Mass Effect 2

Continuing my review of the Mass Effect trilogy I will now cover Mass Effect 2.

As before I will be revealing spoilers for this and the previous game.  If you have not played or finished both Mass Effect 1&2 I would advise you to go no further.

There is no real need to describe the mechanics, gameplay largely follows on from the first game with some differences I will cover later.

The game begins explosively when an alien ship attacks the Normandy, ultimately the Normandy is destroyed and Shepard is killed rescuing Joker.

Jump several years later and Shepard is revived by a militant, pro-human group called Cerberus, who were encountered as antagonists ins side missions during ME1.  The base you are being revived on is attacked and Shepard has to team up with Cerberus agents Jacob and Miranda. In this sequence there is an interesting scene where you are interviewed regarding key events of the last game.  This was to allow people who were not importing a Mass Effect save game to set up the required history for the current game and does show what decisions actually carry over.  Namely, who you romanced, Did wrex survive, who died, did you rescue the council and who you recommended as the human council member.  Basically 5 decisions.  Take note here because I will re-visit this in te next game.  Anyway, basic plot is that human colonies are being attacked by a race called The Collectors, who are abducting the colonists and vanishing.  The Alliance is not taking action and the citadel council don’t believe the near legendary collectors are involved so Cerberus are going to deal with the problem independently leading Shepard into an uneasy alliance.

More on the plot later, first I will talk about some of the gameplay tweaks.

First, the MACO tank is gone.  Planets still have to be explored for side missions and to collect resources for upgrades, but this is done from orbit.  To explore systems costs fuel and probe that have to be bought, and I couldn’t call planet scanning interesting but it is strangely addictive.  Do a mission in a system and you may find an hour slip away as you scan each and every planet near the relay.

In the main part, guns now have ammo, so clips need to be collected, but are universal for all weapons.  There is also the option for a heavy weapon, different types of which become available through the game and require separate ammo.  There is also limited melee combat.  The weapons upgrading has been massively simplified.  Ammo upgrades are now gained through your character levelling, so you can now swap in ammo types mid combat which adds a good strategic element.  The weapons now get one upgrade through the game and a second upgrade can be found on one weapon later on.  I actually preferred this, possibly because I’m not a hardcore RPG player and so hunting for the ideal combination of ammo, weapons and enhancements holds little appeal.

Finally the conversations have been tweaked a little, the wheel is still there but it isn’t always obvious which answer will be paragon and which will be renegade.  In general I like this but at times you pick an option which seems reasonable only for Shep to say something really evil on occasion causing much shouting at the screen.  There are now also paragon or renegade interrupts where a mouse click can force a paragon or renegade action which I quite enjoyed.  As always decisions made have plot consequences.

To the plot, this game is very well written.  It uses familiarity from Mass Effect to really involve you in the characters plot.  For starters each squad member has a loyalty mission, an optional quest to aid one of your team mates.  Again this helps in the final mission and nets extra upgrades.

There is also a neat bluff.  The video that runs if you leave the start screen up shows only the new characters like Jacob, Grunt etc but none of your previous crew.  You even meet Tali on your second mission but she doesn’t join.  At this point I really thought my previous team mates would only appear as characters to talk to and I would be dealing with an entirely new crew.  Accepting this I went to start gathering my new squad, first trying to find a vigilante codenamed “archangel”. As you hear more about him he sounds faintly familiar.  When I finally realised that Archangel was Garrus I took on the mission with renewed enthusiasm and finally meeting him genuinely felt like meeting an old friend.  While ultimately Garrus and Tali rejoin your crew you will meet everyone who survived and each reunion is emotional and satisfying.  The new characters develop and, partly thanks to the loyalty missions you will bond with them as well.  In fact the Loyalty missions are worth a mention in themselves.  Each character will ask you to do an additional optional mission.  In the game this makes them more likely to survive and unlocks some extras, but it works narratively as well.  You are working for Cerberus and need your crew to be loyal to you, not the organisation.  Ultimately only Garrus and Tali join your squad and there is a lovely moment on teh citadel where they joke about the long lift rides of Mass Effect and start trading banter.

Overall the game is a vast improvement on Mass Effect.  The tweaks to combat mean that gameplay is enjoyable and no longer something you tolerate to see the story.  Voice acting is of the usual quality, and the pacing works well.

As for my specific path, everyone survived the suicide mission and I destroyed the collector base.  I also preserved the geth heretics.  Finally for romance, after being dumped by Ashley for joining Cerberus there were several options.  Eventually I went for Tali.  It was odd how involved you get in the story.  Initially thinking of who I would romance with my new in game single status I was surprised when I realised Tali was an option.  It was like having a good friend who you suddenly see in a different light. Made for a much more satisfying sub-plot than the more basic romance of the original.

On DLC I actually didn’t net much but you don’t seem to miss much.  Apparently much of the DLC can be done after completing the game which Seems fair.  I do consider this run done for now but may run through all 3 with all the DLC at a later date.

So, we end on a cliffhanger with the reapers on their way we will see how Mass Effect 3 goes.

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2 Responses to “Mass Effect 2”

  1. I’m currently playing through ME2, after playing ME1 years ago and being pretty unimpressed. After loving all of Bioware’s previous efforts, something about Mass Effect really didn’t engage me. I wasn’t as keen on the FPS-type combat to appeal to the console market, and the story seemed to wrap up far too quickly, just as I felt I was finally getting into the game.

    ME2 has been an improvement in just about every way. The pacing seems far better than the first game, the team you’re surrounded by contains a lot of interesting characters, the approach to upgrades works, and that stupid tank and the associated dull, repetitive side missions are no where to be seen. Even the Normandy Mk2 is a vast improvement, and I find myself enjoying exploring the ship far more than the dark and dreary original.

  2. pieman70 Says:

    I was generally impressed with all the tweaks. I know some people who are more RPG focused didn’t like the stripped down upgrades but to me it took away the hours comparing stats

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