The Mass Effect series holds a special place in the minds of many gamers. Its vast sci-fi world, loveable characters, and galaxy changing decisions are still quite like nothing we have in games today. Much like Star Wars, there is a universe worth of endless possibilities to explore with the Mass Effect franchise. Yet aside from the lukewarmly received Mass Effect: Andromeda, the series has been dark for a long time now. With Electronic Arts’ recent investor call, we now know they are more willing to consider remastering their fan-favorite games. And with the state of western role-playing games (RPGs) today, there might be no better time for the Mass Effect space-opera to make a triumphant return.
What is Mass Effect?
To those that might not be familiar, Mass Effect is a sci-fi based RPG series. From the very beginning, it sets up a universe with a lot of history and detail to explore. It presents fascinating planets, alien species, governments and more. While this sounds like it could be overwhelming, the series deals with it well. The world of Mass Effect is presented to you naturally, through conversations and environments. On top of this, the codex lets you read through all the details you require at any time.
Its third-person gameplay and over the shoulder combat should be familiar to most gamers. Exploring numerous alien planets and futuristic space cities provides a feeling of awe that not many series can match. It’s made all the sweeter, by the fact that many places in the series are completely optional but worthwhile to explore. For story reasons, rewards and adding to the sense that you’re exploring a huge galaxy.
In combat, you’ll fight a huge variety of enemies. Either by fighting in real-time or by being able to pause at any time to survey the situation and issue-specific attacks on your targets. While doing so, you’ll combine a variety of weapons, powers and companion abilities. All of which, can be upgraded through the RPG leveling system. And thanks to the insane amount of dialogue choices, Mass Effect lets you shape the consequences of its world, both big and small.
Why it needs remastering…
At its core, Mass Effect is the Star Wars of videogames. Though crucially, it lets you be the Luke Skywalker of this grand sci-fi story, and it’s an intoxicating feeling to be sure. Simply put, there’s little else in gaming like it. While rough around the edges, the first Mass Effect offers great depth thanks to its combat and variety of abilities. Mass Effect 2, streamlined the RPG mechanics and refined combat to a tee while offering one of the best stories of any RPG. Full of character, consequences and a build-up to one of the best final missions I’ve experienced. While Mass Effect 3, refined the formula further with satisfying combat, galaxy altering decisions and surprisingly solid co-op multiplayer.
However, improvements could be made to bring the series in line with modern standards. Mass Effect had a lot of technical issues in particular. This included long load times being masked by the notorious elevator rides. A variable framerate, texture pop-in and in some cases the game crashing. I had to get into the habit of saving constantly after numerous crashes and lost hours of my progress each time. A remaster could sorely help to make Mass Effect a more consistently enjoyable experience.
Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 are polished games with few technical issues. Although, this doesn’t mean there is nothing to improve. The trilogy could benefit from a resolution boost, letting the stunning sci-fi art on display shine as Bioware intended. Additionally, an increase to 60 frames per second could create more responsive battles. And while this may be a step too far, perhaps a trilogy remaster could address Mass Effect 3’s controversial ending. As well as include all the brilliant story expansions you may have missed the first time.
There is a gap in the industry right now…
So, why is now the perfect time for Bioware’s space opera to return? Quality of life upgrades and having the series natively on current-gen consoles will please most fans. But, more importantly, there is currently a gap in the gaming market for Mass Effect. High quality, western made RPGs have become less common this console generation. Aside from some notable exceptions like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Outer Worlds. RPGs of this nature simply aren’t releasing as frequently as they used to.
With all due respect, this applies to Bioware too. Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem didn’t receive the universal acclaim that the Mass Effect trilogy did. With this in mind, it would be the ideal time to remind gamers why Bioware was considered among the best developers of RPGs in the industry. Both for disillusioned fans and new players who may not understand the reverence for Bioware that many have.
Primarily, it’s because the Mass Effect trilogy excelled at things even today’s games don’t often match. It has fantastically fleshed out companion characters that are easy to get attached to. The paragon/renegade options in dialogue provide branching story paths and reasons to replay the series. And for players that are put off by endlessly huge open worlds, the trilogy excels at creating moderately sized spaces with ample to do within them. Plus, the ability to carry your save file over into the next game and have your decisions make a difference is still a mechanic not many games have taken real advantage of. All of these features could now be a breath of fresh air for gamers, tired of waiting for quality western RPGs.