Mass Effect Legendary Edition, a revamped version of BioWare’s iconic sci-fi trilogy, is set to come out on May 14th and it’s available for pre-order right now. The game is heading to PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and it’ll also hit PS5 and Xbox Series X and S via forward compatibility the same day.
The Legendary Edition is a complete visual and fidelity-focused overhaul of the series, and it adds 4K Ultra HD with HDR support to all three games. Developers at BioWare have upgraded the majority of the characters, smoothing out textures, and adding features like ambient occlusion and subsurface scattering to make environments feel more lifelike. In practice, the game looks stellar.
“Subsurface scattering is a really subtle effect, but it can be the difference-maker for making someone’s face feel alive and not like clay,” environment and character director Kevin Meek said during a media preview for the Legendary Edition. “And ambient occlusion, it was on in very select cutscenes in Mass Effect 3, but there just wasn’t the processing power back in the day to have that on during the entire game. I think it’s really fundamental to grounding the scene, adding this depth.”
The Legendary Edition also addresses a handful of complaints from longtime series fans. For instance, elevator rides in the first two games are ridiculously long, since they’re used in place of loading screens. We’re talking up to one minute per ride, which is bananas in a universe where intergalactic travel is the norm. An elevator trip that took 52 seconds in the original Mass Effect has been shaved down to 14 seconds in the Legendary Edition.
Plus, the PC version fully supports gamepads, 21:9 widescreen settings and DirectX 11. The original Mass Effect focused less on shooting than the later entries, so developers have tweaked combat in the first game to feel smoother, including zoom snaps for firearms and an enhanced HUD.
“There was a little bit of friction there, in the way combat works,” producer Crystal McCord said. “It really was more of an RPG than a shooter. So what can we do to make that a little bit more seamless?”
The ending of Mass Effect 3 was controversial, with many players left feeling like their decisions throughout the trilogy were railroaded in the interest of surface-level drama. A few months after 3’s launch, BioWare rolled out the Extended Cut DLC pack, which added cutscenes and context for the original ending, lending more weight to player choices. This is the ending that will be available in the Legendary Edition.
The Legendary Edition includes 40 bits of Mass Effect DLC. Since the narrative hasn’t been touched, romantic pairings remain the same throughout the trilogy, despite some hope that BioWare would expand same-sex relationship options.
The canonical version of female Shepard that appeared on the box of Mass Effect 3 has been ported into all three games, and the character creation system has been expanded.
“One of the first things we really wanted to do was, throughout the trilogy, unify the options,” Meek said. “If something exists in 3, we want it to exist in 1, and we want that to be able to be consistent. And then also we wanted to really expand choices for things like skin color and hair styles that just weren’t wide enough originally to support the diversity of our player base or give fans the opportunity to create that Shepard they really wanted to play as.”