Mass Effect Legendary Edition is on its way and Electronic Arts and BioWare have released the first official trailer, showing gamers the impressive remastering of the popular trilogy.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition is a compilation of Mass Effect’s first three games: Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3. This collection will also include over 40 DLC, and technical updates, specifically in 2007’s Mass Effect. Developer BioWare has teamed up with Abstraction Games and Blind Squirrel Games to bring to fans a 4K/HDR remake. But to bring this level of remastering to fans, BioWare had to make some tough choices.
First, BioWare needed to have some talks with Epic, the creators of the Unreal Engine that the Mass Effect trilogy was built upon. BioWare was interested to find out if it would be a feasible move to use Unreal Engine 4 for Mass Effect Legendary Edition. Using Unreal Engine 4 would pretty much mean rebuilding the games with modern technology. Unreal Engine 4 is a massive upgrade from Unreal Engine 3, so understanding what could be done with such a jump was tempting. Ultimately, though, it would prove to be more than BioWare was willing to undertake.
“[I]t very quickly became clear that level of jump would really change fundamentally what the series was; how it felt, how it played,” BioWare director Mac Walters told IGN in speaking about Mass Effect Legendary Edition “A really crisp example of that would be if you look at the Kismit scripting language, it’s a visual scripting language from [Unreal Engine 3], there’s no real copy-paste for that to go into Unreal Engine 4, meaning that every moment, every scene… everything would have had to essentially be redone from scratch. We knew at that point that we’d really sort of start to take away the essence and spirit of what the trilogy was.”
BioWare’s decision to stick with Unreal Engine 3 demonstrates their approach to Mass Effect Legendary Edition and what they hope to accomplish, which is to update the trilogy for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and the PC without having to completely rebuild it, while also keeping the spirit of the original trilogy. That being said, there are some substantial changes to the games, though BioWare had to step back from earlier failures in order to keep things practical. These changes could definitely be considered long overdue and welcomed.
Lead Environmental Artist Kevin Meek told IGN, “The one thing you realize when you start to really dig into this is that there’s so many quite complex interconnected systems.” Meek said if they went with Unreal Engine 4 for Mass Effect Legendary Edition, the remastering team would have to completely remake certain elements such as the conversation trees, a process described by Meeks as “death by a thousand cuts.”
But even keeping Mass Effect – especially the original game – in Unreal Engine 3 was not an easy task. The first game was released back in 2007 and since that time, technology has changed significantly. The original game was filled with bugs and frame rate issues that needed to be dealt with, and the human characters had dead, glassy eyes. BioWare and its partners spent most of their remaster time on the original game, bringing it up to the gameplay level of the following two for Mass Effect Legendary Edition.
Another thing that needed to be sacrificed in Mass Effect Legendary Edition was cutting the multiplayer aspect of the game so they could make the requisite enhancements for single-player improvements. According to longtime Mass Effect developer Mac Walters, hard choices had to be made. “At some point we had to draw a line,” he told The Verge. “We’ve talked about doing the remaster for some time now, and at least at one point in time everything was on the table.”
Granted, the removal of the multiplayer experience only comes at the sacrifice of Mass Effect 3, where multiplayer was introduced. The problem, according to Walters, is that the multiplayer element also serves a purpose in terms of being ready for the game’s finale. A high-readiness level allows for players to get the top-tier endings. But Walters says the removal of multiplayer has allowed for the developers to rebalance the game and not penalize those who wish to skip directly to Mass Effect 3. “It is intended to get those best endings, or the higher tier endings — I won’t say which one is best or worst — but obviously playing will be easier,” he said. “We just basically took that section out and redistributed.”
Mass Effect Legendary Edition will be released for PC, PS4, and Xbox One on May 14, with the package playable on Xbox Series X|S and PS5 in compatibility mode.