Mass Effect Legendary Edition trailer reveals huge upgrades

Mass Effect Legendary Edition
(Image credit: Bioware)

Just mention Mass Effect online, and you’ll find someone who has tons of memories to share with you. The game series stands as one of the best space operas in any medium, but especially among games.

BioWare has released a new reveal trailer for Mass Effect Legendary Edition. This collection contains the first three Mass Effect games, and will be available on PC (Steam and Origin), PS4 and Xbox One with forward compatibility for Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5. It's set to release May 14, 2021 and is available for pre-order now.

Mass Effect achieved mythic status due in part to BioWare’s commitment to telling a wonderful story, full of rich characters and meaningful relationships. Years later, I can still tell you about conversations I had, interesting places I saw, and emotions I felt, which no game has replicated since.

We attended a briefing with some of BioWare’s developers to hear about Mass Effect Legendary Edition. The game features all of three of the original titles, retouched and tweaked for a modern audience. It also includes every DLC package released for the trilogy. This includes big story expansions, like Lair of the Shadow Broker and Leviathan, and a multitude of armor and weapon packs. If you ever missed out on adding Kasumi to your crew in Mass Effect 2, for example, now’s your chance to see everything.

We heard at length about how BioWare considers the Legendary Edition a passion project. BioWare stressed to us that the team took some lessons learned over the course of the trilogy’s development, and applied them to this collection. The developers also paid particular attention to the work it has done on the first Mass Effect, which needed a lot of improvement. (Anyone remember those elevator rides?)

mass effect legendary edition preview

(Image credit: EA)

Due to project scope constraints, BioWare opted to not move everything over to the Unreal Engine 4, going instead with Unreal Engine 3. We won’t see tech like ray tracing integrated, but BioWare assured us that it has made significant upgrades visually. From the footage the company showed us, I came away impressed. While I’d love to see the Mass Effect trilogy maxed out on my PC, I understand that BioWare's resources were limited. Too much ambition can kill a project like this.

However, the Mass Effect trilogy will be available in 4K HDR, and will hit a 60 fps target on the PS4 and Xbox One. On PC, everything now runs on DirectX 11, the graphical options have been “modernized,” controller support is finally here, and BioWare has unlocked the frame rate. The games will also support high-refresh rate and 21:9 ultrawide monitors.

BioWare also made some major quality of life adjustments, especially in ME1. That means much shorter elevator rides, vast changes to driving the Mako, improved enemy and squadmate AI, a dedicated melee button and a whole lot more.

BioWare set out to make the Legendary Edition feel like one uniform, cohesive experience. You select which of the three games you wish to play from a single, unified launcher. The character creator has also expanded to include new options, including more hairstyles and makeup. You can even import a character code straight into ME1, if you so choose. FemShep fans will be happy, as you’ll find the options for the default female Shepard from ME3 in ME1’s character creator. Both ME1 and ME2 will use the combat HUD from Mass Effect 3. Furthermore, I saw the out-of-combat movement system from Mass Effect 2 and 3 during the brief ME1 gameplay footage.

mass effect legendary edition preview

(Image credit: EA)

Kevin Meek, the Character and Environment Lead, spoke at length about the process of remastering the first Mass Effect’s visuals. He talked about how the artists went through the levels from a player’s perspective to see what textures needed touching up. A bunch of effects — like volumetric lighting, ambient occlusion, crisper textures, god rays, contrast and depth layers — are now part of the Mass Effect experience. BioWare did stress, however, that it tried to stay true to the original spirit of Mass Effect, so that those of us who played it way back when will still feel that intense nostalgia.

Whether you’re a Reaper War veteran or brand new to the trilogy, Mass Effect Legendary Edition could become a must-have game. If you’ve played the trilogy before, you may be just as excited as I am to dive back in, ready to soak up all of the little details that BioWare has added. And if you’re new, I want to welcome you to the franchise. You’ll get attached to these characters, and become invested in seeing their story arcs. The things you’ll see and the things you’ll do may stick with you for years to come.

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.