A Space Opera For The Ages

HIGH One of the best stories in gaming.

LOW Weak boss fights across the trilogy.

WTF That giant robot in Mass Effect 2.

As someone who never played the original Mass Effect when it released in 2007, nor either of the sequels, the remastered trilogy was the perfect opportunity for me to give the franchise a shot and see why it has such a huge following. After putting close to 100 hours into this franchise, I can safely say that it is an excellent series that lives up to the hype, and each game is great individually. In this all-in-one review from a newcomer’s perspective, I’ll break down the specific areas of each entry that I enjoyed, as well as the areas that did not sit well.

To encapsulate the series overall, it’s a third-person action/RPG that features real-time combat featuring guns and special powers that might as well be magic. However, the real meat of the game is in the story — lead character Commander Shepard (male or female, as the player chooses) will meet well-written teammates and develop relationships with them over the course of all three games. These bonds aren’t the only things that carry over, however. Shepard’s actions in one game will affect situations in the following sequels, so the sense of building a specific Shepard and their legacy across a hundred hours is really something special.

Mass Effect

The first game in the franchise had a ton of stuff I liked that got stripped from the sequels. Shooting energy weapons here didn’t require ammo (they just have a cool-down.) It made so much sense for this far-flung sci-fi setting. I also liked the upgrade system. Putting points into specific attributes like weapon types, skills and abilities gave me a chance to specialize my Shepard and how I wanted to play. 

The story in this first Mass Effect is probably my favorite. Fighting a renegade space cop and a long-forgotten enemy who suddenly makes a return to the galaxy was exciting. It’s not the most complex tale, but the writing was great and it set up interesting twists for the sequels while still delivering a pretty satisfying conclusion on its own.

Getting to explore planets in the Mako (an off-road vehicle notorious for squirrelly handling in the original version) was interesting. Coming across old ruins from past civilizations and discovering more lore was a great way to give the world and the universe more feeling.

On the other hand, I thought the companion quests here in the first Mass Effect were a bit lackluster. Go here, kill enemies, get things. Many of them were fairly boring and didn’t feel like I was doing anything significant to build a bond with these people, other than the quest with Wrex, which was huge. 

That said, the companions here were all-stars. Even Kaiden and Ashley, probably the two most polarizing companions in the series overall, were excellent in their own right. I loved learning about Wrex and the Krogan clan wars, and it’s easy to see why Garrus and his renegade attitude earned him a spot as a fan favorite.

Mass Effect 2

In a technical sense, Mass Effect 2 felt better to play right out of the gate. Combat was better, smoother, and all-around cooler. unfortunately, ammo became A Thing here, which was a weird choice when the first game didn’t have it. Guns never seemed to hold enough ammo, even after upgrading.

Where Mass Effect‘s companion quests were on the humdrum side, Mass Effect 2‘s were amazing. I did every “loyalty” storyline and they all felt different and important whether i was pulling a heist with Kasumi, tracking down Thane’s long-lost son or helping Grunt through his homeworld’s rite of passage. They added so much to the experience and cemented why so many people love these characters.

I enjoyed the story of Mass Effect but wasn’t sure which direction the series was going to go next, and I sure didn’t expect Shepard being a part of a shady space organization for the middle arc of the tale. However, the throughline of Mass Effect 2‘s plot landed with me even more than the first, and the first was excellent. Starting to see all the decisions I made in the previous game having ripples in this sequel was neat and does a good job of making it feel like my choices matter. 

Mass Effect 3

The finale of the Mass Effect trilogy is the culmination of everything good about the original and its sequel. Its story features Shepard taking desperate measures in pursuit of a crucial goal alongside a cast of still-amazing companions with their own stories to tell.

Combat yet again feels improved here in the third game. I wouldn’t put it above dedicated cover-based shooters, but I didn’t have any complaints at all. Leveling up also feels even better thanks to cool new abilities, tweaking weapons with mods, and class systems that open up more abilities. With all of these options, I was directing my companions more effectively during firefights and making bigger and better plays while in the heat of battle.

The story of Mass Effect 3 is worthy of capping off such an outstanding trio of adventures. I don’t want to say much more about it since everyone who plays through these three titles deserves to experience it for themselves, but as a first-timer to this storied IP, I was surprised by how important these characters and this narrative were to me. I’ll also (again) say that players’ choices throughout the three games did matter, and I felt incredibly fortunate to have been able to bring everyone into the final game. 

The Mass Effect Trilogy is incredible. The overarching story and its characters are excellent, and each one was better than the last. I wasn’t sure if these games would hold up in the current environment, but they absolutely do. They’re still worth playing, I recommend them, and to anyone about to jump in — play at a slower pace. Do not rush through. Explore everything they have to offer and relish in their richness. 

Rating: 9 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Bioware and published by EA. It is currently available on XBO/X/S, PS4/5, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS5. Approximately 95 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the games were completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, these games are rated and contain Blood, Drug Reference, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol, and Violence. The official description reads as follows: This is a compilation of three action role-playing games in which players assume the role of Commander Shepard as he/she leads a mission to save the galaxy from a race of powerful mechanical beings known as the Reapers. From a third-person perspective, players traverse the galaxy exploring planets, interact with characters, and engage in combat against enemy forces. Players use futuristic machine guns, shotguns, assault rifles, and bionics abilities (e.g., lift, statis, warp) to defeat human enemies and alien creatures in frenetic combat. Enemies sometimes emit splashes of blood when hit, resulting in bloodstains on characters and the environment. Cutscenes depict additional acts of violence: a close-up of an alien shooting himself in the head; a character executed at close range. As players progress through the game, they can engage in romantic relationships with others; cutscenes depict characters embracing, kissing, and caressing each other on a bed—sexual activity is implied. Characters are sometimes seen nude, with exposed buttocks and partially exposed breasts. The game contains story elements that reference drugs (e.g., “Narcotics flooded my veins when I attacked,” “the Cartel are a bunch of dirty drug pushers,” and “This deal is too important to have a drug addict negotiating it.”). One sequence depicts players’ character engaging in a drinking contest; another scene shows the central character repeatedly drinking alcohol at bar, then passing out. The words “f*k” and “sht” are heard in the dialogue.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles can be altered and resized. No audio cues are needed for gameplay, so I’d say this is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable on console, although there is a ‘southpaw’ option in the controller layout. PC does give the option to remap controls on the keyboard or gamepad.  

Latest posts by Cody Bolster (see all)
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments