Why I Won’t Be Playing Mass Effect: Legendary Edition – But You Probably Should!

Dept. of Choices and Consequences

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition comes to PC, Xbox One, and PS4 this week, adding a fresh coat of digital paint to Bioware’s almost decade old Sci-Fi RPG trilogy. I won’t be playing through it again… but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Why won’t I be playing it? Well, it has something to do with the first time I played Mass Effect (named after the in game science that enables FTL travel) on the Xbox 360 over a decade ago, and how I learned that videogames lie!

I’d dipped into classic Japanese RPGs once or twice, and even gotten to the end of Knights of the Old Republic, Bioware’s own Star Wars themed tryout for Mass Effect, but for whatever reason I took the game at face value when it told me I had a very important, galaxy saving mission to carry out, and it needed to be carried out RIGHT NOW.

It was only on the planet Vermire, hours into the game that I realised I’d fucked up.

As Jane Shepard (sorry Mark Meer but the VO from Jennifer Hale is just better), the first human SPECTRE, an elite special agent, I was tasked by the council of Citadel Space (various snooty aliens basically), to hunt down Saren, a rogue former SPECTRE who’d been engaging in some very suspicious activity. Naturally, I assumed that this mission should take precedence above any others the game threw at me. That there would be some some hefty in-game repercussions if I dawdled running errands for any of my crew in game.

And then I was forced to kill Wrex.

How Could Anyone Resist a Face Like This?

Wrex from Mass Effect 1
All screenshots are taken from the backwards compatible versions of the Xbox 260 games running on an Xbox Series X

Urdnot Wrex a member of the gruff, warlike, Krogan, a very rough analog for the Klingons in the Mass Effect universe if you squint really hard, had joined my crew early on and won me over with his no nonsense attitude and refusal to back down from a fight. Wrex was my buddy, or so I thought. In 2009, I assumed I knew everything there was to know about the latest video games and that my crew would be relatively safe until much later in the game.

And then I was forced to kill Wrex. 

On Vermire, outside a lab that could hold the key to restoring his species fertility, cruelly stolen from them via a bioweapon known as the Genophage, Wrex and I had a… disagreement. Saren may have come up with a cure to the Genophage so he could breed his own unstoppable army of Krogan – the Genophage having been unleashed on them in the first place due to their incredible rate of reproduction. Wrex couldn’t just stand by and watch a possible cure be destroyed.

To be honest, I could see his point but the only options presented to me by the patented “conversation wheel” led to either me or one of my crew shooting Wrex dead. How could this be? What kind of cruel bullshit was this!? How could this be a Role Playing Game if I couldn’t play the role I wanted to!

I eventually found out that the option to calm Wrex down was only available if you’d completed Wrex’s “loyalty mission.” One of the “errands” I had foolishly disregarded earlier. No biggie. All I had to do was load up an earlier save and help Wrex retrieve his family’s armour. Then I looked at my saves.

Set a Course For… Oh No!

Commander Shepard

The only save I could use was from over six in game hours ago! That’s six hours of trudging through the same conversations, gunfights, elevator loading screens, weapon inventory management, and Mako excursions I’d have to repeat!

Could I do it?

Would it be worth it?

For Wrex?

Of course it was.

This is just one of the many experiences from my first, and only, Mass Effect play through that marked the whole experience as uniquely mine. Sure, plenty of people had to face similar decisions but when all those decisions were taken as a whole they lead to very different experiences.

The Many Faces of Commander Shepard

my Commander Shepard across the three Mass Effect Games
The three faces of MY commander Shepard, from left to right, ME1, ME2, & ME3

With Mass Effect, Bioware crafted a unique world, part Star Wars, part Star Trek, but different enough to stand on its own. The story of chasing down Saren lead to the discovery of an even greater threat in the form of The Reapers, ancient alien machines hell bent on extinguishing all life in the Milky Way, and another race against time to stop them. The big difference from other games of it’s ilk was that ME had always been planned as some kind of trilogy. Your save file from one game, containing all the choices you’d made, could be transferred into the next, carrying over characters and influencing events.

One of the biggest choices I had to transfer over from the first game for me was the choice between leaving one of my two human squad mates behind to their death. No amount of reloading past saves or loyalty missions allow you to save both crewmates. One has to die. 

Lemme Think About This… Okay I’m Done

Joker (Seth Green) from Mass Effect
Seth Green as Joker

Heavy lies the burden of command, but honestly the choice to send Ashley Williams to her death had more to do with her constant hostility towards the alien members of my crew (space racism = spacism?) than anything else. I said it was a big decision for me. It meant a lot at the time. That doesn’t mean it was a particularly hard decision to make.

Thanks to some dawdling of my own IRL, I’d only finished the first Mass Effect just in time for the much upgraded ME 2 to arrive in 2010. It may only have been a few months apart but after a literally explosive opening which set up a new status quo (working for space Martin Sheen), it felt great to round up whoever was left from the first game, as well as plenty of new crew members, and continue the mission.

While Wrex couldn’t rejoin my crew, we did get to catch up. Plus I got to pick up another, equally charming Krogan, Grunt, along the way. If I hadn’t backtracked and saved Wrex, someone else would have taken his place in that part of the game on the Krogan home world of Tuchanka. Least that’s what I’ve heard.

It never occurred to me just how much these small changes could pile up, until I got to Mass Effect 3 and was discussing the game with my mate Dave. As I mentioned some of the exploits I’d had with my crew, he kept puzzling over my crewmates. Garrus? Tali? Grunt? Samara?

Courage Under Fire

Shepard under fire in Mass Effect 3

Having started with the second game, he never had to learn the lesson of Vermire. Hanging over ME 2 is the “suicide mission,” a presumed one way trip through a mass effect relay (the ancient alien artefacts that enable interstellar travel) to the very heart of your enemies forces. Like the first game, this was presented as a race against a ticking clock, a race that Dave intended to win. Only he didn’t know that bolstering your crew’s morale by running errands for them, greatly influenced the outcome of that final mission.

It took me a few tries and some reloading of save files, but I managed to get through the suicide mission with my whole crew intact. I wasn’t leaving any of my friends behind and had lost one to three crewmates on previous runs. The reason Dave had no clue who I was talking about? He’d lost his entire crew to the suicide mission. Being a results focused guy, he’d gone through the Omega 4 Relay as soon as it was possible, in order to sort out this galaxy spanning.

As a result he had a completely different set of squad mates for the third and final game.

I was astounded.

Wrex may have been the choice that caused me the most real world pain, but there were plenty of others. I “romanced,” as many of the crew as I could, although I never was able to win over Miranda Lawson, modelled after actress Yvonne Strahovski. I had thought for years that this was due to taking a stand against her in an argument she had with another crew member, Jack, but it turns out she’s not in to FemSheps. It was ok, a romantic relationship with the the spindly but very, very cool Turian, Garrus made up for it, in weird visuals alone (strictly PG mind you).

Memories Are Made of This

Garrus talking to Shepard
Just LOOK at this hottie

All of these stories would have meant nothing if it wasn’t for the memorable characters brought to life by the artists and voice actors including Freddie Prinze Jr. (although I can’t for the life of me remember if I romanced him as well), the design of the universe, and of course, the music. I’ve not even mentioned Tali, Liara, or Jaavik, an intriguing charter from ME3, who was only available in DLC.

Such warm memories might make you wonder why I wouldn’t want to revisit my old crewmates, or try the road not taken, but now in glorious HD?

Despite the alleged attraction of replaying these games multiple times, making different decisions, I just can’t bring myself to do it.

I loved the games as I played them, racking up over 147 hours between the three (35 hours in ME1, 63 hours in ME2 and it’s DLC, 49 hours in ME3). It’s the only video game franchise that spurred me to buy three t-shirts (I’ve been wearing N7 Polo’s into offices for years). A model of the ship form the second and third games, the Normandy SR-2, has sat beside my TV for the last decade. 

Because I’m a masochist I’ve even been working my way through Mass Effect: Andromeda, the disappointing follow up to the original trilogy that crashed and burned on release. It’s a far lesser experience, but I’d prefer that to reliving the first game. I still have some hope for the “next” Mass Effect.

You Met Me at a Very Strange Time in My Life

A Reaper in Mass Effect 3

My Mass Effect experience was just that. It was my canonical version of those events. The battles, the victories, and the sacrifices were mine. I made peace between the Quarian’s and the Geth. I spared the Rachni. I couldn’t choose an ending that would wipe out any of my allies. Or leave such a powerful weapon as The Reapers hanging around in any form for someone else to take control of, even if it meant severing the travel networks between the stars. I chose my crew.

I’ve had my time in that particular universe, at that particular time. I made my friends and saved the galaxy, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

I won’t be playing Mass Effect: Legendary Edition when it comes out. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Just make sure you get Wrex’s armour first.

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition comes out on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on May 14. You can make your own customised Mass Effect banner image like the one at the top of this article here. Listen to the all three Mass Effect soundtracks here.

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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