Soon, Mass Effect fans all around the world will get a chance to see what the hard-working teams at BioWare and EA have put into the remastered trilogy, Mass Effect Legendary Edition. I’m here today to tease a little bit of just that ahead of the new edition’s May release.
Recently, I had a chance to join game journalists from all over the world in a behind-the-scenes chat with BioWare’s Mac Walters (Project Director), Crystal McCord (Producer), and Kevin Meek (Environment Director); lead producer Melanie Faulkner was unable to join the team due to maternity leave, but her contributions were included in the discussion. We were able to get a glimpse of the gorgeous updates the iconic trilogy has undergone over the last couple of years as the team worked on all three games. And it’s mainly the visuals that this event, and the remaster itself, focuses on, though there are certainly quality-of-life changes and a whole lotta content for gamers everywhere to enjoy.
While the BioWare team focused mainly on bringing the Mass Effect trilogy up to contemporary levels of the current generations of consoles (PS4, Xbox One) and PC components, they also spared an eye towards next-gen systems where they could. But don’t expect a remake; this is a remaster, meaning the bulk of the games you know and love are still intact, just with a glamorous glow-up that will bring them into the modern era.
This spit and polish remaster was done with 4K and HDR displays in mind, tailored for 60FPS play on consoles, and high refresh rate, ultra-wide 21:9 display support on PC. (Oh, and guess what? The original Mass Effect now comes with controller support on PC! Attention was paid to inputs and keybinds, plus a modernized combat HUD to bring it more in line with Mass Effect 2 & 3.)
The trilogy’s enhanced visuals includes revamped character and asset models, lighting, shaders, visual effects, and some tens of thousands of up-ressed textures, to name a few. If you’ve had the visual pleasure of playing a BioWare game in the past few years, you can’t deny just how gorgeous the studio’s character models, variety of materials and textures, and lush environments are; expect more of the same in MELE. It was easy to see how much work they put into every frame of the remaster as they walked us through it, but it might be difficult to appreciate every level of technical and artistic mastery without a visual reference, so enjoy these comparison shots from the original and Legendary editions:
As for content, whether you’re a new or returning player, you’re well covered! The Legendary Edition includes the original base game trilogy, 40+ DLC, all story content, and promo weapons, ammos, and packs, all available from the start. And you’ll be happy to know that BioWare also focused on gameplay and quality-of-life improvements. With the beta state of the game available late last year, the team opened it up to everyone at EA and others for feedback; they reached out to players, streamers, cosplayers, and modders from the Mass Effect community and met with the group regularly throughout the refinement process. One major QoL difference? Faster elevators with an optional skip once the scene is loaded, saving about 40 seconds per ride. Additionally, since the team was aiming for more of an RPG than a shooter, they added aim assist “adhesion” and “zoom snap,” plus more unique and balanced weapons. Players will also get much-needed Mako adjustments, like a speed boost, and environmental effects like camera shake and more.
Perhaps the most important feature the remastered trilogy includes, however, is the universal character creator with “more varied and unique” options, which will be available across all three games. That means that the “Female Commander Shepard” option will be playable throughout. The team’s “My Shepard” improvements were described as follows: “She competes better with the original male Shepard in terms of overall quality now.”
Unified options and expanded choices (skin color, hair styles, etc) across all three games “give fans the opportunity to create that Shepard you wanted to play as.” It allows the player’s character to feel more representative and consistent, but while it comes with lots of options that look really well put together when the whole scene comes together, there’s still no color wheel for hair color / skin color, but rather a slider with preset options.
Above all, the team touted that artistic integrity was key, allowing individual artists at BioWare to focus on remastering specific elements of certain levels they had ownership over. Some of those specifics were further addressed in a Q&A session, answered by the BioWare team:
How accessible is the Legendary Edition for newcomers to the franchise?
There’s a reduction of “friction” of Mass Effect. As Mac said, “There’s a lot working against you.” The Legendary Edition makes for a smoother entry into Mass Effect. It was met with great feedback from players who hadn’t played before, as the team was looking for ways to ease new players in, with additive features like importing character codes, which you can grab online. Consistency across all three games leads to a more unified experience.
Any additional content for Legendary Edition?
No, but “it’s like playing ME1 for the first time.” Feels fresh and new to go back and experience it.
At one point in time, everything was on the table, but the challenges of doing that (crossplay, current players vs new players, etc) were outside of their focus, which was a single-player experience.
No support for 3D Tempest audio on the PS5; some audio assets improved.
ME3: Is extended cut the standard ending?
Extended cut experience will be the Legendary Edition experience and is “part of the canon.”
Are there new, naturalized movements / animations, specifically in ME1?
Not so much, but “dozens if not hundreds” of bugs and glitches were fixed throughout the trilogy’s original run. No new animation tweaks due to the “house of cards” effects. For example, they fixed characters being cross-eyed in cut-scenes, random 360 spins, etc.
Any enhancements taking advantage of tech like ray-tracing?
The remaster opted to use with Unreal Engine 3, so nothing that specific, however they did improve PC performance across the board (controller support, smoother frame rates, 21:9 support, etc.). However, forward / deferred rendering in UE3 allows them to add a secondary “camera” for things like render-to-texture reflections, so they did push the technology’s limits somewhat.
Is the Legendary Edition one singular consecutive experience? Or three separate games?
Neither; a unified launcher launches the three games, but finishing ME1 allows you to go to ME2 through the launcher, all within the Legendary Edition experience.
With our look behind the scenes of BioWare’s Mass Effect Legendary Edition, it was clear that a lot of time, love, and attention went into the remaster. Here’s hoping that new and returning fans alike will give some of that attention back later this spring when the trilogy becomes available. For more on the upcoming release of MELE, be sure to check out the following press release details:
One person is all that stands between humanity and the greatest threat it’s ever faced. Relive the legend of Commander Shepard in 4K Ultra HD with HDR compatibility in the Mass Effect Legendary Edition, featuring single-player base content and 40+ DLC story, weapons and armor packs from Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3. The remastered trilogy will be available on May 14, 2021, for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, with forward compatibility on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB and is available now for pre-order on PC via Origin and Steam, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One with forward compatibility on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.
As Commander Shepard, rise to become the galaxy’s most elite soldier and lead an epic war to stop an ancient and ruthless enemy: the Reapers. Heart-pounding cinematic action intersects with gripping interactive storytelling in a heroic battle against the unknown where you will decide how the story unfolds. You will assemble a crew of intriguing characters, learning their own unique stories as they traverse the galaxy in the state-of-the-art ship, SSV Normandy. The fate of the galaxy lies in your hands.
Enhanced Mass Effect Experience: All of the beloved moments in the Mass Effect trilogy can be experienced in gorgeous 4K Ultra HD with HDR. Revamped visuals including remastered character models, tens of thousands of upressed textures, shaders and VFX, updated lighting and improved dynamic shadows, volumetrics and depth-of-field add a new level of immersion to the iconic trilogy.Pre-rendered cinematics have also been enhanced to make every story moment feel even more impactful. The new generation of consoles provides players with improved performance and faster loading times while the PC experience has modernized and unified settings in addition to support for21:9 widescreen, controllers and DirectX 11.
Modernized Mass Effect 1: The original Mass Effect features comprehensive world-building enhancements with added detail as you explore locations like Eden Prime, Ilos and Feros. Mass Effect features updated interfaces and UI as well as a variety of quality of life improvements. Combat and exploration have been modernized through improved aiming, squad controls and behavior, Mako handling and cameras.
Expanded Character Customization Options: Character customization features unified creation options that persists across all three titles and is complete with an improved and expanded selection of hair, makeup and skin tone options. The iconic Female Shepard default appearance from Mass Effect 3 is now available as the default female Shepard appearance in character creation in all three games,further adding to the unified experience across the trilogy.
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