Mass Effect 2 Review – Reach and Flexibility

-The continued conversation tree excellence
-Improved sidequests, graphics, and combat
-Way better crew beside Shepard
-Exploration to places only heard of in ME1

-Watered down Citadel and RPG mechanics
-Lack of dune buggy and crew interaction

I’ve already been relatively thorough with my thoughts on Mass Effect 2. The highly anticipated ambitious space opera by Bioware does side-quests, graphics, characters, and menus better than the original while taking away the fun dune-buggy thing and toning down the expansive and beautiful Citadel. Combat and RPG mechanics are streamlined at the small cost of feeling a little watered down.

So with all that summed up, what else is necessary to say about this middle chapter? Well, just that, really. Mass Effect 2 is the middle chapter of a trilogy, and as such it carries the necessary glories and burdens. Since the first game did the difficult job of introducing the expansive universe, the sequel could focus on fleshing out the world and characters. Consequently, missions were more intriguing since they didn’t have to worry as much about set-up, and big decisions were a lot bigger because I actually cared about the characters. To be perfectly frank, I didn’t really care who I left to die on that planet in the first game. Kaiden was boring and Ashley’s a bitch, so I was a little apathetic about the whole ordeal. However, there were moments in Mass Effect 2 that knocked me on my ass and I literally stressed over what I should chose while staring at the screen.

Still, while these decisions were very involved and the revelations made during the main plot were intriguing, I couldn’t help but feel like all the biggest answers were being held back for the conclusion. It was a little unsatisfying to know absolutely nothing more about an important character like the Illusive Man at the end of the adventure than I did when I first talked to him. Also, just as The Empire Strikes Back ends with dread and excitement looming at the adventure ahead and thus doesn’t feel concluded, Mass Effect 2 has the same issue. I do appreciate that the ending wasn’t dragged out, but it just didn’t have the same significance and sense of urgency and wonder as making it to Ilos and then taking down Sovereign.

Fear the Justicar

Fear the Justicar

But, to make up for the fact that Mass Effect 2 is almost a side-story to save humanity before the exact same impeding doom from the original takes over again for the conclusion, the game makes things far more personal. I have a feeling that finally taking down the Reapers will be more satisfying now that Shepard, Joker, and the old and new crew have been through so much more together. It was also nice to see Shepard making decisions while on a different sort of leash than that of the council’s, it made the story a lot less political which was an almost necessary change.

Final Thoughts
What’s important is that Bioware has delivered on improving the most complained about issues about the original Mass Effect while beefing up the adventure and giving a mostly new and much better cast to boot. I personally miss driving around in that stupid little dune buggy, the massive citadel to explore, the awesome end credits music, and the sense of wonder that accompanied the original, but the improvements are worth losing those things without question. The Mass Effect series is still way ahead of the curve with scripting, voice acting, and combining an incredibly epic yet entirely interactive adventure and Mass Effect 2 is the definitive proof of that. I have confidence in Bioware’s ability to bring the best of the first two with the conclusion that I’m already drooling for.

Mass Effect 2

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6 Responses to “Mass Effect 2 Review – Reach and Flexibility”

  1. abe80 says:

    yay – Mass Effect 2 month is over

  2. Riddles says:

    Not quite. I haven’t beaten it yet.

  3. Andogo says:

    There were some dubious design choices, like having to manually fly between systems and planets (not to mention fuel and fueling stations). Klendagon doesn’t have the right texture (it has the generic “bunch of blobs” skin when you pull up the scanner). And their way of introducing ammo was… silly and awkward.

    Not saying that it isn’t a good game, but some of the changes seemed like a step backwards. For example, there are far fewer side quests that take place in each of the cities. The 800 block seemed like it might have made for an interesting addition to the citadel. Or even a trip to Shin Akiba. There were a lot of things that added texture and realism to the places you visited, but there wasn’t actually that much to do while you’re there.

    Despite there being more attention on your squadmates, there seems to be less interaction between them. For the vast majority of the game, you’re going to be the only interlocutor for any conversation, and it’s rare to see your entire squad interact as a group. That and in the final battles, you only ever see what goes on with your own squad of 3. The other teams just magically meets up with you when you get to a checkpoint. It seems like a real missed opportunity to see how they behave under pressure.

  4. Ethos says:

    I mentioned some of those things in my initial impressions. I agree that the explanation for ammo is a stretch, but I prefer the mechanic. It made me think more about which gun to use in which scenario. And I actually liked flying between systems, it made the exploration seem more like…exploration, and the whole organization of the systems made more sense too.

    I do agree that there could have been more interaction with the teammates, and I miss that from the first one as well. Again, like I said in my impressions, I preferred the elevator rides to the loading screens.

    I think that side quest thing is mostly just true of the Citadel, which was noticeable. Otherwise, there were far more interesting cities, so I didn’t feel a lack of side quests elsewhere. But yes, I would have preferred that bubbling non-stop side quest hub of the Citadel.

  5. Andogo says:

    It’s strange how they managed to keep the menu system at around the same level of borked-ness. Two separate terminals for upgrades? Check team status at your personal terminal, but have no way of managing squad skill points? Am I just terrifyingly spoiled by JRPG menu convention? Does Bioware need a License Board? I’m beginning to think it does, considering I have to purchase the tech *and then* research it.

    I’m just nitpicky because I have two tests tomorrow. Gaah, Persian and stats for linguists.

    “Don’t you want to tell me about your immune system?”
    “I have a shotgun.”

  6. Ethos says:

    Yeah, see, while I hated the menus in ME1, I didn’t really mind in ME2. I didn’t need to get to my menus every 4 seconds, so they propped up often enough for me to make use and not fall behind in my upgrades.

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