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Mass Effect – Legendary Edition review: Sweeping saga leaves you spoilt for choices

(PS4/XO/PC) ***** Age: 18+


Almost 10 years after the last of the highly regarded Mass Effect trilogy comes the inevitable remake/remaster – or repackaging depending on your cynicism.

Fans have apparently been clamouring for years for another chance to play BioWare’s revered space opera. But then those same fans also had demanded churlishly that the ending of Mass Effect 3 be changed after release in 2012 to meet their preconceptions, so maybe that’s not a great yardstick.

Nonetheless, BioWare has not stinted in this newly minted version of heroic space cop Shepard’s lengthy mission to save the universe from a destructive bunch of gigantic mechanoid aliens known as the Reapers. This Legendary Edition bundles the first three games in the series (conveniently ignoring the underwhelming fourth), together with more than 40 pieces of DLC such as extra missions. All told, you’re looking well north of 100 hours of action-RPG goodness.

Naturally, the remaster gussies up the visuals to a much higher resolution, something that’s most obvious in the facial animations. But the relatively sparse detail in the backgrounds won’t go unnoticed. BioWare has tinkered less with the shooting gameplay, making a handful of improvements to squad AI and cover mechanics.

All of this is less important than recognising what made Mass Effect such a pioneer in the first place. The frequently used morality system means, for example, the decisions you make in ME1 can come back to help or haunt you many hours later in ME3. It’s true that there’s precious little nuance to these binary choices – you’re either being good or bad (paragon or renegade in ME parlance). But you’ll have pleasing flashes of recognition every time the game gives a nod to the path you picked much earlier.

Equally prescient for gaming was the ability to play as a female or male Shepard, coupled with the freedom for all kinds of romantic relationships (including interspecies, if that’s your thing). ME’s dialogue can be cringy at times but much of it is well written and delivered, displaying a maturity uncommon a decade or more ago.

Mass Effect’s evolution goes from the slightly clunky first game to the quite brilliant part two, followed by a slight dip in part three. But the sum of its parts means that Shepard’s compelling character arc will keep you invested from the beginning to the end. And, for the record, that “controversial” ending (unchanged here) is just fine by me.

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