Recently I brought my original Mass Effect character back from the dead and I am once more now playing my Commander Shepard in Mass Effect Legendary Edition.
And, let me tell you, it's absolutely fantastic. BioWare has done a great job in remastering the original Mass Effect trilogy and, well, quality games retain their class even when they get old.
Which isn't something that can be said for Mass Effect Andromeda, the ill-fated follow-up to the original trilogy – that game wasn't out and out bad, but it just didn't have the class, polish or X-factor that the original trilogy had and, as such, felt like a massive come down.
- The science of Mass Effect: Alcubierre drives, FTL travel, mass effect fields, torpor habitats, the Fermi Paradox and more
Of course, the Andromeda team didn't help themselves either with some very questionable gameplay pacing and mechanics choices, either, and voice acting (especially in smaller NPC characters) and facial animations were also not up to scratch.
However, and it is a big however – Mass Effect Andromeda did pave the way for the officially trailed new Mass Effect 5 game (see trailer below) in terms of one key thing – scope and freedom in terms of world building and design.
This is something that has become very evident to me while playing Mass Effect Legendary Edition. The original Mass Effect games are still great experiences, but the remastering can't hide the fact that they were build for platforms that had serious limitations compared to modern consoles and PCs, and that affected game design.
Playing through Mass Effect right now and I've found it jarring at how claustrophobic many of the environments are, and just how many of them are parsed down into many smaller sections with elevators and and other types of loading areas.
When you visit planets on the Normandy that don't have scripted elements, yes, you are given more freedom to drive around in the Mako vehicle, but it is only really a small square area you can explore that, aside from a few small things, is completely empty and dead.
This isn't a criticism as the original Mass Effect was designed for Xbox 360-era hardware, and at the time what it and the following two games achieved was remarkable, but now despite how pretty the remaster has made it look, with better textures, resolution, lighting and particle effects, it can't change this very restricted scope.
Andromeda, released a decade after the original Mass Effect, made huge advances in freeing up Mass Effect in terms of scope, with more powerful hardware allowing for larger planetary exploration and less claustrophobic buildings and environments. The problem was, though, the game's development team didn't use this freedom well.
The vast majority of reviewers of that game highlighted that while the scope had been increased, the developers had filled it with content and mechanics that just didn't engage or that people cared about. The world of Mass Effect was bigger and looked better than ever, but pretty much everything that made the original trilogy great, such as strong narrative, great characters and meaningful side-content, was delivered in reduced terms or smothered with boring busy work.
Fast forward to now and we've got the PS5 and Xbox Series X on the market, which are both absolutely loaded with gaming power – more than enough power to expand the scope of Mass Effect's virtual worlds to new, amazing, unseen levels. We've also got a "veteran team at BioWare" working on Mass Effect 5 and, at least in my mind, when you combine those two factors you have a recipe for something truly special.
Just imagine a Mass Effect 5 that has scope and graphics that exceed Mass Effect Andromeda but has all the qualities that made the original trilogy great as well? I'll tell you what you've got, you've got the potential to have one of the absolute best games of the incoming PS5 and Xbox Series X generation, as well as a sci-fi masterpiece.
I'm going to love playing through Mass Effect Legendary Edition on PS5 over the next six months to a year, but it for these reasons that I'm now begging for Mass Effect 5. For as much as the remastered games are great, a new title that taps into the awesome power of PS5 and Xbox Series X would be jaw-dropping and take the series to a new level of immersion.