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Dreadaxe Gaming: Mass Effect Legendary Edition (ME3 so far)

I defeated the rogue agent in the 1st game, survived the suicide mission in the 2nd (doing so with a full crew surviving, thankfully), and I’ve just begun to take on the 3rd game in this trilogy. The Mass Effect Legendary Edition contains some of my most played games to date, titles that kept me sane during difficult times nearly a decade ago, and offered enough variation to keep me coming back for repeat playthroughs, whether it was for the sake of choosing a different character class or picking an alternate solution during a mission.

The Reaper threat is upon the galaxy and they have launched their assault on all organic lifeforms. Most worlds you visit are warzones, crawling with mechanised servants of the machine overlords. Once again, it is up to Commander Shepard to push back on these ancient machines and unite the galaxy in resisting their imminent destruction. The story moves at a more urgent pace than the previous games (understandably, considering the events) and you feel the characters beginning to lose hope as they are faced with the bleakest of situations; tensions mount, desperate alliances are forged and entire planets are engaged in warfare.

While I played 1 & 2 to death, ME3 is my least-played of the three. I completed it once when it was originally released in 2012, even firing through the optional multiplayer mode with a buddy of mine because it was so damn addictive. The game retains the dark edginess of ME2 while leaning into some aspects of ME1’s RPG roots with a more extensive way to level up your skills, allowing the tailoring of your characters to fit a particular role.

Players can still choose Shepard’s responses and tailor their attitude towards the situation, with the paragon/renegade morality system making a return, as well as the ability of having your character form a romantic bond with one of your companions. There feel like less dialogue options this time around, with some conversations only offering a flirtatious or aggressive response as the choices, which can make scenes a little strange. That aside, there are plenty of ways for you to influence to story, and heaps of callbacks from decisions you might have made in the previous games that have carried over with your character, so the experience has more of a weight to it.

I didn’t like the planet scanning in ME2; ME3 continues to allow you to pilot the Normandy in the galaxy map segments, but you can scan as you fly, speeding up the process. The combat improves on ME2’s, taking the fast-paced, and frankly bullet spongy combat from that game and making movement more fluid, with enemies less like indestructible blocks of marble. Moments when a gunfight is in full swing and Shepard and co are mixing gunplay with tech and biotic powers are just chaotically glorious to behold.

Combat is the slickest it’s felt in the series, with the addition of a combat roll and a refining of the cover-based shooting that ME2 featured so heavily. It’s no Gears of War, but its functional. My only problem with the combat is the almost horde-mode mentality of some of the battles, making the story grind to a halt as you painstakingly chip away at waves of enemies until the game says you’re allowed to proceed. As I said before, the enemies are not as tanky as the last game but when there’s a wave of 20 of these bastards flanking you and throwing grenades with near 100% accuracy, it can be a lot to deal with.

For any small issue I have with the Mass Effect series on the whole, I’d happily supply five positive points in its stead. I don’t think 3 is the strongest in the series, though it does have the most polished combat and powers system, coupled with some of the most intense story beats of the series.

I think bringing back the trilogy in its complete form was a fantastic idea, and though my dear old Xbox 360 has long since fallen into disrepair and unable to play the original discs, I’m happy to have had the opportunity to blast a path through these games again on my current setup. The modern gaming industry has turned me into more of a pessimist than ever when it comes to new releases, and while I’m not always on board with remakes & remasters either, it’s safe to say that I am with Mass Effect.

Dreadaxe Gaming: Mass Effect Legendary Edition (ME1 so far)

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.