Over the weekend I managed to complete the exceptional Mass Effect 2. As friends can attest I am quite a fickle gamer and therefore if I actually finish the single player campaign of any game it is heralded with fireworks and other celebratory effects. It is this singular fact alone that shows how remarkable the original Mass Effect was when I went through it three times! Once I had finished that game I was super-excited for the sequel, already knowing that this was going to be a trilogy. Of course, shortly before the release of Mass Effect 2 my Xbox took a dump and red-ringed while I was playing Fable 2 (I finished it eventually after getting a new Xbox 8 months later). Once the new Xbox was here I wasted no time in buying Mass Effect 2, it had also massively dropped in price by the time I picked it up too, every cloud…
After having imported my Paragon Shephard from the first game I fired things up, I knew a few bits and pieces from having watched the trailers but in the main the storyline was unknown to me. I loaded up the game, saw the Normandy get decked, enjoyed the awesome moment of walking out of a burning ship into the noiselessness of space and then the moments with Cerberus. Now that I have completed the game I have to say that I am very happy with the experience, I like how it integrated the choices I had made in the previous game and the fact that you come across your old team members really was a series of joyful reunions. You can tell a lot about a game if you actually engaged with and identified with the characters, books are more normally the medium for this to happen but it is great to see video games with this much detail lavished upon them where you feel a genuine connection far beyond the code and pixels.
I enjoyed spending my time recruiting and talking to my team, the old and the new alike. I performed every single loyalty mission and did every single sidequest that came up before doing the final mission. Unfortunately I haven’t got anything other than the autosaves after completing the game so I need to go through the final boss fight again and make sure to save this time as I played around a bit after the final curtain. I want to make sure I have the save in the right place when Mass Effect 3 comes around so I can import again.
Throughout the game the storytelling is fantastic, if you are playing this game for the combat side of things I believe you’ve got the wrong game. Bioware’s real strength comes from creating a believable world in which you can live through the actions of your party. I have loved Mass Effect’s world since the opening mission on Eden Prime in the first game. It was nice to see some old enemies from new perspectives in the sequel too. Of course there are the Bioware staple options of pursuing romance within the game (though no lady on lady action as was possible in the first game) but the campaign plays out beautifully. Nothing takes forever to do, in some cases the missions even feel too short, I remember things taking much longer in the original but this really is a minor criticism about a game that is executed so wonderfully. Everytime I landed for a mission it was a real decision to choose who was coming with me, there is a lot of diversity in the characters and they have some pretty useful abilities so depending on what you expect to face on a mission can have an impact on what you want to take along. I did tend to default to the same people with slight variations but overall I took more of the different team members in this one than I ever did in Mass Effect 1 where I took Tali and Liara on pretty much every mission once I had recruited them.
I like the addition of the Paragon and Renegade action triggers, I’m on my second play through to see how the Renegade ends up different and am enjoying being a badass for a change, although personally I find it easier to identify with an altruistic character, rather than one that is horribly self-centred. Sometimes things aren’t all that clear though as when I have chosen options that seem the most Paragon like I accumulate some Renegade points alongside the big hauls of Paragon from within the same conversation. I was very pleased to survive the final mission and not lose a single team member from any of the assignments I gave them, I imagine that will have an impact on the final game.
One thing that did frustrate me was the fact that your old romantic relationships have been completely closed off. While meeting Liara for the first time (the romance I pursued with my ME1 Paragon Shephard) there isn’t much you can do, what with Liara being focussed on kicking the Shadow Broker’s ass. Sure the story picks up two years later but you’d have thought that a relationship would last a bit longer but this is purely down to personal perception and I am not in charge of the characters nor how Asari deal with the death of a lover considering their longevity.
Everything is nicely setup for the final chapter of the game, I’ll be picking it up on release providing this Xbox is more compliant that its predecessor. What I am also hoping is that Mass Effect avoids the horrible fate that seems to afflict some game worlds these days of being transferred into the MMO market. I love Mass Effect and the story, however, porting it online where you’d have a veritable horde of Shephard wannabes I don’t think would work, at least not for me as a consumer. I’d like to see that Mass Effect stays as a single player RPG title, luckily Bioware are very good at these kinds of games and while The Old Republic is taking KOTOR into the MMO market I hope that we don’t end up with their sci-fi magnum opus going the same way. I love the experiences I’ve had so far and look forward to finishing the series and closing off a wonderful gaming journey.
Mass Effect 2 – 5/5 as far as I am concerned. Brilliant!