A little ironic that on a theme week when I play the titular game for way more hours than I usually would, I write the least about it.
Well I suppose that laziness begets laziness, and when I have a week off, I tend to do less than when I have to work. But oh well, I did play a fuckload of Mass Effect 2, so let me talk about that.
Mass Effect 2 just continues to do what it does best. It’s absolutely staggering how many conversation options there are and how consistently good the voice acting is. Conversations are still cinematic, choices are still surprising and occasionally very difficult, and the story is still character driven and intriguing. But because this isn’t a review, I’m going to go over what I think has been improved and what I’m sorry to see gone.The Good
Yes, everybody, the side quests are no longer the same two buildings barely re-skinned. Each sidequest has a unique and sometimes even captivating backstory and they all take place in varied locations. There are no longer menus to absolutely struggle against. There is a streamlined upgrade system and weapons and armor are far simpler to navigate through. Now that there are more weapons, there is also ammo. There’s a bit of a stretch of an explanation as to why it is that way now, but I think it’s a preferred mechanic to the old overheating method. Bioware engineered a believable and exciting way to bring Shepard into a new adventure without the exact same dynamics as last time. You’re not working for the council, even if you decided to spare them, and you have a largely new team. And although it’s easy to miss some of the classic characters, the new members are all excellent and often deeper and more interesting than the original cast.
Exploring is far more rewarding and far less convoluted than before as well. Each system will give you a percentage so you don’t have to unnecessarily backtrack to countless systems to find everything. There’s also a mining system that plays directly into the upgrade system, so it’s actually meaningful to explore and search for resources. There are more changes in that area as well, but they’re minor so I won’t go into detail, but they’re all improvements in my eyes. Finally, it’s cool to see choices make a difference from the first game and see how other decisions will affect the 3rd title. Bioware is delivering on its promise of making a unique experience for every individual. There are also some plot points that have genuinely surprised me in the best way possible. The sequel also marks the introduction of a few mini games and a few really cool arena battles.The Not So Good
While the streamlined upgrade and ability system is largely a great thing, it can also feel a bit watered down when compared to the original. I liked micromanaging all my powers as an adept and now I’m basically just playing Gears of War in battle while tossing in the occasional mass effect power. It might just be me, but I feel like I have fewer options when leveling up as well. Also, that tank thing is gone. I know a lot of people didn’t like it, but I thought it was great. It was a good way of breaking up the gameplay, and I loved taking down Geth Colossus with the little thing. The side-quest planets might be far more interesting, but I would still have liked to see a little bit of that buggy exploration make a return.
But, easily most disappointing of all is the complete nerfing of the Citadel. I adored the Citadel in the first game. I would go back all the time and search every corner. It just seemed so alive, and there was always something new. Sidequests would pop out of nowhere, and I even liked the ragged-on elevator conversations. I prefer them to a loading screen, anyway, as the secondary character banter was far more interesting than the space-age holograph images spinning around during the loading screens. Anyway, the Citadel is now just three small floors and a few shops. No C-Sec offices to explore, no presidium to admire, I haven’t even come across any Hanar that I’m able to have a conversation with yet. I’m extremely disappointed unless it drastically opens up in a part of the game that I haven’t seen that, but that looks to be highly doubtful.
Despite my gripes, I am entirely hooked. Uncharted 2 was an unrivaled cinematic experience. But like I’ve mentioned before, while its linear nature is necessary for the series to work, it is inherently limited. Mass Effect 2 takes cinematic prowess, great characters and voice acting, and rips the lid off. And with the graphical issues (largely) fixed, there is not a game this generation I have enjoyed more thoroughly. I’m not really a fan of the darker middle chapters to a trilogy, but Mass Effect 2 is bringing me on a hell of a ride to the inevitable conclusion. This is the reason to own a 360.
Tags: Mass Effect 2