Game Review: Mass Effect Legendary Ed – Mass Effect 1- PS4

Title Mass Effect Legendary Ed – Mass Effect 1
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre:science fiction RPG, tactical third person shooter
Date completed:June 2021 (also 2010 or so)
Information on game

Summary review: A remaster of the exact game from 2007, but with upgraded textures and sound quality. And I do mean the exact game. The same typos, the same bugs, everything. The MAKO is just as annoying as it was the first time around.
Graphics: A worthy upgrade and looked fantastic on my 2020-era 4k TV.
Music: The music, what there was, worked really well. I wish there was more.
Controls: The first time I played this it was on Windows with a keyboard and a mouse. This time on PS4 with a gamepad. It took me a little while to get into it but eventually it was fantastic. I did inadvertently crouch a few times. It’s L3. L3 takes you out of crouch mode.
Replayability: This is at least the third time I have played this game so I’m going to with “extremely high” in this category.
Total score: 9/10

Introduction

I played this game in 2010, which is a few years after it first came out (2007). This was before EA bought the developer, Bioware, and before EA had created their own store front to compete with Steam, Origin. I mention this because it’s the reason I never played ME3: I couldn’t import my save from ME1 and 2 into ME3 because of the Steam/Origin stores incompatibility and because EA that’s why.

I had played a number of other Bioware games up to that time (Knights of the old Republic and Neverwinter Nights come to mind) and this one seemed to hit a lot of the same notes: light/dark morality system, character decisions affecting the plot and the then-famous freeze time with the space bar.

I actually looked up my old review of this game still there on Amazon after 11 years. I had a lot to say similar to below and a few things I probably missed this time.

I will mention at least two things I did notice they changed in this version versus the original game: Shepard was only a male character originally, in this version you can choose male or female Shepard from the start. I think this is to make it more consistent with the plot of ME2.

And second there is a prompt to use the “new” leveling system with a level cap of 60. In my amazon review from 2010 I mention I finished the game on level 49 and this time I finished the game on level 28. So I assume this “new” leveling system will become more obvious as I progress through the story arc of the next two games.

The Premise

In the distant future, humanity is but one of many alien races in the milky way galaxy, each with their own galaxy spanning civilizations and all of whom have been space fairing for far longer than humanity.

Acting something of United Nations for all these alien civilizations is a giant space station called the Citadel, much of the power of which is focused around a three member council, all non-human.

You play as Commander Shepard, a soldier with a tragic past but definitely the upper echelon of human soldiers in existence.

Shepard is given the coveted status of a Specter, a special “black ops” position answerable only to the council. Basically Specters can do anything and go anywhere without consequences as long as the council sees fit to keep them a specter.

Shepard is given a ship and a crew and told to find a evidence of alien force that may or may not be about to wipe out all life in the galaxy. How he does this and who he hurts or saves in doing so well…that’s up to you, the player.

Play Mechanics and that MAKO

A the start of the game your prompted to choose what kind of character class you would like to be. And it’s hard to choose not knowing with this or future games will involve. I always choose soldier/combat myself because it seems like the easiest and least risky approach. But I would like to come back someday and choose a different class to test it out. I don’t think the class really effects the plot. Perhaps some basic dialog options here and there.

It’s tempting to think of the game as something of third person shooter like Gears of War. There’s a even an albeit clunky cover mechanic. But really it’s not a third person shooter like Gears of War. At all. Because you can freeze time to queue up actions, manage your team mates actions and select talents and special abilities. Many added on things you wouldn’t see in a more action-oriented game as opposed to an RPG.

The basics of the mechanics involve getting main story missions and deciding which if any side missions you want to participate in. There are some moral choices along the way of course. For instance do you help a vendor smuggle in a package or turn him in? Do you take down a crime syndicate for a specific mobster and then allow that replacement boss to continue as a crime boss or take down the whole crime syndicate? Well it’s really up to you. Those kinds of decisions put points in either the “paragon” category or the “renegade” category. Like my play-it-safe soldier class I also end up on the play-it-safe paragon half of the spectrum. Which again, I would like to try another way some day.

Possibly the most complained about characteristic of this game are the MAKO sections: the MAKO is a six-wheeled vehicle you drive around on a limited selection of planets. These sessions seemed to take up about 80% of the game and were SUPER BORING.

And I don’t say that lightly. I just got through spending the same amount of time (literally, as both took me 40 hours) playing The Last of Us Part 2 which involves lots of dialog and walking from point A to point B. It’s not like I have a short attention span or something. I’m just saying when I land on planet, or a 10 square mile section of a planet, and there is nothing happening I start to not enjoy what I’m doing. During these sections there is no music, no hilarious quips between team mates, just the very uninteresting droning sound of the MAKO engine. Every so often there’s a (possibly Dune inspired?) worm creature that pops out of the ground as a random mini-boss battle. But mostly it’s about as fun as staring at Mars rover footage: featureless, empty, boring.

The MAKO does have an auto gun that does relatively little damage but can be fired for quite a while before it over heats and a large shell cannon which does good damage but takes a few seconds to reload between shots.

The MAKO cannot be upgraded or modified in anyway. No more damaging gun, no upgraded shield, no paint-a-target to have your ship fire on a target from orbit. None of that.

Possibly the worst thing about the MAKO are the controls: it moves like a tank in that whichever way the canon is facing is the direction the thing will move. This makes trying to point the canon at a target and move backwards kind of a trick. The repair process such as it is isn’t great either.

I would say I could have finished this game in under 25 hours if I hadn’t spent so much time trying to deal with the stupid MAKO controls.

For this play through I actually found a spreadsheet with checkboxes for each of solar systems that can be visited. This is because on some planets you can find some information that doesn’t help at all, some planets you can scan for natural resources and some planets can be landed on and explored for minerals and things like downed probes are entire complexes that can be explored.

I mention this because it was through this I accumulated a lot of stuff over time, like weapons, weapon mods and armor/armor mods. These quickly go obsolete and though it seems bottomless there actually is an inventory capacity limit.

To fix this, you have limited options: first start marking obsolete things as junk in the inventory then when you seem to be over flowing you have two options: convert junk to omni-gel or sell-all-junk (omni-gel is needed to repair the MAKO and to auto-pick locked containers).

I did both of these things ended up with a lifetime supply of omni-gel and the max amount of credits available relatively quickly. I don’t know if I would have reached that point without that checklist of places to visit.

What’s with the eyes, man

I assume the responsive faces and conversation system was quite impressive and cutting edge in 2007 but today it’s quite jolting and distracting. It’s like they made a specific set of reactions from characters and then dynamically edit the video footage together. But all the characters are not starting from the same physical position resulting in a lot of jumping around from one dialog sequence to the next.

And those eyes, what’s the deal with the eyes. It’s like they made the character models independent from the eyes so the eyes seem to stay in place regardless of how the character heads move. It ranges from working okay to way out there in uncanny valley land and can be distracting. I might be biased from more recent games lake The Last of Us Part 2 on this. This uncanny valley doesn’t really take away from the game that much as the information needed is communicated successfully. It’s a thing that snaps me back to “oh yeah, 2007”, disrupting my suspension of disbelief.

Lets gather the team together

You, the main character, end up accumulating quite a diverse crew of fellow humans as well as various alien species aboard your ship, the Normandy. You can only take two crew members with you on a mission and who you take can have an effect on how the mission goes albeit in somewhat subtle ways.

For instance, since I chose the soldier class, I don’t really have any decryption or electronic skills which means there will be containers, probes, consoles and other things I won’t be able to access.

Luckily there’s a handy bar graph on the crew selection screen that gives you an idea of what skills you’re taking with you. As a character with limited decryption skills I want to take Garrus, who has a high decryption skill, on pretty much every mission. Garrus is also a sniper specialist so I want him on anything that might involve long distance shooting.

If I want fully combat readiness I would choose Wrex as he’s the most effective a shot gun. Then there’s other characters probably who also bring in skills.

I think the thing I spent the second most time on is making sure every crew member had the latest and best gear. You can only access all the possible crew members gear from the one place and making sure everybody has a decent level weapon after collecting so many weapons and items can take a while.

Now some negatives…

I’ve already mentioned a few relatively minor things: the dead eyed humans trying to have a conversation, the frustrating MAKO vehicle controls and just in general, the long drives across empty planets that seemed to be there to make me fall asleep.

There’s also the bases, ships and space stations that all seem to have the exact same floor plan. Maybe the amount and layout of stacked up boxes is a little different but the map is the same. And again, how about some music? Something to make the firefights a little more exciting? Something besides the sound of foot steps of the characters?

I would also like to complain about the layout of the Citadel: it’s seemingly a chaotic mess of a floor plan on purpose. Just to what? Pad the play time? It does have a fast travel system but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to complain about it.

Also Shepard as well as almost all the main characters are rather two dimensional, I mean character depth wise. The doctor for instance, unless I missed something, has the same dialog options for 90% of game. She hardly does anything.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention the plot as a negative. This is because I liked the plot. Maybe it’s no DS9 or Babylon 5, but I did enjoy the story arc and split decision moral choices it makes you take.

I should make clear none of these negatives are deal breakers for the game. Just minor gripes. You don’t have to land on every planet that there’s an option. You don’t even have to to scan every planet that scannable. You could skip all the way through and just do the minimum number of missions and plot points and get to the end. I just wanted to try and make sure I got the full experience for a solid setup into the next two games.

Conclusion

If you want to know if you should buy this Legendary Edition Trilogy of Mass Effect I hope you already know the answer: it’s literally the same game from 2007. That game won many Game of the Year awards and is still in the top 5 of many players list of “Best RPGs of all time”. So if you’ve never played it and are remotely interested in a science fiction RPGs of roughly 40 hours I would say yes, of course buy it.

If you have played it before between 2007 and now this the same game with upgraded visuals. The same clunky MAKO, the same dead fish eyes uncanny valley face models and the same ending. I don’t know if there was any DLC from ME1 but if there was obviously it’s been integrated into this game. Considering you get three games for the money I would say definitely buy it if you want to replay it so the character can be carried forward to the next games with relative ease.

References

If anybody is interested, here is information on the spreadsheet checklist I mentioned:

original reddit post (has some instructions and notes and things)
spreadsheet directly


Metadata

Method of control used Regular PS4 gamepad
Controllable via both one analog stick or digital four-way (“HAT”) n/a
Hardware requirements: n/a
Supports 21:9 aspect ratio screens?n/a
Device(s) tried on PS4 (non-pro)
TV2020-era 55″ 4k TV with HDR specialness
Initial setup required No setup needed.
Sound setup5.1 surround system/receiver
Total time to completion~40 hours
difficulty level“Normal” difficulty
Random assortment of meta data

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