BioWare is making some major changes to Mass Effect for the remaster

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

One of the big questions about Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is how it will bring the games in the trilogy together into some sort of mechanically coherent whole. The first game in the series came out way back in 2007, after all, and significant changes were made over the subsequent releases.

BioWare detailed a number of those changes in a blog post that went up today, running down what players can look forward to in the updated games. Some of what it covers has already been announced—fewer gratuitous butt shots, better handling in the Mako—but this provides a much more detailed rundown of everything from combat updates to an overhaul of Mass Effect 3's Galaxy at War system.

Combat changes are probably the most noteworthy overall, as Mass Effect 1 plays dramatically differently than Mass Effect 2 and 3. The first game "was heavily influenced by traditional RPG mechanics," which added an element of randomness to firefights and had the effect of making weapons sometimes feel less accurate and reliable than they are in the sequels, which are more shooters by nature.

"We heard the consistent feedback that it was pretty frustrating to take a few shots with an assault rifle and suddenly have the reticle enlarge to span a large portion of the screen, so we looked at tuning the mechanics to provide better handling without outright scrapping the spirit of the original games," BioWare said.

As a result, the original Mass Effect will see the following changes in the Legendary Edition:

  • Shepard can now sprint out of combat
  • Melee attacks are now mapped to a button press rather than automatically occurring based on proximity to an enemy
  • Weapon accuracy and handling has been significantly improved:
  • - Reticle bloom is more controlled
  • - Weapon sway removed from sniper rifles
  • - Aiming down sights/”tight aim” camera view has been improved
  • - Improved aim assist for target acquisition
  • All relevant enemies now take headshot damage in the first game (Previously some did not, including humanoid enemies)
  • Ammo mods (Anti-Organic, Anti-Synthetic, etc.) can now drop throughout the whole game
  • - Previously, these stopped dropping at higher player levels
  • - They are now also available to purchase from merchants
  • All weapons can be used by any class without penalty
  • - Specializations (the ability to train/upgrade certain weapons) are still class-specific
  • Weapons cool down much faster
  • Medi-gel usage has been improved
  • - Base cooldown reduced
  • - Levelling benefits increased
  • - Increased Liara’s bonus to cooldowns
  • Inventory management improvements
  • - Items can now be flagged as “Junk”
  • - All Junk items can be converted into Omni-gel or sold to merchants at once
  • - Inventory and stores now have sorting functionality
  • Some abilities have been rebalanced
  • Weapon powers (i.e., those that are unlocked on each weapon type’s skill tree) have been improved:
  • - Effectiveness/strength is increased (duration reduced in some cases)
  • - Heat now resets on power activation

Other "targeted combat updates" include:

  • Squadmates can now be commanded independently of each other in the first Mass Effect, the same way you can command them individually in Mass Effect 2 and 3
  • Some boss fights and enemies in the first game have been tweaked to be fairer for players but still challenging
  • Cover has been improved across the trilogy
  • - Additional cover added to some encounters
  • - Entering and exiting cover is now more reliable
  • XP has been rebalanced in the first game 
  • Ammo drops have been rebalanced in Mass Effect 2 

Ammo drop rate has also been increased in Mass Effect 2, and XP rewards in Mass Effect 1 have been rebalanced and the level cap removed to ensure that players can "more reliably get to higher levels on a single playthrough."

The character creator has been revamped to make it more consistent across all three games, and will enable players to carry a consistent, customized look through the entire trilogy. The original FemShep design from Mass Effect 3 will be the default female option in all three games, and if you prefer the Mass Effect 2 FemShep, that model is available as a preset as well.

More across-the-board enhancements:

  • New unified launcher for all three games
  • - Includes trilogy-wide settings for subtitles and languages
  • - Saves are still unique to each game and can be managed independently of each other
  • Updated character creator options, as mentioned above
  • - FemShep from Mass Effect 3 is the new default female option in all three games (the original FemShep design is still available as a preset option)
  • Trophies across the trilogy have been updated
  • - New trophies have been added to the trilogy
  • - Progress for some now carries over across all three games (e.g. Kill 250 enemies across all games)
  • - Trophies that were streamlined into one and made redundant were removed
  •  - A number of trophies have had their objectives/descriptions and/or names updated
  • Integrated weapons and armor DLC packs
  • - Weapons and armor DLC packs are now integrated naturally into the game; they’re obtainable via research or by purchasing them from merchants as you progress through the game, rather than being immediately unlocked from the start. This ensures overall balance and progression across ME2 and ME3
  • - Recon Hood (ME2) and Cerberus Ajax Armor (ME3) are available at the start of each game
  • Additional gameplay & Quality of life improvements
  • - Audio is remixed and enhanced across all games
  • - Hundreds of legacy bugs from the original releases are fixed

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition will not support Mass Effect 3's multiplayer mode, which is a shame because it's really good. More practically, it also impacts the singleplayer campaign: Playing online was required to increase your "Readiness Rating," which has a big influence on the outcome of the war against the Reapers. It's possible to get the best campaign outcome without playing online, but it takes a lot of extra effort. With multiplayer out of the picture, the Legendary Edition will instead focus on side content from across the entire trilogy. 

"If you only play Mass Effect 3, you’ll have to do just about every option available in the game to be eligible for an ending that doesn’t result in massive galactic losses," BioWare said. "Playing the first two games and carrying over your progress is the most reliable way to get good results in the final hours of the Reaper War. For comparison, if you previously played ME3 with the Extended Cut (which included Galactic Readiness rebalancing), fully preparing for the final fight will be more difficult to achieve in the Legendary Edition."

The good news is that, thanks to bug fixes and improvements to the Paragon-Renegade system in Mass Effect 2, "key moments that have been notoriously difficult to achieve in ME2 (and impacted ME3) can now be completed more reliably, leading to better results in the story’s final act."

If you do want to jump straight into the big finish, the Mass Effect: Genesis interactive comics created by Dark Horse will be included ahead of Mass Effect 2 and 3, so you can incorporate major plot point choices from previous games without having to actually power through them.

As for the infamous Mako, I will say (definitely not for the first time) that I liked it the way it was, and its removal from Mass Effect 2 and 3 was a big disappointment. That said, I think these changes sound acceptable:

  • Improved handling
  • - Physics tuning improved to feel “weightier” and slide around less
  •  Improved camera controls
  • - Resolved issues preventing the Mako from accurately aiming at lower angles
  • Shields recharge faster
  • New thrusters added for a speed boost
  • - Its cooldown is separate from the jump jets’
  • The XP penalty while in the Mako has been removed
  • Touching lava no longer results in an instant Mission Failure and instead deals damage over time

BioWare said that more information on changes being made for the updated trilogy, including a deeper dive into graphical updates, are on the way. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is set to come out on May 14.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.