The Mass Effect Remaster’s New Look Isn’t Doing It For Me

The Mass Effect Remaster’s New Look Isn’t Doing It For Me
Image: BioWare / EA

This week we got our first good look at BioWare’s Mass Effect trilogy remaster, and I have to say it hasn’t immediately won me over, especially when it comes to the first game.

Mass Effect 1 was a finicky mess at times, but it also nailed its big moments and had an irresistibly eerie sci-fi mood that permeated throughout. The first images coming out of the remaster are not exactly filling me with confidence that those things will be preserved. The new graphics look sharp and more detailed, but also more bland and generic.

Here’s a before and after of Eden Prime:

Image: BioWare / EA Image: BioWare / EA
Image: BioWare / EA Image: BioWare / EA

The first is dark, sinister, and foreboding, the second…has a lens flair. Eden Prime is the game’s first planetary mission, kicking off its noir-ish mystery around strange aliens doing weird stuff across the galaxy. It’s also where the game first introduces Sovereign, a representative of the series’ Reaper mega-villains, and one of the coolest characters in the game. Even Eden Prime’s music is full of existential dread. The bucolic SimCity vibes of the remastered Eden Prime just aren’t landing for me.

The move from grimy 2000s graphics to vibrant Kinkadian space-scapes seems to be a running theme. Here’s Virmire, turned from a brooding, high contrast space jungle into tropical_setting.png.

Feros appears to have gone from rundown dystopia to lens flare emporium as well.

And then there are the updates to facial models. The original Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard admittedly had a weird, slick, red-tinted sheen to her. Bringing out the weathered cracks and creases in her forehead, however, is giving me the same vibes as when you see a newscaster in HD who’s missing some camera makeup.

I’m not on board yet with the tweaks to gameplay either. Maybe I’m just an overly nostalgic fan, but the original Mass Effect’s class system, weapon cooldowns, and stiff gunplay made it feel more like a real-time RPG than a Call of Duty-influenced shooter with skill trees. And yes, I’ll even defend the existing controls of the broke-arse Mako.

It’s all helping me sympathise a little more with Demon’s Souls fans who were put off by the remake’s changes, especially in the art department. The nature of remakes and remasters is obviously very fraught territory, and people are bound to disagree on what counts as an improvement versus undermining of the spirit of the original work. But so far BioWare’s approach with the first Mass Effect, at least based on what it’s shown so far, isn’t winning me over.

Maybe I’ll feel different by the time Mass Effect Legendary Edition is actually out on May 14. Fortunately, 2007’s Mass Effect is still easy enough to get ahold of on PC and Xbox.

Comments

  • I somewhat agree with your point about eden prime. But then also think back that the creepy atmosphere and red sky/clouds were not really kept up for the rest of the trilogy when Geth and or Reapers were about anyway so it was kind of an outlier.

    Virmire i do like the changes to as it looked fairly pretty back then (as far as the consoles of the time could do) so the changes dont feel like a shift in tone like eden prime.

    Overall it seems like there are several things that i am quite keen for in the remaster and a few things that dont sound so good.
    Also less appetising as for a lot of the characters, models, weapons armour etc it literally looks like they just used the mods available on PC for the last 5 years. and well, i have already been using those for 5 years.

  • Why not want until we see it in extended action? But where’s the fun in that.

    I just never got the point of jumping to conclusions.

    • They are literally screenshots of the remake. They are the game in action.

      Don’t let your consumerism drive your opinions.

      • So which is it… screenshots OR ‘in action’, they cant be both. My point is that the author is talking about mood. the 1:30 min trailer is not enough to tell the mood of a game.

  • My first thought on seeing the graphics slider images was ‘Hey, that looks pretty goo-‘ and then I realised the side I liked was the one marked Original. Not shown is the Thane image where the Legendary version is nothing but lens flare, as opposed to being able to clearly see him in the original.

  • Yeah, not loving the lens flares. Really hope there’s an option to turn them off. I’m reserving judgement for the rest until I’ve seen it in a detailed video or played it myself.

    There’s a lot here that’s new and / or changed that I’m not super keen on, but I was a massive fan of the original over the rest, so that was always going to be a problem when they planned on bringing the others ‘up’ to the quality of 3 (I don’t dislike 3, but 1 was special in the series and my favourite by far out of the series, and that includes aesthetically too – 2 especially looked really boring to me and 3 wasn’t a huge improvement from 2). I expect seeing it in action will read very differently to seeing it in screenshots.

  • I finished a replay of ME1 on the PS3 yesterday and let me tell you, those graphics absolutely have not held up at all. Eden Prime looks like a mudslide, Virmire is all beach and forest and yet somehow all the same shade of grey-beige, and Shep either looks like a dead robot or unreasonably sweaty at all times (hell, sometimes both). Mass Effect is my favourite series of all time and I will defend it to the ends of the earth, but seriously, any upgrade on what we’ve got right now is a step up IMO.

    • Yeah. I can understand not loving the stylistic choices but something had to happen because the game looked pretty weak even at the time. Not horrible just very easy to tell that anytime they could use a generic asset they did. I wouldn’t say the humans are the worst I’ve ever seen in a game but they’re sort of a weird case of being technically very good while visually monstrous.

      That said I loved ME1 and I wouldn’t have swapped the any of the ambition for better graphics. There’s just a lot of stuff in the mix that required a lot more than just a quick polish.

  • I’ll admit I’ve never been a big fan of lens flare like that so hoping it can be turned down or off but overall I think most of these comparison shots are fine.

    Eden Prime is the only one I really agree on that it’s losing some of the feel of the original but that could be easily fixed by just adding some more red into the clouds (or the skybox itself).

  • I really wanted this article to be a writer just filling in their weekly quota of opinions, but I find it hard to disagree. Lens flare is so overrated, it seems only game designers like it, and if they butcher ME1 just to justify a paycheck it’s unforgivable. Surely even EA has a line they won’t cross.

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