Mass Effect Legendary Edition Makes The First Game Required Playing

Mass Effect Legendary Edition Makes The First Game Required Playing
You can now hear this image. (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku)

Mass Effect Legendary Edition is out today, remastering BioWare’s space trilogy with 4K HD graphics and other kinds of tweaks and twinges to bring the games into the current generation. Of the trilogy, the original Mass Effect stands out as the game benefiting the most from graphical updates and quality of life enhancements. From what I’ve seen so far, the changes are welcome additions that make a great game even better.

The first major difference I noticed was the character creator. In a blog post leading up to the game’s release, BioWare said, “Customisation options and character appearances have also been improved with updated textures and hair models.” This news was especially appealing to me because BioWare has a history of disappointing me with character creators that fail to properly account for diverse skin and hair options. The enhanced character creator underwhelmed me, especially since I was hoping for a few more kinkier hair options. I understand Commander Shepard is a military woman and therefore can’t run around the galaxy in bantu knots (imagine trying to get those under a helmet), but an awkward-looking high top fade and five piddly cornrows just ain’t doing it for me. Also, some of the darker skin tones look really weird on my TV. There’s one that’s very red-looking, like Commander-Shepard-is-secretly-a-tiefling red. I moved my Xbox to a different TV, toyed with the settings, and played during the daytime to see if it was just me but no, homegirl is just red. (She looks far more normal on my computer monitor, but still a little reddish.)

On my computer screen, Shepard looks fairly normal. On TV, she's a tiefling. Also, what's up with those cornrows? (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku) On my computer screen, Shepard looks fairly normal. On TV, she’s a tiefling. Also, what’s up with those cornrows? (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku)

The character creator aside, I did appreciate the ability to import face codes. In Mass Effect 2 and 3, every character you created generated a unique code that you could save and share with others. In Legendary Edition, face codes now work with vanilla Mass Effect, meaning that I could import the code from my Shepard in ME2 and have a new Commander with an old face all ready to go. The translation from old ME2 face code to new Legendary Edition face isn’t one-for-one. Skin tone and makeup colours didn’t quite match, but it was a good enough template for me to work from in order to revive my Shepard.

She looks exactly like she did way back in 2007. (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku) She looks exactly like she did way back in 2007. (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku)

I remember combat in the original Mass Effect as being sometimes overly difficult, and I was eager to see how BioWare’s improvements might make a difference in Legendary Edition. I already love love the removal of restrictions on weapons: Before, if you were a class trying to use a weapon for which you had no training, the game — in its abundant generosity — would let you fire it but good luck hitting anything. Your reticle was just a comically wide circle in the middle of the screen, and even if your target was dead centre of that circle it was still a 50/50 chance you would hit it. Now Shepard can use any weapon, no prerequisites required, and that skill comes in handy. I’m playing a vanguard. In the first mission on Eden Prime I’m given a sniper rifle — a weapon old vanguards could not effectively use. There were a lot of instances in combat in which I was grateful I could use my sniper rifle to pick off enemies at my leisure rather than get shot-up trying to close that distance to finish them off.

Shooting feels better than it did before. In the old Mass Effect game, continuous firing of a weapon caused your reticle to get wider and less accurate and your weapon muzzle to point higher up. In Legendary Edition, that’s been tweaked such that it’s no longer as noticeable. Your shields recharge faster, but I still feel very squishy. There were a couple of times fighting on the Citadel in which popping out of cover long enough to squeeze off two shots still ended in my immediate death. The combat updates are good enough that I can confidently recommend that if you were considering skipping the original Mass Effect, don’t.

In the name of the Moon, we'll punish you! (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku) In the name of the Moon, we’ll punish you! (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku)

Of all the combat quality of life upgrades, I was most excited to try the enhanced Mako. I was initially dismayed to hear that BioWare was going to take away some of that big, beautiful, behemoth’s atrocious handling — after all, part Mass Effect’s fun is bouncing around on a six-wheeled tank that’s never heard the word “shock absorbers” before. I am glad to report that the Mako is still the wonderfully frustrating-to-handle machine you knew it to be. The first thing I did upon gaining control of the Normandy was find the nearest planet I could land on and use the Mako’s new propulsion thrusters to yeet myself off the tallest peak I could find. The joy was sublime.

The graphical updates, which BioWare has shown off in the lead-up to the game’s release, are nice; the enhanced lighting allows you to actually see people’s faces now instead of them always being cast in shadow. The colours and textures are sharper, making all the planets in the galaxy absolutely gorgeous. The photo mode is great: I like that I can remove Shepard or my squadmates from a shot to get clear pictures of the beautiful alien vistas. It does suck though, that I can’t use it in cutscenes to get close-ups of my handsome husband’s as-yet-un rocket blasted face.

I love photo mode so much. Look how young Garrus looks here. (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku) I love photo mode so much. Look how young Garrus looks here. (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku)

From the start (as in literally from the start screen), I knew my time with the first Mass Effect was going to be an enjoyable, nostalgic experience. Mass Effect’s start screen is simple and subdued, and yet I can’t describe the intense feeling of calm that washed over me as I let it run. I sat on my couch, smiling, delaying getting to the actual game just so I could sit with the start screen as the calming tones of “Vigil” played. Mass Effect’s portion of the Legendary Edition is like the feeling of recognition when gazing at an old yet beloved toy reclaimed from the back of a dusty closet, “Yes, I remember you. We had such great times, and we will now have them again.”

Comments

  • Pretty on the nose comment about the red tones since there are ethncities beyond white and brown, and some do have warmer tones.

    I’m disappointed with the character creator as I’m having difficulty making a look similar to my original. The most pale of the skins doesn’t have that super pallid feel to it anymore, which I used to have my Shep resemble a goth arc-deco styled character with luminous blue eyes and dark black hair.

    • Couldn’t resist the cheap shot at a taken out of context hypocrisy moment, eh?

      But for the sake of anyone else panning down who can’t be bothered rereading the article, the very next sentence includes a qualifier that makes it clear that the red tone Ash describes is well beyond any normal scope of human variation.

      • The issue is that if you’re trying to make a brown/black skinned Shep, a shade of red isn’t going to cut it. I don’t think that any reasonable person would think that the author was being racist in saying that. Maybe if Ash had tried to make a red-skinned Shep, they would have liked the result better?

      • The screen cap caption though seems to be about her TV having poor colour values, since it doesn’t look anywhere near as red on her PC monitor. This is less of a Bioware issue and more of a TV colour mode issue, me thinks. There’s a huge difference between the two images.

        • I wonder if HDR being applied is affecting the output too. The PC monitor wouldn’t have HDR applied, I bet (proper HDR PC monitors still cost a mint), so the character creator code would be porting a SDR Shep into HDR.

          • I thought it might be that too, since ME’s Legendary edition also has a calibration menu specifically for HDR and what looks like colours in HDR. Gives me the impression that someone at Bioware’s port team already anticipated it being a problem and inserted the menu there for some corrections.

        • When I moved into a new place, it had a Sanyo LCD TV and a cheap one two, by the looks of it, even by Sanyo standards. Generally it was quite garish when looking at the TV. The poor quality became really noticeable though when playing XCOM. It wasn’t just garish, the colours were off too.

          I’ve been in some food malls where they have LCD screens. Some of the screens are so bad it’s like watching the Asari Shopping Network Channel, as far as the skin tones of the presenters go.

          You can get calibration tools for TVs and monitors. If you’ve got a cheap and nasty TV though, it will probably just give you the least worst picture that you can get. I replaced the Sanyo TV and I’m really happy with the picture quality of the replacement TV.

          • I’ve got a Sharp Aquos that has to be around 10+ years old and I’ve never noticed colouration being that far out of whack on it even for its age. Though it did take me an unreasonably long period of time to find its aspect ratio settings on the remote.

          • No option to reply to louie for some reason, so I’ll reply here:

            Ages I read how Japanese TVs had a garish colour quality to them, as it was a Japanese preference. Maybe that quality was cartoon colours like but I don’t remember. CRTs like Loewe were said to have a more natural colour quality to them, maybe they said it was “European” in its picture quality but I don’t remember. Don’t know if these colour qualities have changed over the years. These days AV equipment comes with settings for Cinema quality or whatever and they’re supposed to look like what the picture looks like in the cinema.

            That thing you said about aspect ration reminded me of the time as a very small boy we visited a family and their TV had the strangest look, as in the people in it were all squished and so think looking. I have not idea how that was a thing.

          • I noticed that with an old Cintiq, that had very very high saturation for what I’d expect from an industry where accurate colours is king. I always used to wonder if it was a matter of poor quality screens, but your explanation would make sense if it was a deliberate choice on Wacom’s part. I was very happy to get a monitor that came with nice colours out of the box, instead of fussing around with calibration. The addition of modes like cinema/gaming/etc to monitors and TVs over the years were a godsend as well.

            In my case, I realised a chunk of my Xbox’s picture was missing off the screen in some games and realised that I’d never set the ratio properly for my consoles (whoops). I suppose that family you knew, like me, either didn’t find the aspect ratio settings or didn’t know about them. My TV didn’t even label it on the remote properly (as well as putting it with a cluster of unrelated buttons), so I had to dig out the manual. One thing I won’t miss as technology marches on is old AV tech. So much hassle.

          • Joining the response queue, we imported an NTSC television and VCR to watch ST:TNG back when it was coming out in the US (long before we got it in Oz) and the colour tones were all kinds of bizarre compared to how they appeared on television over here. I think its just the NTSC frequencies being so different.

          • (Firstly, and edit for my previous post here, correction: “their TV had the strangest look, as in the people in it were all squished and so thin looking”.)

            louie, I’ve never even heard of Cintiq. In reply to someone beneath our thread here, I mentioned how changing from CRT to LCD changed the gaming experience for Pro Evo Soccer 3 and for the worse. I got a replacement CRT and it might have been a brand called “Obot” or something like that but I can’t remember now. Pretty sure that the PES3 game quality issue was with LCD not the replacement CRT.

            Another explanation for issues with the how the pictures look on a TV, from what I’ve read, apart from the supposed Japanese preference for garish colours, is, I think, that chain stores calibrate the picture to pop-out in store. Maybe the lighting in the store means that they have to crank up the brightness and the colours to make it stand out.

            Years ago I calibrated my 1080p OLED with a Spears & Munsil disc and didn’t have problems doing so even though I was a noob. This site mentions some options on that front:

            https://www.cnet.com/how-to/reviewed-blu-ray-setup-discs-for-your-hdtv/

            It’s an old article and they would have updated their discs for UHD.

            Never really had a problem with screen ratios, I don’t think, as I probably bumbled my way to the right settings. Some games have text for brightness. I’d be pretty sure that once using that to set the brightness I probably went back and increased the brightness anyway.

            If my issue with PES3 game quality isn’t improved by having an OLED TV, I’d be more than keen to buy a new CRT TV, even a, from memory, 14″ one, like I used to have, if that makes the game play like it used to.

          • I can’t reply directly to akeashar either here.

            Have you heard the joke that NTSC stands for “Never the same colour twice”? From what I understood of that. it was just a bad colour system for reasons that I can’t remember. Wikipedia would probably fill in the details.

            When colour was introduced to Australia, it took its time because the government here pondered what standard to introduce. We had PAL, which is possibly regarded as the best, if not just better than NTSC, which any standard would be, as I understand it. Not sure if this topic comes into my discussion of the Japanese preference for how pictures look. Guessing that they have a different colour standard again.

            Haven’t really kept tabs on the evolution of this but PAL and NTSC would be defunct now anyway, wouldn’t they? And even if their differences, modern AV can handle it. E.g. the Hz setting. PAL topped out at 50Hz, I think, and NTSC at 60Hz. That probably effected gameplay. Wikipedia would probably have the details on that. Not sure how much of that Hz difference played a role in your picture issues. Maybe you were doing something dangerous by using a US specced appliance in Australia?

          • A Wacom Cintiq is a top end graphics tablet monitor that you can draw directly on with pressure sensitivity and the colours 10+ years back were absolutely wretched on them. Now they charge you three times the price of other providers for basic colour accuracy when their competition charges far less for screens of a similar standard. All of the new ones come with the calibration already done (or good enough), which is a luxury compared to what we used to have to do to get them print accurate. As for PE3, I suspect it’d be because CRTs draw and display frames differently which might’ve changed the visual experience. DKC 1, 2 and 3 feel very different too look at on a modern TV or Switch to an old CRT.

            I’ve never bought a display model TV, which has saved me from any of the weird colour calibration that stores might’ve been doing. So far my LED TV’s going strong 10 years later so I can certify the build quality of the old Sharp TVs. Thankfully there’s enough presets on both my new monitor and the old TV to avoid manual calibration. There’s enough contrast between the different modes for it to still be nice and clear.

            Thankfully my ratio problems were fixed with a flick of the remote, once I found the bloody thing. It’s one of the easier things to fix on a TV if the button is in a decent spot.

            Good luck with getting PES3 to display properly, but there’s a lot of older games that just look absolutely terrible on new TVs and monitors with the change to LED/LCD.

        • Firstly, there’s a Wikipedia section on NTSC vs PAL, which relates to my comment to akeashar.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NTSC#Comparative_quality

          louie – I used to have a Sharp portable CRT as a kid. I wasn’t a fan of it but I did use rabbit ears for the reception so never even got it at its best. Years later I found out that Sony and Panasonic had the best reputation for TVs (the latter’s plasma TVs used to have the best pictures, it was said, until OLED came along).

          My problem with PES3 wasn’t the picture quality when I was forced to replace my old portable CRT, it was that the experience of playing that game fundamentally changed with my replacement TV. I used to play the game trying to set new records for a season but with the new TV, the game played more like Virtua Striker, which is that the players handled like wet soap. It’s the kind of difference in the quality of the gameplay that I probably experienced when dusting off an old copy of PES, even on that old CRT. It just handled differently. Didn’t make playing the game fun anymore. I’d have to connect my PS3 to my OLED to try to see what PES3 would handle like on that but it’s not something that I’m dying to do. I might though. Some day.

          • Japan uses NTSC as well, along with Canada. I’ve got a few games that are NTSC/J or NTSC/U/C.

            One thing to note with NTSC vs PAL is that the refresh rate on NTSC is faster than PAL. Playing the Digital Devil Saga games on both systems, the PAL version was like running through molasses in comparison to the fast and smooth motion.

          • akeashar – I thought that Japan was SECAM. Surprised that it isn’t, as in I thought that they had the 3rd standard.

            What you say about molasses reminds me of the gameplay experience with PES3 after I was forced to change TVs. I played Virtua Striker a tiny amount in arcades and that’s how the experience felt with the new TV. Didn’t like it. The players were more slippy but also moved slower, I think. Some years ago I was surprised to see a PES arcade game but I never played it that much. Probably had one of games at home anyway.

            Not sure if it’s some games or other tech which allows you to change the Hz frequency. Don’t think that I’ve ever tried that just for lols.

            It took me a little bit to put 2 and 2 together but now I can remember that PAL was killed by digital. The whole thing of needing to get a digital set top box to watch telly was because PAL was being phased out. And it was probably why all those CRTs started getting turfed on nature strips. So, I’d be surprised if NTSC is still a thing in Japan or Canada. Are you originally from Canada?

        • You didn’t see me after I forgot my hat in the car and had to direct traffic for 2 hours!

      • Nah, that’d be ARKS Deco.

        Finally managed to get the colour scheme properly for her, and then realised who I base my FemShep design off. Domino from X-Force! Minus the black patch around her eye of course. I do it based off the initial custom shep just to get that Liefeldesque head shape.

  • I remember getting Mass Effect to play after playing ME2 first on PS3, as the official line was that ME1 would never appear on PS3.

    The other thing that I remember is nearly having the experience of playing ME1 on PS3 ruined because once I reached the climactic fight with Saren, the screen would freeze because, I assume, the PS3 wasn’t up to the task of running this section of the game.

    So, my question is: did others have this particular issue on last-last gen consoles and does the LE fix that problem? Did people have other game-breaking issues on the original versions of the games which the LE fixes?

    Think it was ME2 that I had the issue of you or your squad members just floating off the ground. Fun days. Yuh.

    • I completed Mass Effect 1 on PS3. I don’t remember any issues with it freezing up. I wonder if I just got lucky, or you were unlucky? I can’t imagine the game passing QA if people commonly couldn’t complete it.

      • Odd that I can reply to you here but not to louie, above. Anyway, I know that when I had the ME disc in and was playing that section, it definitely got to the “this is ridiculous” as far as constantly reloading went but it didn’t get to the “screw this!” stage. Can’t remember how I got past this section. Maybe I just chose different options after however many reloads.

        I’m reminded now that I also had issues with the squad AI. I had to park them in the safe-house so that they wouldn’t die in missions, due to their own stupidity at times.

        Did you have any bugs playing it?

        For ages I couldn’t get complete the last combat section of ME3 but not because of freezing. I just couldn’t beat that last alien while FemShep was concussed, drunk, stoned immaculate and using her patented ‘wavy hands’ aiming technique. It was a good thing that I beat the game on sub-hardest difficulty levels. Eventually I beat that pesky alien on the hardest setting, years later, after coming across a little-viewed online video which was the only one to show the best and simplest method to beat that alien.

        Since the articles mention TV quality, I do remember endlessly playing for Pro Evo 3 on a portable cathode, which was great. When that died and I got an LCD replacement, the game handled completely differently, like I was playing Virtua Striker, which I hated so much I stopped playing it. Might be interesting to dust it off and try it on my 1080p OLED to see if the old magic can return.

    • Theres a quest breaking bug in both the 360 and PC releases where the Keeper in the Volus/Elcos Ambasssador area would vanish after you leave their office the first time, but you’d still need it to complete the quest. All kinds of shenanighans to get it to work properly since it’d be there / not there.

      I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Keeper was actually there properly, so that seems like an outstanding bug that may have gotten fixed.

  • Screen issues and lack of options aside… I think Bioware’s character creators can be absolutely horrible for showing you how your character is going to ACTUALLY look in the game to start with.

    I know Dragon Age Origins is probably the worst I’ve ever seen when it comes to that.

    It’s lazy fucking design/direction to make a character creator with shitty lighting, see characters can look quite different once actually playing the game and then go, “Job done!”

    • It wouldn’t be hard to be able to change the background to show different lighting options so you can make a more informed decision when creating your characters. FFXIV let’s the change the background between a bright desert to dark background when customising your character.

      • You’d think it’d be the sane standard to give people lighting options in a character creator… Or at the absolute least not have you create your character in a dimly lit room.

        But man, I dunno how many times I restarted Dragon Age Inquisition to fix something because it didn’t look right once in game.

        I also just realised my previous comment says DA Origins instead of DA Inquisition. Origins actually wasn’t stellar either, but Inquisition took it to another level of meh.

        • DAI was the worst. So much green lighting! I had to restart so many times. Ended up settling for a dude with a mullet who was forever squinting.

    • Or alternatively, they could have gone taken the Saints Row approach of dotting “plastic surgery clinics” around the game world.

      • Yeah, I don’t get the stance some games take on never letting you alter your character appearance when they’ve let you make it to start with.

        It’s something I feel should absolutely be standard in any game that lets you create your character.

        I believe Dragon Age Inquisition got the option with some DLC… Six months later.

  • It always was, unless someone is stupid enough to think that watching/reading the second Lord of the Rings first is perfectly acceptable…

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