Mass Effect 1 was one of those games that got me through some tough times. I got into it a few years after its original release in 2007, by which point the second one was out as well, and they were among my most played games on the Xbox 360 at the time. These games fought off hours of boredom and I guess even loneliness as well, keeping me occupied late into the night and waking me early in the morning to play again. I pored over the first game the most however; although I had played RPGs before, I hadn’t played anything like this or indeed any BioWare game until then.
Now it is 2021 and the series has been scooped together into one package with all DLCs (bar one, which thankfully most consider to be the least important of the lot anyway); ME1 has had a visual facelift to bring it closer to the 2nd and 3rd games, along with some other tweaks to the combat, driving, and loading times. I’ve quickly fallen back into the routine of playing a few missions, talking with NPCs, upgrading gear and inspecting everything that I can find to the point that I don’t even realise how much time has passed. It’s not just the nostalgia of the game itself that’s hitting me, but I feel like I’m back in my old flat in 2010, becoming absorbed in this sci fi universe for the first time.
The story follows Commander Shepard (male or female, your choice) as they hunt down a rogue Council agent called Saren, exploring worlds, piecing together a crew and doing whatever work the Alliance throws your way. While the main story revolves around the hunt, side quests pad out the experience and provide some world-building, as well as opportunities to earn more XP and gear. Mass Effect has a reputation for being a cinematic game, and you are asked how you want to respond to events in the form of dialogue and actions. This also builds Shepard into a character of their own, allowing the player to shape them into a noble and patient hero, a temperamental child who punches folk, or someone in between. These narrative moments fuel the game in a big way and become as addictive as the combat.
The changes to the HUD and the Mako’s aiming system are very welcome, and you can feel that the combat has been tightened up to a certain degree. I’ve only been playing through as an Engineer class but have found the combat abilities to be responsive and much more effective than I remember them being, though the aiming of said abilities can feel hit or miss at times. Also, the squad members have never looked better, and the way that they weigh in on events that occur as you play is one of the little bits of magic about the Mass Effect series as a whole. Tinkering with loadouts and armour takes on a life of its own too as you find yourself in pursuit of those sweet higher numbers!
Is it perfect? No. It’s easy to forget that this is no remake; there are sharper visuals and general quality of life improvements across the board but it still handles like it did over 10 years ago- that’s not necessarily a bad thing- but it is worth remembering when playing. I’ve been having issues with squadmates ignoring commands, or getting left behind and trapped at automatic doors, something I only notice when I have wandered solo into a deadly gunfight. There’s a handful of audio problems such as distortion and warping of effects that are too high in the mix (Saren’s ship, various generator noises, etc) and they can become quite ear-shredding when they are on a constant loop.
Minor gripes aside, I’ve been having a whale of a time replaying Mass Effect 1. I think that BioWare have made slight improvements where it matters and maintained the integrity of the experience, though there are little annoyances here and there. This remains one of the most engrossing games that I’ve played and is packed with interesting characters, intricate galactic politics and explosive action. It really is worth checking out if you are a longtime fan on the brink of picking up the trilogy, or a newcomer who missed out the first time around.
Thanks for reading, and take care.