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Everything You Need To Know About The Mass Effect Legendary Edition

It’s been a long time coming, but finally we’re edging closer and closer to the release of the Mass Effect Legendary Edition. The collection features all three games remastered to their full potential, plus all the DLC we’ve come to know and love. During a recent press event, BioWare got candid about everything that we can expect from the release, and already, we’re impressed. Now we know the game’s launch date, let’s take a look at everything that BioWare has confirmed for the Mass Effect Legendary Edition. 

The BioWare event was hosted by Project Director Mac Walters, Associate Producer Crystal McCord and Lead Environment Artist, Kevin Meek. The trio came together to not only talk through the upgrades and changes we’ll soon see in the Mass Effect Legendary Edition, but also to show off some visuals. 

Not Another Shoddy Remaster

mass effect legendary edition
Credit: EA

When the game was first announced, fans of the classic series were instantly concerned that this would be another cash-grab remaster with none of the love it deserved. However, BioWare has demonstrated the exact opposite. According to the developers, the game has been in the works since 2019, with discussions going back as far as half a decade. While it’s clear a lot of time has been poured into the project, what about effort? Well, according to Walters, we won’t be getting short-changed. The development process was reportedly a labour of love, “like restoring a beautiful, beloved car.”

For the developers, the Legendary Edition has been a chance to polish up some of the rougher aspects of the originals. It’s no secret that Mass Effect 1 hasn’t aged all that well, and the difference between ME1 and ME3 is pretty astounding. For BioWare, it’s been a lesson in gamedev. 

“The opportunity now to be able to go back with all those lessons learned, and with all of the advancements, and go back to Mass Effect 1 and 2, has been just a dream for me to be able to do that and get back in there and see all these familiar locations and characters again,” said Walters. 

“I think it’s really just been a huge passion project as well, you don’t often get a chance to revisit a lot of these things and the opportunity to do that, for me, has been wonderful. And hopefully for our fans as well!”

Walters explained to press that the ever-present question for BioWare was not how to do the games, but how to do them right. The team consistently asked: “If we’re remastering this, what does that look like? What does that mean to us?” Thankfully, from what we saw of the event, it looks like the approach has more than paid off.

What’s In The Mass Effect Legendary Edition?

mass effect legendary edition
Credit: EA

So what exactly can we expect from the Legendary Edition? Well, a lot more than you might think.

As McCord explained, the collection “includes the Trilogy, single player content and the DLC for each of the three games.” All of the DLC content will be present, with some available as you begin to play, and some which unlock throughout. As confirmed during the event, “it all comes under one new launcher and interface, all in one package.”

It’s no small feat bringing this large amount of content together into the Mass Effect Legendary Edition,” said McCord. “We have 15 story DLC which also unlock new squadmates and planets. We have an incredible selection of additional armour packs, weapons, appearance packs, all available in this one package. We also have the Genesis Comics integrated into the games.”

The Specs

mass effect legendary edition
Credit: EA

It’s not just the sheer level of content we’ll be seeing which is impressive – it’s also the technical upgrades, gameplay improvements and visual effects which will surely wow the fanbase. 

According to McCord, the Legendary Edition is “enhanced for 4K Ultra HD, not only visually, but also graphically, with improvements to depth of field” and more. 

“We’ve also enhanced performance, unleashed framerates, we’ve given you faster load times, and it’s now with HDR support as well,” said McCord, proudly. “We really wanted to look at what fans are looking for […] whether that’s faster elevator speeds or even gameplay improvements.”

As for the difference between the console and PC versions, there’s “visually nothing on PC that hasn’t been achieved on console,” according to Walters.

Despite its upgrades, BioWare noted that after speaking with Epic Games, the decision was made to create the remasters within Unreal Engine 3, rather than the newer UE4. (“Every moment would need to be redone from scratch […] We knew at that point we’d really start to take away the essence and spirit of what the trilogy was,” said the developer.)

Unifying The Games

mass effect legendary edition
Credit: EA

The team has worked hard to unify the three games for a more consistent gameplay experience, and yes, that even includes Mass Effect 1. One of the most significant ways in which the games have been elevated to the same level of quality is with character creation. The developers explained that more skintones, hairstyles and clothing options have been added, with more attention being given to ME1’s female Shepard. 

“We wanted to unify the options…If something exists in 3, we want it to exist in 1,” said Meek.

“The iconic female default character wasn’t introduced until Mass Effect 3, so if you played as a female in ME1 or 2, and you went through all these moments as your Shepard, through the suicide mission of ME 2, and then you get this character creation scene in ME3…

“All of a sudden you’re given this choice to completely change your look to the box art Shepard. That can be a bit of a tough choice for people, so we definitely wanted to make sure that we were able to bring her back as an option throughout the entire Trilogy. 

“That was one of the very first things we did […] What we did more recently was another pass on her, where we’ve done everything from slightly modifying some larger forms of her face, or adding medium-fine details like wrinkles and pores.”

Don’t worry though, you’ll still be able to experience the original feeling of Mass Effect. Meek promises: “In the end, she very much still has the same iconic look […] She’ll catch the light better, and she competes more with the iconic male Shepard in terms of overall quality now.”

The upgrades to character design and outfits were shown off in a very impressive tech video. While the characters (and their clothes, faces and hair) have seen detailed upgrades with texture, lighting and more, the style of the heroes remains true to the original games. Thankfully. 

Remaster vs. Remake

mass effect legendary edition
Credit: EA

Although the upgrades are plentiful, it’s still disheartening for some to see the Mass Effect games return as remasters and not as full remakes. Meek explained that this was actually a relief to him, as it means a more nostalgic experience for the players. 

“The levels of ME1 have really resonated with me over the 13 years since I first played it,” said Meek. “They’ve stuck with me in a way that many levels in many games actually haven’t. The first time I opened the editor here, got it up and running […] I can vividly remember that sense of nostalgia and curiosity and ‘how did they make that?’ 

“To me, there’s almost a soul to those levels, certainly a particular atmosphere and feeling. I knew that if we’d gone down the route of a remake, even if we were working off the same architectural blueprints and had to rebuild it, there’s something that gets lost, I think, when it’s not the exact same level or the exact same character with just a new level of quality to it. You don’t want to throw that out and start new.”

Getting By With A Little Help From Friends

mass effect legendary edition
Credit: EA

Speaking of the soul of the games, it’s important to note that BioWare has been secretly discussing the remaster with the Mass Effect community for some time. The development team wanted to make sure they were providing the right experience for the fans, and so sought the help of people outside the studio for their feedback.

“We tried to collaborate with the community,” revealed McCord. “We scoured the internet forums and really tried to do our research: from the original Trilogy, what do people call for? What would they like [to see] if we were able to do improvements to the game in ME Legendary? 

“We connected with a group of fans, so we had a small group of players, streamers, cosplayers and modders that we met with regularly throughout our production. We just really had honest conversations with them to try to find out what are people asking for? What do you think we can do to make some improvements while keeping to the original Trilogy and really honouring that, but really uplifting it a little bit? [We were] working with the community to do what they’re asking for, what the fans want.”

As you might expect, much of the community feedback related to Mass Effect 1.

“We did get a lot of feedback in ME1, and what we wanted to do was take what we learned over the course of the Trilogy in ME2 and ME3 and see what we could use from our learnings there and bring that back into ME1, especially around the design and gameplay,” said McCord.

“There was a little bit of friction in the way your combat works [in ME1], and it really was more of an RPG than a shooter, so what can we do to make that a little bit more smooth or seamless? We did bring controller support for PC, and once we did that we said can we improve the inputs or controller mapping, what can we do with the keybindings? We decided maybe you can modernise the combat HUD in ME1 and give it a little bit of a facelift and bring it along so it’s a little more in line with ME2 and 3.”

Elevating The Elevator 

While lots of fans will no doubt be excited for the many upgrades and changes we’ll see in the Legendary Edition, there’s just one thing we all want to know: have elevator speeds been improved? Players of the original ME games will absolutely remember the tedious elevator scenes, which had no way to be sped up or skipped. Thankfully, that’s been rectified for the new release. 

“This was definitely a fan favourite,” laughs McCord. “The elevator times are now faster across all platforms. In the Legendary Edition, an optional skip becomes available so you can move into gameplay a lot faster.”

“An Archaeological Discovery”

mass effect legendary edition
Credit: EA

BioWare’s new take on Mass Effect has, as Walters put it, been “an archaeological discovery, pulling things out” from the original games and making them work for new consoles, new PCs and even a new audience. From what we’ve seen so far, BioWare has smashed it out of the park with this remaster, though apparently we’ll “have to play the game to experience it all.” We’re counting down the days to release, on May 14th 2021! 

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Featured Image Credit: EA