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"Mass Effect": Gaming's biggest space opera returns

The iconic spacefaring adventure "Mass Effect" is back today with "Mass Effect: Legendary Edition," a single, remastered version of all three games.

Why it matters: There is no series like "Mass Effect" — even when it comes to BioWare's other choice-driven RPGs like "Dragon Age." "Mass Effect" is a big ol' space adventure first and foremost, but it’s also about loyalty, love, and tough calls.

"Mass Effect" follows Commander Shepard — a hero players can customize for looks and gender — across three games as they wage war against a galactic threat known as the Reapers. Key choices carry through all three games, whether it’s who survives, or who you ally yourself with.

  • "Mass Effect" (2007) is a classic sci-fi thriller, where Shepard races to stop a turncoat operative hungry for power.
  • "Mass Effect 2" (2010) is a miscreant adventure centered on building a ragtag squad, culminating in a final "suicide" mission where everyone's survival is on the line.
  • "Mass Effect 3" (2012) brings the trilogy to a close through a more somber, war-focused story about loss and consequence.

BioWare has also updated the game to be more inclusive.

  • Environment and character director Kevin Meek previously told Axios that a top priority was improving customization options for non-white characters — especially when it comes to hair.
  • A canonized version of the female version of Shepard (aka FemShep) wasn't created until "Mass Effect 3." Legendary Edition finally puts the red-headed FemShep front and center from the start by using her as the default female option.

The ending of "Mass Effect 3" ending was notoriously divisive among fans who believed their choices were ultimately inconsequential to the game's three outcomes; they signed petitions, made FTC complaints, and sent passive aggressive cupcakes.

  • Eventually BioWare released an "extended cut," a free download that expanded on the game's final mission and ending.
  • In Legendary Edition, the extended cut is now the definitive conclusion.
  • The greater argument about BioWare's call is that it set a precedent for fans to impose their will over creatives. Consider the modern equivalent: the successful fan push to release the Snyder cut of "Justice League."

What's next: A new game is currently in production — and seems to tie into the entire series so far.

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