When Mass Effect first released 14 years ago, it seemed like the start of something special for gaming. By the time the trilogy was complete, five years later, the story had ended in controversy.Next month, there is a chance to revisit the tale from start to finish, with Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, a compilation of all three original Mass Effect games. The legendary edition will have all material across the trilogy, including downloadable content, remastered for 4K.
So what made Mass Effect so enthralling? And why did its star ultimately fade?
Simply put, Mass Effect was gamings defining space opera, wrapped up in a perfect blend of role-playing mechanics and cinematic presentation. It was the closest gamers had come to their own Star Trek or Babylon 5 a world of intergalactic species and ancient mysteries, where politics and exploration went hand in hand.
Games have always been full of imagination, but Mass Effect was one of the first series where cinematic presentation began to match that of television shows and film. We were still a long way from the games of today, which actually rival TV shows for cinematic quality, but the dialogue system and character designs made Mass Effect leap from the screen. It felt like a new universe brought to life.
Mass Effect was also a very confident game. There were plenty of sci-fi tropes to contend with, but these were balanced out by galactic races that seemed genuinely alien, and lore that challenged what we might expect of a space opera. Mass Effect was more Deep Space Nine than the original Star Trek.
So where did it all go wrong? Mass Effect was still a game, not a TV show, and the first title prided itself on player choice. You could decide to play your character as a good or evil personality, with choices that influenced how the story progressed.
In Mass Effect 2, while the combat was improved and the presentation became even better, the sense of player freedom and exploration began to diminish. The final nail in the coffin was when Mass Effect 3 removed all true sense of player agency, by reducing the climatic ending – something players had spent three games building towards – to a rudimentary choice that did not fully acknowledge player choice along the way.
In a way, Mass Effect represented the path that gaming would continue along to this day. The role-playing elements of the series became surface-level, in favour of action and spectacle that would appeal to no pun intended the masses.
There are rumours of a new Mass Effect game in the works. So when Mass Effect: Legendary Edition releases on May 14, we have a chance to revisit how the story started but maybe not how it will finish.
 These days, the best space-faring adventures tend to happen in ships. The fantastic Outer Wilds, for example, shows how a game can balance the harsh reality of space exploration with the mystery of a great adventure.
The next best thing might be Subnautica, where players explore the depths of the ocean, rather than the depths of space. As it happens, the dangers are not dissimilar. In Subnautica, you crash-land on an alien water planet and must rebuild your base so that you can survive and thrive. This involves collecting the local wildlife, chiselling away at rocks and minerals, and slowly unlocking the mysteries of the alien technology that lies beneath the waves.
Well, mostly beneath the waves. Not only is Subnautica releasing on Nintendo Switch soon, but the long-awaited expansion, Subnautica: Below Zero, releases on all platforms the same day. While we dont know a huge amount about it, the trailer shows our intrepid player character taking his chances on an artic plain. Anything must be better than below the ocean, right? Well, not necessarily, as our hero can be seen chased by all manner of nasty creatures while exploring the icecaps, while a few other mishaps befall him too.
Were pretty sure Below Zero will be more of the same in principle, with players fighting to survive harsh terrain and build their resources, but the switch to land makes for an intriguing premise.