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Mass Effect (ME1): Original vs Legendary Edition

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Figured I would share my initial thoughts after 15hrs of gameplay...

From playing the first start sequences and mission are the changes from the original game apparent! The cutscenes, texture enhancements, effects, and lighting are in your face as constant "oh wow" moments that grab your attention away from the gameplay. Before all that, though, lets set a few facts on the table:

  • Most of the work is not "new", it's new to the game
  • Older games now support DX11
  • Devs confirmed a lot was "backported" from existing ME3

We know the devs, more or less, "imported" the old games into the updated engine used by ME3. Doing this automatically gave them access to all of DX11 features, as well as, allowed them to easily recycle ME3 assets and effects into the older games. Evidence of this is in some of the textures and enhances throughout. However, whether the changes are new, recycled from ME3, or a result from the old games ported to a newer engine, all are very welcomed!

First are the controls, HUD, and character creation. All have been recycled from ME3. However, this fixes a couple of the nagging issues when playing the original series in a row...the controls and HUD changed from game to game, forcing users to relearn them, and the character transition wasn't great. These changes from game to game were natural as the developers honed these elements over the series. Backporting them from ME3 was a smart and welcomed move by the developers. Users should experience a more seamless transition of character and gameplay from game to game now.

The movie cutscenes are very well enhanced from the originals and showed more quality than I was expecting. They are definitely closer to a HD quality, as I haven't seen any that would be true-4K. The cutscenes are, however, every well upscaled and the re-rendered lighting is an added treat! That lighting alone adds more depth and makes them feel new, even though they are very familiar.

The biggest attention grabbers are the new textures and lighting. The textures are done pretty well overall. The updated landscape textures are noticed right from the first mission. Everything from clothing to walls looks better and slightly more modern. However, there is still plenty of reason to use the popular M.E.U.I.T.M. mod. It would be ideal for the author of M.E.U.I.T.M. to offer a lighter version for Legendary users since many of the new textures appear to be 'on par' with M.E.U.I.T.M. while in-game. Character textures definitely go to M.E.U.I.T.M, though. The new vanilla textures are a great upgrade, but M.E.U.I.T.M. is just cleaner, sharper, with more detail regarding characters. On the other hand, textures such as weapons, tech, stations, structures, etc., could easily be provided by the vanilla game without real noticeable loss in quality vs M.E.U.I.T.M. This is heavily helped along by the new lighting.

The new lighting is noticed even before the new textures simply because of the intro in the Normandy. A lot of users that replayed ME1 would use ENB/ReShade to get better lighting, but these could only do so much. With the new default lighting, there is really no need for these post processors in order to get an enjoyable, realistic experience. Nonetheless, need and want are two different things, and coupled with the move to DX11, ReShade presets are already readily available.

Specking specifically, the bloom is just right without being overpowering as it was the in the original. Many lights and effects are volumetric, which adds to the ambience while walking around environments. The AO is good for the amount of ambient lighting, though, die-hard fans of AO will say this is lacking. Shadows were a complete mess in the original and they still aren't perfect in Legendary, but are still a vast improvement over the original game's. Reflective surfaces are awesome with SSR-like reflections on the ones where it's really noticed. Water is one thing not mentioned much in reviews, but it has had a good bump in quality and effect. Finally, the renewed/added climate/skys are beautiful combined with the new "godrays", which manage to capture the attention. Overall the lighting greatly enhances the experience and realism throughout the game.

The Mako. Everyone remembers the beloved, physics-defying, wonky Mako. Well the Mako is still a bit wonky, but far more tamed than it was in the original. The vehicle behaves like it has some weight to it now and you get a small sense of gravity pushing it to the surface. The one real complaint may be a subjective one, but tying the steering to the direction the turret is pointing makes for some unnecessarily odd combat situations. There is still room for improvement here, but overall the Mako is no longer (always) hilarious to drive around.

Another noteworthy enhancement went into particle effects. All manner of particles look vastly better in Legendary vs the original game. Explosions, impacts, smoke, splash effects, fire, and even the dirt from the Mako's tires looks more realistic and modern. Magma covered planets are much more pleasing to look at with the new smoke effects, glow from the magma, sky textures, and lighting. I haven't gotten to ME2, yet, but ME1 has almost been like a new game thus far. It's definitely worth the replay!

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