What Mass Effect: Legendary Edition Is Changing About The Original Trilogy

From Mass Effect's gameplay to Mass Effect 3's multiplayer, there are a few parts of the original trilogy that are different in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.

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We recently attended an hour-long presentation in which BioWare showcased Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, the upcoming remaster of the studio's sci-fi trilogy. During the presentation, project director Mac Walters, environment and character artist Kevin Meek, and producer Crystal McCord detailed the changes that the Legendary Edition would make to the original Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3.

The changes range from gameplay adjustments in the original Mass Effect, tons of performance and visual upgrades, DLC integration, a universal character creator, and more. Here's everything that's been changed, upgraded, or added to the original Mass Effect trilogy in its upcoming Legendary Edition. For more, check out Mass Effect: Legendary Edition's reveal trailer, which debuted today alongside its release date of May 14.

Mass Effect 1 Gameplay Changes

Alright, let's talk about the big stuff: gameplay changes to modernize Mass Effect 1. In terms of combat, there's improved aim assist with a stickier lock-on, allowing you to keep locked onto targets while strafing. There's finally a dedicated melee button too, and though weapons have been balanced and tuned across the trilogy, the changes are most prominent in ME1. A huge change in combat is the removal of class-based weapon restrictions and aim penalties. So you still can't train in weapons that your class isn't specialized in, but you can now use them without being penalized.

The inventory system is still being worked on right now, though the way that BioWare spoke on it, we wouldn't expect to see any groundbreakingly huge changes. The HUD now looks cleaner and a little smaller at least; it's also been slightly repositioned so that it's not on the edges of the screen any more.

There's also going to be more of a unified control scheme between the games. You can still issue commands to your squadmates, and Bioware is improving those controls in ME1 to be more in line with how it feels in ME2. Squad AI is being improved, so if you send them to cover, they'll actually, ya know, use it. Enemy AI has also been made smarter and won't just bullrush you as soon you go into their line of sight. This should make it so you can jump from one game right into the next without feeling like you need to re-learn the basics.

Animations haven't been outright changed, but BioWare has been hard at work fixing the bugs attached to a lot of them--the studio provided an example of ensuring that all characters are now looking where they're supposed to. Input, camera, and cover systems have also been smoothed to eliminate some of that wonkiness that occasionally occurred in ME1.

The Mako is also now much easier to handle. ME1 includes many instances of exploring planets on the unresponsive vehicle, so to help those sections be more playable, BioWare has improved how it responds to controller input.

BioWare listed off a few less prominent, but no-less-important changes too, which we've listed below:

  • In-scope aim smoothing
  • Cover pass (Per Bioware: In ME1, the cover pass includes improvements to AI pathing, adding cover options for some encounters and fixing certain cover points that were previously broken in legacy. This also includes better behavior overall for squad and enemies to use cover appropriately.)
  • Rebalanced XP for level 60 cap, which means you don't have to do NG+
  • More consistent autosave (thank God)
  • Improved boss encounters
  • Improved cool down for first aid
  • Unified minigames across platforms, but no indication as to whether that means we're getting the PC's ring game or the console version's Simon Says.

Mass Effect 3 Story Changes

There's no additional story content coming. The devs did look at what was on the cutting room floor but, unfortunately, the stuff that was cut from all three games couldn't easily be put back in for the remaster--they'd need to rebuild from scratch. That said, the Extended Cut is now the official canonical ending for the game. So when you boot up the Legendary Edition and play through Mass Effect 3, you won't be able to choose between the original ending that launched with the game or the Extended Cut--you'll automatically just get the latter.

A Universal Character Creator

There's now a universal character creator across all three games, which means that all customization options that were added in ME2 and ME3 are now available in ME1. BioWare has also added additional options when it comes to skin tones, makeup, and hairstyles--including more Black hairstyles.

Additionally, there's finally a unified female Commander Shepard across the trilogy. Originally, the FemShep design wasn't finalized until Mass Effect 3, so BioWare is taking this opportunity to retroactively add her to ME1 and ME2. The team has adjusted her slightly, modifying her jawline and adding a few more details like wrinkles and pores.

New Game Launcher

There's a brand new launcher that allows you to start all three games from one place, which will appear when you boot up the Legendary Edition. All versions of the game will allow you to pick which game you want to play, watch the credits, or switch your profile. When you finish any of the three games in the Legendary Edition, you get brought back to the launcher to select another--these are still three separate games, you don't just roll into ME2 when you finish ME1.

The Xbox version of the game also has a feature that allows you to uninstall specific games, in case you don't want all three games on your console at once--not sure why you'd ever want to delete such beauty from your life but the option is there.

Almost Every DLC

The Legendary Edition contains over 40 pieces of downloadable content, including story expansions, armor packs, weapon packs, and alternate outfit packs--yes, that includes the Dragon Age armor and the Genesis comics. Some things will be available from the very start of each game, while others will unlock as you play. Pretty much everything is here, all but one: the Pinnacle Station DLC from Mass Effect 1. Though you can still play it on Xbox 360 and PC, that DLC wasn't available for PS3 because the source data was corrupt by the time BioWare was making a PS3 version of ME1. According to Mac Walters, that's still the case and so the DLC won't be available in the Legendary Edition. Attempts were made to restore it, but they weren't successful, and it would require basically rebuilding it from scratch in order to include it in the game.

Rebalance To Mass Effect 3's Galactic Readiness

Mass Effect 3's multiplayer didn't make it into the Legendary Edition. The companion app is also no longer available, and it let you raise your readiness without playing multiplayer. So that raises the question: How does ME3's Galactic Readiness now work? Well, it's been rebalanced. It's still being tweaked right now, but the plan is that, provided you're starting from ME1, you'll accrue enough in Galactic Readiness in order to unlock the trilogy's best ending. To get it without playing the previous two games, you'll need to do pretty much everything Mass Effect 3 has to offer.

New Performance & Visuals

The Legendary Edition will be playable in 4K HDR, running at 60 FPS on Xbox One X, Xbox Series X|S, PS4 Pro, and PS5, though BioWare told us that the team is still optimizing the remaster for the new console generation to get a more consistent and smooth experience. On PC, those frame rates will be unleashed. There'll be faster load times across all platforms as well, so you won't have to sit through the entire elevator ride in ME1 anymore--there's now a new skip button that allows you to just speed to your destination once the game has loaded. In terms of visual improvements, you name it and there’s a decent chance that BioWare has changed it. For textures, the studio used an AI up-res program to upscale texture resolution four times, with some even being improved up to 16 times. In ME1 and ME2, pretty much every character, armor, outfit, and weapon has been hand-touched and up-rezzed. A couple of key examples that stood out to us were Zaeed and Thane--you could really see the bags and wrinkles on Zaeed's face and Thane's scales more easily stand out, giving him a more reptilian look.

When it comes to the levels themselves, after all the textures were up-ressed, the artists went on to add several more cool changes, like smoke and volumetric lighting to make them a lot prettier. Both Eden Prime's dig site and Feros looked a lot richer in detail, and the water on Virmire also looked really good.

Here's all the tech-related improvements that BioWare is making to the trilogy:

  • Tonemapping
  • Anti-aliasing
  • Volumetrics and fog
  • Depth of field and bloom
  • Bokeh depth of field (to enhance the art style)
  • Subsurface scattering on the skin
  • Ambient occlusion (previously only on a select few cutscenes in ME3; it's now present across the trilogy

PC Improvements

PC players will get a bunch of nice little additions, such as controller support (finally). There'll be DirectX 11 support, 21:9 support, and an unleashed frame rate as well. There's no ray tracing on any version of the Legendary Edition, but there are real-time reflections. BioWare is still using Unreal 3 for the remaster (even on PC), which lets them use forward rendering. Essentially, the studio sticks another camera into a scene, rendering it twice, and that provides real-time dynamic reflections.

New Console Generation Improvements

When we spoke to BioWare, the studio didn't believe that there was 3D Tempest Audio support for the Legendary Edition on PS5, but there are improvements to sound effects at the asset level (particularly for weapons), rather than the system support level. Sadly, there are no special supported features for PS5's DualSense or Series X|S's Quick Resume. Instead, the remaster leverages the power of both new-gen systems, making the load times even faster. That said, BioWare is working to further improve the Legendary's Edition's performance on the new generation, with the possibility for other features to get support in the future.

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