I’m Commander Shepard and I spent £400 on a Mass Effect 3 “accessory”. It was March 2012, the week after the game had hit shelves and I was deep into the war to save the galaxy.
But… let’s rewind a bit.
As a huge Star Wars fan I can tell you without a shadow of doubt Mass Effect does it all bigger and better, which is interesting considering BioWare cut their teeth for making these games in the beloved Knights of The Old Republic series. BioWare clearly took their storytelling experience from their venture into Star Wars and applied it tenfold to Mass Effect so effectively, that they surpassed Star Wars itself in terms of scope and immersion.
The music, the ambience, the characters, the ships, the planets… I could go on for days. Every part of the galaxy feels alive and lived in, and more importantly the actions you perform have an impact and consequences.
My first Shepard was a standard earthborn John Shepard, soldier. I had a blast. He was Captain Goodguy of the galaxy, righting every wrong, doing the right thing and generally being a hero. You know the sort – Captain America, Superman… Mickey Mouse?
Then I began a play as Jane, and it was an entirely different experience. Take everything I used to describe John and replace with “takes names, kicks ass”, Jane was the polar opposite of Goody Two Shoes John and she loved it. Biotic and a soul survivor, each lengthy council conversation was dismissed and each citizen in need cast aside. My Jane was saving the galaxy with no distractions and kept her eyes on the prize. Nothing else mattered.
The renegade and paragon system in the game (good/bad choices) is second only to my favourite thing about the series. The choices and actions transfer between the whole trilogy and sometimes the fate of entire species rely on your actions. This has never been equalled or replicated before on the same grand scale and I weep to think we may never see this level of harmony between 3 (or more) games in the future.
I can not recall a single videogame that has had me on a rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish. Through laughter, tears and anger each team mate as the games progress become strongly imprinted on your very soul. Bonding with the crew in Mass Effect 1 to saving the fate of the galaxy in Mass Effect 3; the interchangeable crew were MY crew, MY friends and I had their back every step of the way.
Now we could sit here and discuss how you will spend countless hours in a sprawling RPG or whether or not the game is an RPG at all or a 3rd person shooter (the answer is both) but that’s not why I brought you here.
We could also spend pages talking over potential relationships, gender types, the weapons, the skill trees, the missions, the characters, the backstory and the lore (including in universe novels by the excellent Drew Karpyshyn) but again that is not why I brought you here.
Instead let’s talk about BioWare’s meticulously crafted universe and how the game makes you want to live there.
From the lower bowels of C-Sec in the Citadel to the coldest peaks of Lattesh, the Mass Effect Trilogy presents the player with a smorgasbord of visitable (not always habitable) worlds. The Star Wars story group wish they could be so deep and rich when it comes to crafting stories.
Every planet you happen to land upon feels “lived in”, as if things went down before you and the crew arrive. Sure some of these missions may be as basic as “go to A to collect B”, but it is the journey that matters most of all. NPCs will not hesitate to fill you in on events or gossip about their neighbours goings on and it is up to you whether or not to get involved with such local politics and consider how it may affect the wider planet/galaxy/universe.
And while the standard playthrough may be just that, standard Jane or standard John Shepard, it does not have to be this way. Create a character outside of the “canon” parameters and something amazing happens. You create Shepard, you shape Shepard, you BECOME Shepard.
From unravelling the mystery afoot whilst saving the colonists at Zhu’s Hope to sitting at Chora’s Den knocking back drinks and discussing the fate of the mercenaries sent to take down Archangel in Afterlife, I never had a dull moment with the missions in any play through.
Strolling the Presidium complex and pondering life whilst gazing at the ships coming and going above, wondering where they are going and who is inside, pleasantly whittles away hours of game time. This is accompanied by the most fitting of soundtracks that’s never too background and never so offensive to take the main stage. Balance with the sound effects and music is masterful in the trilogy across all three titles.
I don’t expect readers to immediately reserve themselves a VIP table at Afterlife or book a shopping trip to the lower markets of the citadel but Mass Effect Legendary Edition is now on Game Pass for everyone who has a subscription. I wholeheartedly encourage one and all to craft their own path in the beautiful (dangerous) and vast galaxy.
The Legendary Edition comes with 40+ dlc add ons (sadly losing Pinnacle station dlc due to corrupt code according to BioWare) and each dlc does not feel like “just another add on” at all. No, the dlc is it’s own masterful addition to an already wonderful story.
The improvements to not only graphics but gameplay for this definitive edition are tremendous. The work done on the first game is most obvious but loving touches and quality of life improvements are felt throughout the trilogy. BioWare have taken the remaster and pushed it into borderline remake territory with this release.
Lastly, this was never intended as a review, nor is it a paid advert for the Mass Effect series. This is just simply the utter gushing of adoration for a series that is beyond comparison. An individual experience for each player and a cinematic triumph in storytelling that is unmatched and personal to every person who has the privilege of taking part.
Still here? Oh right, I forgot to explain why I spent £400 on a Mass Effect accessory. Shortly after Mass Effect 3 launched BioWare also brought out a couple of apps that tied in and worked alongside the main game. There was the Mass Effect Data Pad where you could manage the war effort and also the Mass Effect Infiltrator, a third person shooter which unlocked war assets for use in Mass Effect 3.
So how did this cost me £400 you ask? Well back in 2012 a tablet wasn’t as standard in every household and these apps were destined to be played on one. One evening/early hours of the morning after a session on Mass Effect 3, I walked in the rain the two miles each way to a local supermarket and bought myself an iPad 3 that had just launched.
Do I regret buying an iPad just for these two apps (and to play The Room, a seriously great game by the way) you may ask?
No. It enhanced my experience even more so, I felt like I was Joker on the Normandy with the data pad at hand using the app and it kicked ass. Well, Jane did, I was there for it all and will never forget the time we saved the galaxy.
I was understandably excited and nervous for my opportunity to revisit such a beloved series in the definitive edition. Had they messed it up? Was it going to be too different? What if they have ruined it? Those fears washed away the minute I heard the iconic title theme on the main menu, and those fears never returned as I sank my teeth into the first of several returns of the beauty that is the Mass Effect Legendary Edition.
I am Commander Shepard, You are Commander Shepard…. WE are Commander Shepard.
If you haven’t yet picked up the Mass Effect Legendary Edition, you’ll find it playable on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. The download you need is over at the Xbox Store and if you don’t want to pay up the usual £59.99 asking price, you too could be playing it on Xbox Game Pass.