In a brand new extended primer on many of the core changes made for Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, the upcoming all-in-one trilogy remaster of the beloved adventures of Shepard and crew, BioWare has provided fans with their first real taste of things to come. After announcing the remaster during last year’s “N7 Day” with mere hints as to what sort of optimization they had in mind, the developers hunkered down on completing this passion project while keeping most of their cards close to the chest. This may or may not have caused me to dream literal dreams as my mind raced to guess what Legendary Edition would be like.
Optimizing the combat experience across the board whilst maintaining much of what players love about each game’s fights proved to be a predictably challenging ordeal. I’m sure things may have been easier if the developers sought to turn the whole thing into Mass Effect 3 in this regard, but they’ve been quite forward from the outset that they’re aware of a not-inconsiderable audience of fans who genuinely enjoy the first game’s relatively unique style. To that end, the mission was not to scrap the spirit of the admittedly wonky Mass Effect 1, but rather, to enhance it so as to reduce frustrations with its archaic approach to gunplay.
“We heard the consistent feedback that it was pretty frustrating to take a few shots with an assault rifle [in the first game] and suddenly have the reticle enlarge to span a large portion of the screen,” Community Manager Jay Ingram explains, “so we looked at tuning the mechanics to provide better handling without outright scrapping the spirit of the original games.”
Assault rifle shenanigans is the tip of the iceberg in regards to Mass Effect 1 alterations. Accuracy has been improved for every weapon, and every class can equip anything the player desires without incurring a penalty. On the flip side, specialization skill trees remain limited to specific classes, meaning that just because your Infiltrator can now handle a shotgun without shooting at the dirt doesn’t mean she’ll ever be a Vanguard-tier pro with the thing. Shepard can now sprint when outside of combat, a feat previously limited to the sequels.
There have also been tweaks to various abilities, and if you’re beginning to wonder if the developers simply said “what if ME1 but easier?”, worry not — one example cited has, in fact, impacted my tendency to always choose the Soldier class in Mass Effect 1. Whereas the Immunity ability once acted as an extra coat of armor once cast, effectively turning late-game Soldiers into unstoppable behemoths, it has been altered such that it now offers a limited-time defensive buff instead. I hate to admit it, but that is entirely reasonable and probably ought to have been the shtick from the start.
Some changes feel long overdue. Even in 2007, the first game’s inventory system was a mess. You can now categorize that mess accordingly, flagging items as “Junk” which can be sold or converted into Medi-Gel in bulk rather than one piece at a time. What’s more, ammo mods now drop from enemy encounters all throughout the game — puzzlingly, they would stop spawning altogether after a certain point in the original. Vendors now carry these mods, too, so you’ll never run into the strange quandary of having many Geth to fry but hardly anyone who’s willing to hand over the best Geth-frying technologies.
You can also level to 60 on your first playthrough now. Back in the day, there was a hard cap of level 50 during initial runs, which expanded to 60 thereafter. It was a novel boon, but one which irritated plenty of players who only had time for a single jaunt aboard the Normandy SR-1.
By now, you might be wondering whether the entirety of Legendary Edition‘s gameplay changes pertain to ME1. There are wider-lens improvements for all three games, including better and more responsive cover controls, weapons and armor DLC packs integrated into merchant shops rather than being made available via cheesy in-game emails essentially thanking players for forking over their real-world cash, enhanced character creator toolkits, remixed audio, and more.
But back to ME1 for a sec.
Ah, the Mako. For the better part of 14 years, I’ve loved to hate you and hated that I love you. You’re one of the most infuriating vehicles to drive in RPG history, and I am not ashamed to admit I grinned from ear-to-ear upon reading that BioWare has revamped you.
“In the original game, the physics tuning for the Mako made it feel too light and bouncy, even at times becoming uncontrollable,” Ingram says. “It’s now a much smoother ride while still being ‘lovable’ like before.” What does he mean by lovable? “Yes, you can still drive off cliffs to your heart’s content.” Very good, Jay.
“Its functionally has also been improved with faster shield recharging and new thrusters added to the rear, allowing for a speed boost when you’re inevitably trying to scale up the side of a near-vertical cliff. (We all do it.) This boost’s recharge is independent from the jump jets on the vehicle’s underside, so you can use both at once or separately.”
I appreciate how well Jay Ingram seems to know about the various stupid things I’ve done in my Mako through the years. I’m also just a tad concerned.
Mass Effect 2 and 3
Mass Effect 2‘s ammunition has always been a bit harder to find than necessary, especially for those of us who like sniper rifles almost as much as Garrus and Thane do. BioWare has increased the availability of ammo replenishment throughout ME2‘s areas, which will please my trigger finger tremendously.
The last big change that BioWare has shared with us today involves Mass Effect 3.
No, the ending hasn’t been “fixed.”
With the Elcor in the closet out of the way, here’s the real deal. It regards the Galactic Readiness system, which… let’s just say wasn’t the most popular subject back in the day. Previously, players who did not engage in ME3‘s (surprisingly decent) multiplayer component needed to complete everything in the game if they hoped to achieve maximum readiness heading into the end stretch of Shepard’s journey. (In fact, even completionists couldn’t hit 100% without multiplayer when the game first launched, though thankfully that was rather rapidly patched.)
Now, Galactic Readiness does a far better job of taking into account all of the things, from smaller-scale beats to big decisions, spanning all three games in the trilogy. Additionally, ME2‘s infamously difficult Paragon/Renegade-related conversational unlocks — often necessary in order to achieve optimal results during heated dramatic moments between squadmates — have been retooled to be accessible through more sensible means. Let me briefly translate that for Mass Effect newcomers: what once was dumb has been resolved, allowing for intelligence to triumph over… dumb.
For even more sweet tweaks and comprehensive lists covering everything I’ve said, head over to the PlayStation Blog, where Jay Ingram originally dropped today’s hot scoop. Next week, BioWare intends to go into similar detail on the many-splendored visual upgrades in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, so stay tuned to RPGFan for another round of drinks on the Citadel.