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Almost 10 years after the last of the much acclaimed Mass Effect trilogy comes the inevitable remake / remaster – or repacking depending on the cynicism.
Fans have apparently been demanding for years another chance to play BioWare’s revered space opera. But then the same fans had also crudely demanded that the ending of Mass Effect 3 be changed after its 2012 release to suit their prejudices, so that may not be a good benchmark.
Nonetheless, BioWare has new in this one coined version of the heroic space cop Shepard’s lengthy mission to save the universe from a destructive bunch of gigantic mechanoid aliens known as the Reaper. This Legendary Edition bundles the first three games in the series (the disappointing fourth is conveniently ignored) along with more than 40 DLC elements such as additional missions. All in all, you look way north of 100 hours of action-RPG goodness.
Of course, the remaster improves the graphics to a much higher resolution, which is most evident in the facial animations. But the relatively sparse details in the backgrounds won’t go unnoticed. BioWare has done less tinkering with shooter gameplay and made a handful of improvements to the squad AI and cover mechanics.
All of this is less important than realizing what made Mass Effect such a pioneer in the first place. The commonly used moral system means, for example, that the decisions you make in ME1 can help or haunt you many hours later in ME3. It is true that these binary decisions have few nuances – they are either good or bad (Paragon or renegade in ME parlance). But you’ll have gratifying flashes of appreciation every time the game nods down the path you chose much earlier.
Equally forward-looking for games was the ability to play as a female or male shepherd paired with that Freedom for all types of romantic relationships (including interspecies if that’s your thing). ME’s dialogue can be gritty at times, but much of it is well written and delivered, showing a maturity that was uncommon a decade or more ago.
The evolution of Mass Effect has gone from the slightly clunky first game to the pretty brilliant part two, followed by a slight decrease in the third part. But the sum of its parts means Shepard’s addicting arc of characters invests you from start to finish. And, for the record, this « controversial » ending (unchanged here) is fine with me.
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