy collection of games for a remaster. With each game clocking in at a solid 25 hours plus DLC, there are worse ways to spend your time, and whether you played them the first time round or are looking for something new, Mass Effect Legendary Edition is definitely worth a look.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition PS5, PS4 Review
Overall - Must Play - 9/10
Mass Effect Legendary Edition is the definitive collection of what is one of the finest gaming trilogies ever released. With an extensive list of tweaks and improvements under the hood, this is how the Mass Effect trilogy should be played.
- Three huge games with a ton of DLC content to get through – great value
- Extensive narrative with decisions having an impact between one game and the next
- Improved visuals and controls ensure Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 play as well as any modern release
- A few facial animations stand out as being poor
- Can feel overwhelming having so much to do – but no one said saving the galaxy was easy…
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using PS5.