All the images are property of Bioware, and I guess Electronic Arts, they are used for educational purposes only. Fortunately for them, this time to demonstrate how decent of a game Mass Effect 2 is.

Mr. Towelhead reviews:

mass2_cover

Mass Effect 2

After doing a Mass Effect 3 review I felt like, why not, doing a Mass Effect 2 review. In retrospective my favorite game in the franchise.

In summary, Mass Effect 2 (hence forth referred to as ME2) begins little after the events of Mass Effect 1 end, and starts with an evil twist to explain several changes of story and gameplay. Publisher EA Games was behind the game (Mass Effect 1 was published by Microsoft), so it was only natural to expect a change. To smoothen the change developers Bioware had the courtesy to explain this through events in the story. Good stuff.

STORY-WISE

1.1. Different Paths: You can import your saved-game-file from Mass Effect 1 to ME2, letting you experience ME2 with the consequences of the actions taken in Mass Effect 1. That was a highlight for the game and a colossal task of development. In Mass Effect 1 NPCs [non-playable-characters] could die, survive, be romanced or not even be invited to your party. The fictional government of the Mass Effect universe could be spared or left to die, and so on.

Story-wise the game handles character based decisions very well. If you romanced an NPC you can rekindle your love or betray it, NPCs who survived make come-backs and add to the flair of the story in ways that supplanting NPC [who would obviously not know you] could never do. HOWEVER, “Bigger” decisions, like letting the government [of the entire galaxy I may add] die or not should have far-reaching consequences, unfortunately only a few dialogues change. The “capital city” of galactic government looks exactly the same regardless. I would have loved to see, if only cosmetic, a change of looks in the Citadel [capital of galactic government].

1.2. Character Customization: In the Mass Effect series you get to create the physical appearance of your main character and you get to choose a class for your character [in fantasy terms you can choose to be a sword wielding warrior or a magic casting wizards], and as you gain experience you can train your guy [or girl] in different fields of expertise. Even if you import your main character [called Shepard in this game] from the previous game, in ME2 you can change both appearance and class as you begin the game. BUT you have a valid STORY-WISE explanation as to why you can do this. That is AWESOME.

A video game is a fictitious world but even then an well written, immersive story will make us forget about the world around us and truly believe. I mean, the reapers ARE coming. Right?

Character "Recreation" Interface
Character “Recreation” Interface

1.3. Overall Story: The game revolves around a suicidal mission preparation tour, so to speak. The main villains have a new threat to challenge the player, and in order to save humanity you have to prepare for a final suicide assault against said new threat. A neat feat. is that you HAVE to rely on former enemies to survive. Overall, it’s not exactly original, but it’s not bad either. It’s just o.k.

1.4. Game-plot-story: The game has you recruiting la crème de la crème of galactic commandos to help you fulfill your mission. But not only that, you also have to gain their trust and loyalty if you wish to succeed. You search for these people, convince them and optionally lend them your help to clear unfinished business. Which in return will give you their loyalty [provided you manage to actually help them], and this in return will make them stronger, and will determine how the last mission is played, who will survive AND even if you yourself survive. So yes, you can fulfill the last mission and have everyone, including yourself DIE.

But unlike games like Fable 3, where a bad ending could get you playing inside a world devoid of people. In ME2 the main character will die to warn the peoples of the galaxy of the ultimate evil that is coming. :D

GAME MECHANICS

2.1. Combat: ME2 has a so called “streamlined” combat mechanic. Mass Effect 1 was a RPG [role playing game] with a sufficiently fleshed out combat mechanic to drive the story forward [in RPG the story is, or should be, the main drive of interest]. ME2 combat is certainly improved, it didn’t have to be [I had a lot of fun never the less].

2.2. Exploration: Planet exploration has also been “streamlined”. Exploring planets on site with a sluggish tank was no doubt TEDIOUS as hell [Mass Effect 1]. Scanning planets from orbit [with a handicapped scanner by the way] is BORING as hell. Basically change on tediousness for boredom. Not good.

World exploration was hands on in Mass Effect 1. Provided it was VERY SLOW and TEDIOUS

A world of possibilities
mako exploration

World exploration is remote controlled in Mass Effect 2. Faster than driving, but SLOW and BORING

Planet scanning
planet scanning

2.3. Vehicles: ME2 featured a high speed hovering vehicle [called M44] instead of the tank from Mass Effect 1 [called Mako]. The mako was a substantial part of Mass Effect 1, as mentioned before a slow, tedious, boring, cumbersome task. The vehicle parts of ME2 are fast paced action ones. Although only a very few missions feature the M44, they were a lot of fun.

Exploring, driving and fighting in the Mako of Mass Effect 1 can be CUMBERSOME

The Mako like a fish out of the water
the Mako like a fish out of the water

The M44 sequences of Mass Effect 2 are fast pace action. NEAT!

fast pace action
M44 in action

2.4. Weapons: In ME2 you have magazine for your weapons, a weird change from Mass Effect 1, where your weapons worked based on other factors [it was a fun task to balance overheating and accuracy in combat]. I personally like the interaction of weapon/magazine/limited ammo, so mechanics-wise I liked the change. From the story point of view I think it was an awful decision to make, specially considering the developers gave us, the gamers, a sorry-ass excuse for the change.

2.5. Upgrade: ME2 upgrading system is simplified to the point of being insulting. In Mass Effect 1 you had a long list of things you could upgrade and abilities you could unlock; yourself included and the expertise you had in weapons or armor. You could even upgrade how charming or threatening you were. In ME2 you have a list of 4 to 5 things you can upgrade and only 4 levels of possible improvement (Mass Effect had 10 levels of improvement, by the way).

Mass Effect 1’s Upgrade screen may seem intimidating, its true

Upgrade Interface, rather complicated, its true
Upgrade Interface ME1

Mass Effect 2’s Upgrade screen is a little too kindergarten makaroni

Upgrade Interface... *complicated*
Upgrade Interface… STREAMLINED :(

CHARACTERS

3.1. ME2 has a big cast of characters that join you. Many new ones will come, some of the old ones join you, some of the old ones will not because they have other responsibilities towards the galaxy (or because they are dead). Each character is fairly fleshed out and down right interesting. To the point that you feel bad for sweeping through conversations of characters you don’t empathize as much, just because they are SO interesting.

3.2. In ME2 you also have NPCs that aren’t part of your combat team but you can interact with like never before, even being able to romance them, it’s not necessary but certainly a nice addition to the experience.

GAMEPLAY

4.1. The shopping system: Like a good old RPG [role playing game] Mass Effect 1 had a store system like the ones you would expect. You can sell and buy weapons, equipment, armor, mods, etc. [In game jargon Mod means Modification or Modify, it used to describe assets that change the properties of “things” in the game, or even the game itself] ME2 has a VERY weird and convoluted store system. You can’t sell things, you can only buy instructions to created the items yourself [he?], and you can’t buy them from the shop-owner, you have to buy them from a machine that is standing RIGHT NEXT to the shop-owner [wut?] and adding insult to injury you also have to find the raw material to created said items of your wanting [f..k]. But at least you can charm or threaten the shop-owner to give you a discount on the instructions.

I mean REALLY! The shop-owner is right there! RIGHT THERE!

Talking about lazy employees
Talking about lazy employees

MISCELLANEOUS

5.1. Gravity: BAD. When fellow NPC [fellow squad member] died in Mass Effect 1 it was like a heavy burden on the main character. One of them you had to kill yourself if you were unable to calm down. In a later occasion you had to choose which squad member to help and which to abandon. Each occasion was accompanied by grief and regret [and sad music]. In the last mission of ME2 fellow NPC, squad members, can die like flies and the main character won’t even quack in disapproval.

5.2. Continuity Details: GOOD. In Mass Effect 1 you were cruising the “civilized” part of the galaxy [the so called, Citadel Space]. Because you work for the former bad guys, in ME2 you find yourself cruising the “wild” part of the galaxy [the so called, Terminus Systems]. It’s a detail really, but a cool one. If you have played Mass Effect 1, you will love ME2 specially because what you did in Number 1, WILL affect Number 2.

VERDICT

Mass Effect 2 is much more combat oriented game than Mass Effect 1, the story is also not as involving, and whereas Mass Effect 1 had a great villain that drove the story and the challenge, ME2 has, more or less, a new threat that must be eliminated. The game has better graphics and is certainly faster. It is my favorite of the franchise, but even I admit that Mass Effect 2 is not as good as Mass Effect 1.

8 / 10

If you are looking for a decent Action, Sci-fi, RPG you may like it.

If you have played Mass Effect 1 you will not be disappointed.

If you are looking for a good third person shooter you WILL be disappointed.

P.D. If I may suggest something I think that the developers tried to give the enemy a face by having the Harbinger possess Collector soldiers and quasi fight personally against Shepard. I think that a cool twist would have been to reveal the human-reaper larva to be the Harbinger itself and thus the final boss, instead of a silent, evil semi finished machine to be broken; it would have been an evil, intelligent, influential and powerful persona in the process of being created by killing thousand of millions of humans. A final boss that you REALLY hated, had a personal thing with and want to destroy. A true driving force of evil. At the end of the day, the “enemy” of Mass Effect 3 could very well have been another flagship reaper called “what ever” instead.

The last dude is fine and what not, some people hated it, some people liked it. I LOVED it, but felt no special connection like I did with Saren [the bad guy from Mass Effect 1], it was just a machine we happened to found and it needed to go down. Its like the writers of the game forget about the basics of narrative. A GOOD story needs a good antagonist to challenge the protagonist.

THE LAST DUDE

the final dude
muahahahaa¡ha
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2 Comments »

  1. I actually found 2 to be my least favourite, overall. The combat is much improved over 1, but not as good as 3. The story is basically nonexistent. This could be called Sidequest: The Game. The main story is itself a sidequest in terms of the overarching plot of the series, and most of what you do is unrelated even to that plot – it’s recruitment and Loyalty missions, which are almost entirely sidequests. Mordin’s recruitment is the only one that actually ties into the Collector story. So the game is basically all sidequests to a sidequests.

    I also have some problems with how they handled the characters. The conversations with them are usually good and interesting, but often, it just doesn’t feel like we get enough of them. It’s a pain in the ass going to see Garrus and being told he’s doing calibrations, time after time. It also bothers me that essentially the only interaction you get with squadmates is individually on the ship. With very few exceptions, you don’t get comments from them related to the planet you’re on, or the mission you’re doing, or the events around you. And they almost never interact with each other, which leaves it feeling more like a bunch of individuals than a real team.

    1 had the best story, and better character interactions. 3 had the best gameplay, and the best character interactions, and a better story. 2 just feels largely superfluous.

    • Actually I agree with you, ME2 is some sort of a giant squadmates loyalty shopping list. On the other hand I actually liked the conversations with the characters. It almost felt that I got WAY TOO much information out of some of them [you know with Thane’s “live” memories and such]. But I definitely got too little out of of Garrus…
      You’re also right that your partners in ME2 don’t feel like a team, but a bunch of people who HAVE to be together, and certainly don’t want to.

      Yes 1 had the better story, 3 the best gameplay and 2… I don’t know why I like it so much any way 8S

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