Last week BioWare detailed the extensive list of balancing changes and new content packed into the upcoming Mass Effect Legendary Edition, the remastered trilogy set to launch next month. Today, though, it’s all about the new and updated visual improvements showcased in a new comparison trailer, which really demonstrates how much sharper it looks than the original games that launched nearly 15 years ago.
There’s another detailed article over on the game’s website, too, which breaks down the changes and explains how the team was able to upscale over 30,000 of the trilogy’s textures to 4K over three phases during its development.
Our character artists worked their way through a prioritized list of hundreds of armors, creatures, characters, guns, and vehicles across the whole trilogy. They would frequently take an asset back to its original high-poly sculpt, focus on achieving a consistent texture resolution, add supporting 3D geometry where needed, and fix errors with baked normal maps or texture mapping. Central to our efforts was increasing the sense of realism in the surface response.
Indeed, players can look forward to improved skin, hair, and eye shaders across the trilogy, which the trailer does a nice job of spotlighting. But beyond the textures that animate the characters, a huge amount of work has gone into environmental detail, too.
New environmental particle effects were added throughout the trilogy to better enhance the mood and a space’s sense of life. As many of you have already noticed, we also sharpened up and added secondary elements to the trilogy’s iconic horizontal lens flares.
A similarly focused effort was made to improve the three game’s cinematics, too, which typically involved re-rendering the originals in 4K, or at the very least using an AI to upscale original, uncompressed videos. Apparently, this process also fixed a huge number of strange bugs and glitches.
Elsewhere, improving lighting was another big undertaking:
We made systemic upgrades to shadows and added or improved post-process effects such as screen space ambient occlusion, anti-aliasing, and bokeh depth of field (increasing the cinematic quality for out-of-focus cameras). We were also able to bring down engine features that existed in Mass Effect 3, such as dynamic volumetrics, to help unify the look of the first two games
Finally, the third phase of the trilogy’s remaster is dubbed “rebuilding worlds,” during which the team “began looking at opportunities to make broader improvements to levels and features, rather than just updating the individual assets.” This was in an effort to smooth the jump in quality between the first and second/third games, which are markedly better looking.
The article has some excellent images with a slider that really illuminate just how much these “broad brush” adjustments to the game’s overall color palette make for richer and more immersive-looking environments.
Mass Effect trilogy launches on May 14 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC (via Origin and Steam) with further enhancements for PS5 and Xbox Series X.
If you’re wondering why multiplayer hasn’t been included, Bioware has spoken to that in a previous article we’ve covered here.