I've been searching for an excuse to save the galaxy from annihilation (again). While Mass Effect Legendary Edition is an undeniable value proposition for those that missed out on the adventure the first time around – a modern recalibration of what is perhaps the greatest trilogy of games from the seventh generation – it should be acknowledged that defeating the Reapers is no easy feat. It's a time consuming process that I have endured once before, and had no plans to do again.
Until now, that is. BioWare has revealed that Galaxy at War is being rebalanced and Galactic Readiness restructured for Legendary Edition, a result of the game's accompanying apps being pulled offline long ago and Mass Effect 3 multiplayer being cut from Legendary Edition. This decision might seem small, given the scope of this ambitious remaster, but it's enough to make me consider reinvesting my time into an adventure I was already content with completing almost a decade ago.
Back in action
Perhaps I should give you a little context: unless it's absolutely necessary, I don't like replaying video games that I have already completed. That wasn't true in my younger years, but, as I have gotten older, my time has become my most precious commodity. I may dip back into the occasional FPS campaign when nothing in my (disgustingly vast) backlog immediately appeals, but the days of running back through behemoth time sinks like Jade Empire and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker every month just for the hell of it are long behind me.
This is especially true for RPGs built on a foundation of choice and consequence. Unless you have the time to explore every branch of a malleable narrative, or at least view the various permutations on YouTube, then I've always felt that games like Mass Effect can be played just the once, so long as they are approached honestly and with integrity. If you can fully embody a role like that of Commander Shepard, taking on every situation as you would were you in that time and place, then you should be able to hit the end credits content with the cause and effect of your decisions.
I'm still content with the decisions that I made in 2007, 2010, and 2012, and I'm somewhat confident that I'd make the same decisions in Mass Effect's most pivotal moments again. That's especially true for Mass Effect 2, where I lucked out in obtaining the No One Left Behind achievement on my first run through, only to discover that there were somewhat dire consequences to Act 3 going differently some time later. With all that in mind, why then am I considering partitioning 100 hours of game time in May for Mass Effect Legendary Edition? It's because of the way in which BioWare is rebalancing Galaxy at War.
If you don't want to replay the entire trilogy and just want to jump into Mass Effect 3, you will be able to get your Galactic Readiness up to the higher levels but it will take a little more commitment. Just like in the original release, you'll need to complete all of the side content and spend hours scanning planets and locating resources to bolster your War Assets, but... well, who has the time for busywork when the fate of the galaxy is on the line?
By the time Commander Shepard reaches Mass Effect 3, the future of the entire galaxy has been placed in our weary hands. Fractured alliances form in the face of a common enemy, but it's up to you to manage a decaying Galactic Readiness to get the Milky Way's forces ready to fight the Reaper War. While decisions made through Mass Effect and its sequel would help determine who stands by your side, the outcome of the final confrontation was ultimately impacted by how much time you could dedicate to Mass Effect 3's cooperative multiplayer or the Mass Effect: Infiltrator and Datapad apps for mobile devices. I don't know about you, but I spent far too much time playing a multiplayer mode I didn't enjoy to try and avoid massive galactic losses. And I spent even more time in Datapad, deploying fleets throughout the galaxy with finger swipes in an attempt to offset Galactic Readiness decay, when I should have been focusing on my day job.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition is making it so that Galactic Readiness is no longer impacted by external factors. Instead, BioWare is able to do what it couldn't the first time around – tying everything in the trilogy together, ensuring that content completed and decisions made in the first game will have a more tangible impact on the last. By playing the trilogy from beginning to end in Legendary Edition, carrying your progress into each game as you do, fully embracing the idea of Commander Shepard as a blank slate you can gradually chisel into shape, the Mass Effect trilogy is connected in a way that it never was before.
Now that has my attention. It's more interesting than the visual overhaul, the retuning of combat systems, changes to the Mako, or any of the other unifying and modernization efforts happening across the remaster. With this change, I'll be able to play through the Mass Effect trilogy knowing that every one of my actions is actually working towards a greater good (yes, I'm a devout Paragon player, leave me alone) and that my decisions will count for something when it matters the most. I hadn't planned on replaying the Mass Effect games, but Legendary Edition has ensured that I'll be returning to The Citadel and wishing that Garrus was my best friend all over again come May 14, 2021.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition is set to launch on May 14, 2021, for PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, and Xbox One. You can read more on the game here, where we investigate the 10 most interesting improvements and features coming to the remaster