After several years of rumors, discussions, and hope, BioWare has finally breathed life into a project I was scared had died somewhere along the way. This week, they have announced that yes, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition does exist, and it is coming out.
This is truly the remaster that I have been waiting for, and that we all need. Here’s why.
Why is Mass Effect the GOAT?
The first Mass Effect game came out in November of 2007 exclusively for the Xbox 360, though the titles would eventually make their way to the PS3, PS4, and Windows.
If you’ve never played the ME games, buckle up, because you’re in for quite a ride. With Mass Effect, BioWare tried to capture the military sci-fi vibe that made Halo so successful but turn it into something an RPG fan (their wheelhouse, no doubt) would love. After several years of development, the first ME game would be released.
It was developed and directed by Casey Hudson, who had directed the 2003 hit Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. KOTOR was basically the greatest of its era, so no one should honestly be surprised that ME was so solid. Casey Hudson is a pro and knows what he’s doing, clearly.
The game was set to be a trilogy from the start, so the very first game was, arguably, the most important. It had to lay the groundwork for the rest of the series, set up a whole new universe of people, aliens, and planets, and keep things interesting enough that gamers would want to stick around for the following two games.
In that regard, Hudson chose Drew Karpyshyn as the lead writer for the first game. Karpyshyn was previously a senior write on KOTOR, so he was the obvious choice – but in order to keep the story cohesive and quality high, each planet had a separate writing team, and they would meet, discuss, and critique each other’s works.
As a writer, I think the place a lot of video games fall down is the writing and the storytelling. It’s hard to tell a compelling story within the confines of a game, and most games do it very poorly. The bigger the game, and the story, the harder it becomes to handle. Creating a large, engaging story that spans 3 games and hundreds of hours of content is not easy.
The difference between the Halo series and the ME series (if you’ve never played ME) is that ME isn’t just a shooter. Sure, it is a third-person shooter experience. But it’s also an RPG, and a really, really strong RPG at that. You play as Commander Sheppard and you lead an elite team of humans and non-humans throughout the galaxy as you try to achieve intergalactic peace.
Sort of. I’m not here to spoil the story for you, even 14 years later – if you haven’t played them yet, I highly encourage you to look into it, and pick up the Legendary edition when it drops. If you have, you know how amazing, compelling, and addicting the story is, so you don’t need me to tell you.
Is this just an Andromeda cash grab?
Mass Effect: Andromeda released March 21, 2017, the fourth game in the series. Andromeda followed a new crew, with a new leader – Sara or Scott Ryder – taking on a whole new galaxy. The mission took place technically between the 2nd and 3rd games, but the events of the original 3 Mass Effect games didn’t really have a lot to do with it.
As a Ryder, you were put in cryogenic sleep and shuffled off to the Andromeda galaxy with your brother (or sister, depending on which sibling you played). Your father, Alec Ryder, is in charge of finding a new home for humans in the galaxy.
Along the way, you explore planets, sort of fly, and get lots of cool abilities, while trying to keep this galactic mission alive. In theory, it sounds awesome, and a great addition to the ME franchise.
In reality… well, it wasn’t great. The OG ME games were all done with the BioWare Edmonton studio. Andromeda, however, was handled by a fresh, green team: the BioWare Montreal studio. I remember before it came out hearing news that several key members of the team had departed, and hearing rumors about the future of the series and the game, and being concerned.
I had every right to be concerned.
While Andromeda isn’t nearly as bad of a game as many people make it out to be, it did not capture the magic that the original trilogy had. Issues within the studio led to creative problems, and that clearly shows in the final product.
Andromeda was also, arguably, the most ambitious Mass Effect title in the series. It was open world, and the tone was lighter and more hopeful. A new world, a new exploration, so much to see and do. Instead, I yearned for the mako, my more linear planet experience, and a story that drove me to the next point, instead of just a quest.
Online critics have been quick to point out that Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is just a cash grab from a struggling studio that took a ton of loss on Andromeda. And on one hand, they might not be wrong – but Andromeda also came out in 2017, 4 full years ago. If the studio needed a quick influx of cash, there is a good chance that they would have done that a few years ago, after Andromeda flopped so hard.
Do I think Mass Effect: Legendary has been in the works for a while? Absolutely. But I don’t think it’s the influx of cash they needed after Andromeda bombed. I think it’s a natural re-release for a new generation of consoles, and players, who never experienced the trilogy.
And, if we’re really lucky, it’s a test to see the interest in another Mass Effect game. There were rumors of an MMO (that’s massively multiplayer online) Mass Effect game that was in the works before Andromeda came out, but after that disaster, it was shelved indefinitely.
While I’m not a fan of the idea of an MMO for ME, I am a fan of returning to ME’s roots and rediscovering what made the series so great. Working with great writers, crafting a compelling story, saving the universe… I’m all for that.
What Mass Effect: Legendary Edition brings to the table
Announced this week, ME: Legendary Edition is going to be released worldwide on May 14, 2021, for basically every system you could want it on – it will be on Origin and Steam for PC, as well as the PS5 and Xbox Series S and X.
What you can expect not to see is new content. Is that a bummer? Maybe, but I’m not surprised. The questionable ending to the third game is still intact, and no cut content, dialogue, or storyline choices are going to be added. Romances that existed in the original games are still there, but no new choices will be added or tweaked at all.
The graphics got a big upgrade. In a developer preview, we saw on a planet the sun had been moved entirely to give the whole planet a better ‘feel’, and it does look a lot better.
While we won’t know for sure until the game comes out, all signs show the developers stayed very true to the original heart of the game while updating all the things that needed to be fixed. Do you remember those painfully long elevator loading screens? In my mind, they’re not that bad – but going back and trying to play the first ME is almost painful.
The reveal trailer isn’t long, but what I see, I love.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I think, 14 years later, I’m ready to step back into the Mass Effect world, re-meet some of my favorite friends, and don my N7 armor.
Are you ready to take up the space fight once again?