If you think about when Mass Effect was released, you can quickly feel pretty old. It's been almost 14 years since Commander Shepard first took us on an epic adventure into a galaxy populated by various aliens. That was at the end of 2007. At that time, Bioware was not yet part of Electronic Arts. Back then, George W. Bush was US President, Microsoft released Windows Vista and Apple just launched the iPhone, the very first modern smartphone. Even the conclusion of the trilogy with Mass Effect 3 was nine years ago. Almost as long there have been calls in the large fan base for a remaster of the trilogy.
The main trigger was the release of the last generation of consoles (PS4, Xbox One) in 2013, because gamers wanted to dive further into their favorite universe on the new systems. Over the years these calls became louder, until it finally became a kind of open secret that Bioware was actually working on a new edition. It has been a certainty since November 2020 and the wait will soon be over. The remaster with the title Mass Effect: Legendary Edition (buy now ) will finally appear on May 14, 2021. We recently had the opportunity to attend a virtual event in which Bioware gave us an insight into the refurbished Shepard trilogy for the first time.
With Project Director Mac Walters, Producer Crystal McCord and Environment and Character Director Kevin Meek, three leading developers at Bioware took the time to talk about the goals, improvements made and, above all, their passion for the project.
Mac Walters in particular, who has worked almost exclusively on Mass Effect at Bioware since 2005, expresses how much he wanted this remaster to be realized. For many years he has repeatedly asked the question "Are we going to do it? Are we going to do it?" In meetings for many years. In 2019, this persistence should finally pay off. Work on Mass Effect: Legendary Edition began with a small core team.
Walters describes the beginning of the project as a kind of archaeological journey of discovery. After all, the whole trilogy was developed during a hardware generation long past in what is now a rather outdated engine. So the team initially asked itself how profound the new edition should be. Among other things, there was an exchange with Epic Games, the makers of Unreal Engine, in order to sound out whether and how a switch from Unreal Engine 3 to Unreal Engine 4 could be implemented. However, you quickly realized that this would come close to the effort of a remake and would bring fundamental changes to the feel of the trilogy. With the Legendary Edition, it was particularly important for the team to maintain the spirit and essence of what made the Mass Effect trilogy so special.
Therefore, changes to the story were quickly off the table. Instead, the developers focused on two things. First, the porting of the games to the current generation of consoles including upward compatibility to the next generation and to DirectX11 for the PC. Second, the improvement of the graphic quality in all its range. The aim of the developers was to increase the resolution of every single texture in the game, regardless of whether it is about environments, special effects, interfaces or characters. For this purpose, all uncompressed original texture files were hunted by a so-called AI-Upres program. In other words, a program that can increase the resolution of texture files with the help of artificial intelligence. As a result, the resolutions of the more than 10,000 textures in all three games were increased between four and 16 times. The hand-crafted developers took care of further fine-tuning, focusing particularly on elements that are particularly close or often in the player's field of vision.
The developers showed us what the whole thing looks like in its revised form by means of a compilation of individual scenes with a before-and-after comparison. The differences are particularly noticeable with the first Mass Effect. So we get to see, among other things, a Captain Anderson, where you can see pores and impurities in the face. In his eyes, thanks to improved shaders, the hint of the reflection of the environment can be seen. His uniform also looks sharper and more textured. In many of the scenes shown, improved lighting also contributes to the significantly increased overall impression. Anti-aliasing and improved 3D models are also used. All that can't keep up with modern titles. It's still amazing what the developers were able to get out of the old Unreal Engine 3.
The developers paid special attention to the characters, all of which have been edited and modernized by hand. This applies not only to the companions and story-relevant characters, but also to many of the countless NPCs. In another short video with a render comparison of various crew members, the developers show us their impressive results of the revisions. Of course, the most important person was not forgotten. Commander Shepard also benefits from various revisions. Since his / her appearance mainly depends on the player, a lot of work went into character creation. The main aim here was to create uniformity across all three games. So from the first to the third part there are now exactly the same options in the editor. Including even some additional options, such as brand new hairstyles and skin colors that did not exist in the original. FemShep fans can also look forward to the fact that the iconic standard look introduced with ME3 is now also available in the other two parts.
Careful gameplay adjustments
The developers of Bioware did not only deal with the visual representation for the remaster. The gameplay was also scrutinized. The focus was particularly on the first Mass Effect, as this was by no means as sophisticated in its mechanics as the two successors. But the makers had to have a good one
Finding a balance because you didn't want to change the games completely The nostalgia of how players remembered the trilogy should remain. Feedback from the community in the form of selected players, streamers, cosplayers and hardcore fans was also obtained.
A lot of the considerations revolved around the fights, which did not go as smoothly in the first part as in the two successors. The controls, the key assignments and the interface were put to the test. Changes have been made to harmonize the gameplay with Parts 2 and 3. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to experience for ourselves how it all feels. However, we haven't really been able to see it so far, as the developers didn't show us any real gameplay.
But also outside of the fighting, hands were lent. For example, the notorious elevator rides. Fortunately, these have been drastically shortened and can now even be skipped if the charging in the background has already ended before the end of the shortened travel time. Mako is also notorious, the physics and behavior of which have been greatly improved. In addition, it was equipped with a short-term boost to improve the handling of the terrain. There should be further gameplay improvements for AI, minigames, balance, the interface and much more. However, the developers did not go into any further detail.
Mass Effect 1 also received special treatment for level design. Certain areas have been revised in their overall mood in order to better fit the plot and the intentions of the makers. The developers achieve this on the one hand by changing the lighting conditions and
on the other hand through additional details. Thanks to today's hardware, it is possible to add many more objects and effects such as fog or water to the levels. The team orientated itself on the original concept drawings, which the level designers could do much more justice with today's means. How wonderfully the developers succeeded in doing this, they showed us using a few examples, all of which have been implemented excellently.
Overall, the Bioware preview event provided a good insight into the goals and improvements made to the remaster. Unfortunately, there wasn't really any coherent gameplay that would give you a little more feel for the effects of the Legendary Edition. So we just have to wait and see and hope that the finished product will keep what it promises. After all, the developers are not spoiled for content. In contrast to previous "complete" packages, this time really everything is included.
In other words, the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition includes the complete single-player content of all three parts, including more than 40 DLCs. In addition to the total of 15 story expansions, this also includes the numerous promotional weapons and armor that have been available for the three titles over the years. Only the multiplayer mode of Mass Effect 3 is not taken over. The game supports resolutions up to 4K with HDR on all platforms. The remaster runs at 60 frames per second on Xbox One X, PS4 Pro and the new consoles. The PC version is not capped in terms of frame rate and also supports 21: 9 resolutions. The PC version has also been given controller support.
All readers receive daily news, articles, guides, videos and podcasts about their favorite games free of charge. So far we have financed this site through advertising and kept it as free of clickbaits or paid items as possible, but since COVID-19 this has become increasingly difficult. Many companies are cutting or cutting their advertising budgets for 2020. Budgets that we unfortunately have to rely on if we want to continue to offer PC games free of charge as usual in the future.
For this reason we turn to you now. As a PC Games supporter, you can support us so that we can continue to offer our content in the usual form for free without introducing a paywall or publishing clickbait news like "And you won't believe what happened next …" . Every contribution, large or small, is valuable.
I'm Commander Shepard and this is my favorite remaster!
I myself am one of the fans who have wanted a remaster for the Shepard trilogy for years. So I'm all the more pleased to see how much effort and passion the developers of Bioware try to get the best possible out of the old engine. You shouldn't expect miracles here. The games don't suddenly look like a Horizon: Zero Dawn or The Last of Us Part 2. The Unreal 3 is getting too old for that. What the developers do with it, however, is impressive. In any case, my anticipation for a new adventure with Commander Shepard has increased significantly. I am now especially curious about the gameplay adjustments to the first part, whether these will be enough to bring the game up to the level of the successor. That a great experience lies ahead of us, but I have no doubt about it.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition in preview. (1) (Source: Bioware)
Also popular with PC games readers PcPS4XBO
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition: The release date is fixed
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition – Release already in winter?
Games Current Podcast 643: Game Awards, Star Wars and the MCU
(*) We have marked affiliate links with an asterisk. We receive a small commission for a purchase via our link and can thus partially finance the free website with this income. There are no costs for the user.