RIP original Mako: Why I'll miss Mass Effect's newly recalibrated vehicle

Mass Effect Legendary Edition Mako
Mass Effect Legendary Edition Mako (Image credit: Electronic Arts)

Bioware revealed in a post about the upcoming Mass Effect Legendary Edition remaster that, among its other gameplay tweaks, it'd be making adjustments to the Mako, the vehicle Commander Shepard drives over the small, open-world planetary surface maps that dot the various systems. The Mako is well-loved by Mass Effect fans despite its infamously poor handling. The reasons it's so highly regarded wouldn't make a lot of sense — and it's almost disappointing to see Bioware "fix" this lovably broken tank.

To give some context, here are the adjustments the developers of the Legendary Edition plan to make to the Mako: * Improved handling * Improved camera controls * Shields recharge faster * New thrusters added for a speed boost * Shields recharge faster * New thrusters added for a speed boost * The XP penalty while in the Mako has been removed * Touching lava no longer results in an instant Mission Failure and instead deals damage over time

Not a single one of these changes is undeserved. The Mako in the original Mass Effect was incredibly frustrating to control, and it would frequently perish when traversing lava. It definitely didn't feel like the feat of engineering you'd expect the Normandy's ground vehicle to be.

And yet, the Mako is one of the most strangely loveable elements of the original Mass Effect. For all its objective "badness" as an element of the first game's design, it has a silly charm, this personality that sticks in your memory for good or for ill. As much as these changes are probably necessary, it'll be sad if the Mako gets all of its charm sanded off in the name of "better" gameplay.

What's to like about the original Mako?

Mass Effect Mako

Source: Electronic Arts (Image credit: Source: Electronic Arts)

The Mako's appeal is by no means universal; there are plenty of gamers who will be happy to see this chunky beast retooled to be more manageable. But it does have its fans, so what to do they see in the Mako?

There's something about gaming that breeds fondness via exposure. We get more attached to annoying things in games the longer we're around them, and we become almost protective of them when someone else points out how annoying they are. It's why, after 200 hours playing as my Warden in Dragon Age Origins, I will defend to my death the line, "Can I get you a ladder so you can get off my back?"

Even the Mako's diehard defenders won't tell you it's a good or reliable vehicle.

I think that's part of the Mako's appeal. Even the Mako's diehard defenders won't tell you it's a good or reliable vehicle. Like the Legendary Edition notes point out, "the physics tuning for the Mako made it feel too light and bouncy, even at times becoming uncontrollable." It also only had jump jets, so the only way the player could get momentum if they became stuck — say, by trying to climb a steep hillside — was by firing the jump jets, which would frequently send them away from the very ground upon which they were seeking purchase.

But after hours of driving, shooting down thresher maws and navigating rocky landscapes, the player learns the Mako's quirks. You develop a way of handling it through familiarity, and after a while it becomes less of a nuisance and more of an amusement. Again, your mileage may vary, but it's an explanation of why some people might be fond of the Mako while others want to break their gaming keyboards over it.

Related to the above, however, is another reason the Mako was likeable: It was interesting. Traversal in open worlds is rarely the most exciting part of any game. Either what breaks up the traversal makes it fun, or the developers have to make traversal itself fun in some way. The latter is the case with the original Mako, though I don't think that was the intention. Whether you were grappling with the Mako's handling or driving it off cliffs, the Mako was at least a diversion. If the Mako were as reliable a gameplay staple as, say, its successor the Hammerhead, it'd make exploring Mass Effect's vast, mostly empty landscapes kind of boring.

For what it's worth, the developers promise that they're not removing that element of chaotic fun that makes the Mako and the parts of the game where you drive it so memorable: "This legendary vehicle from the first Mass Effect has been "calibrated" to perform better than ever… it's now a much smoother ride while still being "loveable" like before. (Yes, you can still drive off cliffs to your heart's content)."

Rachel Kaser

Rachel Kaser is a Windows Central gaming contributor, who's been writing since 2013 and gaming since the age of five. She's covered everything from gaming news, reviews, and analysis -- if it exists in gaming, she knows about it. She also contributes to Future's other sites, iMore and Android Central. If you want to hear her opinions on games, pop culture, tech, and everything in between, follow her on Twitter @rachelkaser.