When it comes to Sci-Fi RPG’s with branching storylines and excellent characters then there really is only one title to look at. Mass Effect IS the shining example of a space opera RPG. When the original game was released, people found something they had never experienced before.
The game had three titles in the main series, all following Commander Shepherd’s fight against the Reapers. They were some of the royalty of the PS3/XBOX 360 and, finally, they have been re-released for the newest console generations with the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition. Now, this is not a review for fans, this is for those people who have never tried the series for whatever reason. I know you’re out there, and hopefully, I can convince you to give this series a try.
Now the plot of the series is spectacularly done, if in design and nothing else. Essentially each game has its own enemy and story to tell, but all link to one overarching plot. The first game has players hunting a rogue spectre (imagine a kind of space secret agent). Throughout the game, the agent is revealed to be working for another race, the reapers, who are coming to take over the galaxy. The second game has the player working with a human superiority group to find the cause of missing colonists. The enemy in this game is also working with the reapers, who are more of a presence this time rather than an actual being. Finally, the third game has the reapers arrive and the galaxy erupts into all-out conflict.
When you play this series you always feel a connection to the main plot, even when what you’re doing seemingly has nothing to do with it. Each action you take is towards a greater goal and all the events come to a satisfying conclusion. The characters you meet across the way are all well designed and grow with you. Each game has a few staples and then a few new faces that join your crew and their presence is missed when they don’t appear. These characters aren’t static either, and some of them may never return if you make the wrong choice. Well, wrong or right, it’s hard to say. Anyway, if nothing else the characters are the series strong point.
Now, the gameplay is one of the more convoluted parts of this series. See the original game was way more RPG focused and, frankly, the combat sucked. The shooting was fine, but it rarely ever felt meaningful and the need to upgrade to even use certain weapons was a bit of a pain. The exploration was also a bit off, especially exploring planets in a tank. It’s fun at first but gets tedious quick. The later games focused far more on the shooting and cut back on the exploration. This was seen as both a good and bad thing depending on which side you stood on. However, they are still fun and there is enough skill adjustment to make it all enjoyable.
Graphically this is where the legendary edition shines, at least at first. Don’t forget, these games aren’t brand new so this is really more of a glow-up than a full remaster. The designs are good, everything feels streamlined and the worlds are interesting enough for you to forget that there isn’t really anything completely out of this world. Usually, it's either a jungle, a desert or an ice world. Some are a bit wilder, but it’s rare. Character models are…well they show their age. They look good enough, even if there are occasions where they can be reminiscent of smacking action men together. The remaster does what it can, the lines have been cleared up and the bloom has been fixed but there are still limitations.
Despite all this there is only one thing to say, play the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, especially if you haven’t before. The game brings something from all your favourite Sci-Fi series and movies. There’s the battle between good and evil, the thrill of exploration, strange new worlds and aliens and if you’re a fan of Star Trek, a chance to romance those aliens. If nothing else, this is a series that personifies so much that makes gaming a great hobby. You really don’t have anything to lose!
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