Reviews: Mass Effect 2

All you need to know about Mass Eff-DIRECT INTERVENTION IS NECESSARY


Mass Effect 1, turned generic

After having played Mass Effect 1 and then jumping straight into Mass Effect 2 (bought both at the same time), I was first impressed by the amazing visuals ME 2 provided.

And then the gameplay ended up being... the standard modern console shooter. To put this into perspective, Mass Effect 1 had a neat system of unlimited bullets and overheating. Choosing the right weapon and firing in controlled bursts would prevent overheating, and certain skills overheated weapons (thus, temporarily disabling them).

This system was replaced with the "thermal clip" system, which is the standard generic ammo system in every other shooter, even if it doesn't make sense in-universe. Why do heatsinks not cool down outside of battle? Why are they not reusable? Why do heatsinks contain bullets?

The second change to gameplay was the "cover" system, popularized by Gears Of War. Unfortunately, they decided to use the same key for "Sprint" and "Take cover". And the game REALLY seems to prioritize the "take cover" command, so I invariably end up sticking to walls when I don't want to. This was particularly egregious on the level where the sun is so hot it damages you- half the time when I sprint towards shade, Shepard ended up sticking her back to a nearby wall in full sunlight. The combat style also results in forcing me into a narrow play style- despite having 6 different classes, all of them have to fight the battles the same way. In ME 1, there was a massive difference between an Adept and an Infiltrator, for example. Now, everyone seems to be primarily a duck-and-cover gunner- all special skills are on the same timer, so you can only use one at a time. Your main damage will always come from firing your weapon.

Given how much emphasis there was on the universe created in ME 1, and how much additional information was available in the codex, I think it's pretty sad that they pretty much abandoned almost every gameplay element that made the Mass Effect 1 universe unique to appeal to the masses.

A few things were streamlined, like "exploring" planets and Paragon/Renegade dialogue options, which is nice. Still, there's no big surprises in the story (other than the prologue).

Flaws Are To Be Found, But A Good Game All Around

The Pros:

  • Combat doesn't feel as clunky and awkward as the first did. A matter of preference perhaps, but coming to it with little knowledge of the games or even the genre I still found it easier to play through this game than I would Mass Effect 1 years later.

  • The majority of the main characters are interesting and have time spent to give them depth and development. Your interactions with characters is greatly expanded, with Loyalty missions available for all and the number of team mates available has been doubled from the first.

  • The new powers available to several classes are welcome and do a good job of making you want to play as them.

  • The new Interrupts make scenes a bit more interesting and give some much needed opportunities to gain Renegade or Paragon points.

  • The music and visuals are excellent for setting the mood of the mission, ranging from tense music from a horror game to triumphal and uplifting.

  • The story is, in general, fascinating and manages to avoid being weighed down by its grimness.

The Cons:

  • The story in general might be great, but it doesn't take long to find some new idiocy that led to my saying "ME authority figures are idiots" with them lacking even basic competence. Stories should not resort to lapses of logic to create drama.

  • The Paragon and Renegade system often lacks logic, forcing me to wonder if even the writers knew what it was. How is a choice to murder a team mate and recruit their serial killer daughter be both Paragon and Renegade? More similarly ridiculous ones can be found throughout the game.

  • The hacking and mining mini-games are fun for one playthrough, after that they lose their appeal and are just something to pad the game.

  • Team mates are occasionally idiots and have more than once forced me out of cover, also getting me killed.

  • The fact that choices from the first game seemed to have little impact on on either gameplay or story should have been a warning about what was in store.

  • Several characters were just bland and some costume choices (and blatant ass shots) completely ruined what were supposed to be emotional scenes.

However even with all the flaws mentioned I still found this to be a very enjoyable experience. As this was my first ME game there may be bias may be present, but I would always recommend this as long as you can show some patience.

Fixes nearly all the problems with the first game.

Mass Effect 1 was a good game with a solid concept, but with shaky execution, especially in regard to the gameplay. Mass Effect 2 fixes nearly all of those problems, and takes very few steps back, and those are minor.

The Good:
  • The gameplay is enormously streamlined. The aiming and shooting feels much more intuitive, and the cover system works much better. You don't have to mess with unusable weapons.
  • The worldbuilding is as solid as in the first game, and the multiplicity of hub worlds gives an even greater sense of a full universe.
  • The characters are, as always, fully fleshed out, and it's quite interesting to get to know them.
  • The sidequests are greatly improved, with unique maps for all of them, as well as additional story material in the recruitment and loyalty missions.

The Not-as-Good:
  • The characters are great, but there are so many of them (especially with the DLC), and they unfortunately don't get to interact with each other very often.
  • There's less of a sense of urgency than in the first game; it basically has a few story relevant missions, and the rest of the time you can just go and do whatever. ME 1 did that to a degree, but unlike the geth, who were a universal presence in the first game, the Collectors don't actually show up very often. They're absent from nearly all the side missions and loyalty missions.
  • Some of the recurring areas feel a bit small. In particular, the Citadel feels much more limited when compared to ME 1. The presidium is limited to one room, and it just doesn't feel like there's enough to do there.
  • The "heat sink" system is basically an ammo system, which is a step back from the overheating system of the first game. That said, the other improvements to the gameplay more than outweigh the issues.

Basically, most of the problems from the first game have been totally fixed, and the new issues are all pretty minor. All things considered, it's a giant step up from the first game and makes much better use of the potential that the first game had.

A great game, a good sequel.

Mass Effect 2 is fine gameplay wise; the new ammo system has its faults (I would've preferred they stick to the overheating mechanic) and Charm and Intimidate are no longer upgradable skills, which can make resolving conflicts difficult or outright impossible, sometimes affecting the entire rest of the game.

Story-wise, there are a lot of pros…but also some cons.

The good: Watching your old squadmates continue to develop as characters (especially Wrex, as his fate depends on what you did in the first game) is a great experience, and the new squadmates are a colorful bunch themselves. Most of the sidequests you may have completed in the first game are referenced here in various ways, depending on how they were resolved. It really enforces continuity and the feeling that your choices make a difference, however minor.

The bad: There are a few extremely annoying glitches that result in some sidequest resolutions being followed up on incorrectly. Shepard's death and resurrection at the very beginning is rather clumsily handled; the suddeness of it was so jarring I thought it was going to turn out to be a nightmare at first. The game's whole atmosphere is much darker than its predecessor, sometimes so much as to feel like a different series altogether, and the Reaper threat, while looming visibly in the background, isn't the main conflict of the story.

So while Mass Effect 2 is excellent on its own, as a sequel it's rather flawed (although as mentioned above, the Call Backs and Character Development are handled extremely well). If you liked the first game, definitely give it a shot.

Quite possibly the best game ever made

What can be said about Mass Effect 2 that hasn't been said a million times? It is perhaps the defining game of our generation. The Super Nintendo had Donkey Kong Country, the PS 1 had Final Fantasy VII. And now we have Shepard. Outside of maybe Arkham City one of the best games ever made, mixing the best from Call Of Duty, Gears Of War and Halo. A bold statement. So what makes this game so great? Let's examine some of the noteworthy tropes within.

Half these tropes apply to you, nuff said.

Mass Effect 2- Trimming the Fat, But Also the Meat

Mass Effect was an excellent hybrid of RP Gs and shooters with some unfortunately tedious parts. The sequel manages to remove much of the tedium (collection quests and driving around), but also some of the RPG elements that set Mass Effect apart from other shooters and made it entertaining.

The story is considerably darker than the first installment; your victory in the first game only earned the galaxy a brief reprieve, and with your most powerful allies oblivious to the threat of the Reapers, you must associate with less than morally pure individuals and make difficult decisions to fight your enemies.

The game focuses on building a team, gaining their trust, obtaining the equipment you need for your battle, and ultimately fighting a climactic and well-designed final mission where your teammates' lives depend on your decisions prior to and during the mission. This adds another dimension to the decisions you make on your "loyalty missions," as you sometimes must also consider whether your squadmates will accept them.

The game has an impressive number of choices carried over from the first game, showing the long-term and often unexpected consequences of your previous decisions; people you saved might help you at a crucial moment, or they might betray you. Unfortunately, it can also serve to punish those who are only getting into the series with this game, as the default decisions are the ones that could be considered the worst.

The dialogue system benefits from the inclusion of the “interrupt” system, which adds a level of snap judgment to the system, forcing you to decide whether to let the conversation play out or force things into another direction.

Unfortunately, the level of customization in your abilities and equipment is reduced; you can no longer choose upgrades for your weapons (apart from purchasing increases to the effectiveness of a type of weapon) or change your armor, and you only have four levels of skill per power, although being able to choose two variations for the fourth is a good touch. While your character can improve over time, you have less choice about how you can improve.

While the decision to discard some of the RPG elements that made the first game an effective hybrid of RP Gs and shooters is unfortunate, Mass Effect 2 is still an excellent combination of two genres and an highly enjoyable game.

A Masterpiece

Mass Effect 1 was good. Mass Effect 2 ups the ante in almost every way possible. More characters, deeper characters, improved combat, interrupts... The list goes on and on. A few things were removed, but they were mostly the bad things. I'm going to skim over the game, giving highlights on my favorite points.

First, the inventory was removed. While some may say that makes it less of an RPG, the original's inventory was horrendous, with little to no sorting whatsoever, and samey weapons. While ME2 only has 4 or 5 guns per class, each one feels and acts differently. For example, the assault rifle class:
  • Avenger - fully automatic, decent damage. Standard.
  • Vindicator - slightly more damage, three-round burst; headshot-happy. Significantly less ammo; skills needed to keep ammo count high.
  • Revenant - uber-machine gun. High damage and rate of fire. Inaccurate, though; lots of recoil.
  • Geth Assault Rifle - only found on Hardcore or Insanity. Good damage. Rate of fire variable; determined by a sine wave.
This variety allows you to strategize, based on your strengths - like an RPG, ironically.

This time around, characters have hidden depths, and are more developed. However, one of the characters I think is the best written is the one I like the least - Jack. She's a psycho, but as you talk to her, it slowly become apparent that this is her way of dealing with what she's been through. This character development reaches a head in her loyalty mission, where you can persuade her to show mercy - maybe for the first time in her life. If you romance her, she shows how broken she is inside, and she becomes very respectful when you gain her loyalty.

Power use is very streamlined, allowing for much neater usage of powers. Up to three powers can be accessed instantly, compared to ME1's one. This also allows for easy power combinations - say, pulling an enemy into the air before blasting them with a concussive shot. The way powers work has been tweaked, allowing you to, with some powers, attack an enemy behind cover.

With all these improvements, Mass Effect 2 is an Even Better Sequel in every sense of the words. I'm Tera Chimera, and this is my favorite game in the world.

The good, the bad, and the rest of it.

Over all, it has a whole lot of good stuff about it. The characters are all likable once you get to know them, and the new Normandy is pretty fun to walk around in. All of the environments are really detailed and give you a unique sense of culture every time you step onto a planet. The AI seems pretty smart, and the way they've streamlined the weapons means that you no longer have to go screwing around in your inventory for weapon upgrades or worry about buying a more powerful gun after every mission. The upgrades being available on the Normandy make it a lot more convenient than having to switch in the middle of a mission. The bad: Planet scanning. It may be helpful, but it's extremely boring. You'll probably have to drain a whole system of minerals before you're able to buy an upgrade. The rest: All in all a really good game, despite the sort of Anticlimax Boss. Can't wait for the next one.

As a stand alone title: Bad game that you really MUST play and love

Have never played Mass Effect 1.

The story is almost non-existent. Evil aliens who you will barely ever see (and are only pawns of the evil aliens from the first game), are trying to kill lots of people. You must destroy them. There are no twists and there isn't even really a villain apart from generic alien species. Several people will refuse to join you in your aims for tiny undeveloped reasons and the only problem in the plot is presented by a ridiculous example of railroading. The plot has no impact on either prequel, or sequel except for something that's treated almost more as a throw away fact, without impact on what's happening. Monster of the Week is perfect for this

The combat isn't ever quite frenetic enough to be a shooter, nor really has the strategical depth for an RPG. You can choose from a few abilities, micromanage the position of you're allies and on normal you really should only die once or twice in the entirety of the game. The few times my squadmates decided standing on top instead of behind cover was a good idea, I found it simple enough to finish off the rest by myself (including what I felt was the hardest boss fight of the game). Combat is cover based and most problems can be solved by time and caution. The last boss fight doesn't even need that. Despite this, the actual missions are varied and excellent.

Dialogue/decisions show you which is the ruthless and virtuous decisions and allow you to choose between the two but not much else. You can know the outcome without even reading what will be said. If you're evil or good enough red/blue options become available that will always solve the problem. (Two team mates trying to kill each other? Select the blue option and they will agree that they're both in the wrong and immediately learn to co-operate.)

The crippling of the choice system removes all effort and reward from building relationships and solving the very clever moral problems. It's made worse, instead of understanding a character, all you need to earn a team mates loyalty, is complete a side quest. Emotional attachment not required.

But despite this and the setting is detailed and the game can be moving and heart pounding. Mass Effect is more enjoyable than it has right and you would be mad to miss one of the ultimate gaming trilogies. The genre is addictive and only Bioware really makes games like it.

Game wise, Awesome. Story wise, sucks.

  • Review has been revised since intial post*

When it comes to the actual gameplay part of this shooter, it's a step up from Mass Effect 1, with more intense shooting, a more responsive cover system, vastly improved A.I, and better level design.

In addition, the main world maps are more varied with more NPC's around to help them feel more believable environments, with less of that grey colour that occupied the last game, and the copy and pasta locations a thing of the past.

When it comes to the story and characters on the other hand...

Most of the characters introduced for your party this game are without a doubt some of the most dull (Miranda, Jacob, Samara) and annoying (Grunt, Jack) characters I've ever come across in gaming, I'm assuming the majority of Biowares good character writers were working on Dragon Age because these characters you could mostly fully explore in four conversations, and two of the likeable characters are hold overs from the first.

The main story itself holds up no better, being a step down from the original, with a simplistic story "Colonists have been kidnapped by Collectors, are you a bad enough dude to save them?" that holds none of the intrigue or mystery of the first game, I'm restricted word wise, so I'll sum it up some of my major gripes with bullet-points.

1) Sole Survivor, why you're never allowed to bring this backstory up to any of the Cerberus characters is baffling. 2) The romance paths are very rushed and clumsily written, feels like they were thrown them in to make shippers happy. 3) Nothing is done with the fact that Shepard CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD, all she/he does is make a few snarky lines and the companions are no better. 4) 95% of offworld quests have you killing things, with the most complex story being "BLUE SUNS BASE! KEEL", at least them copy and paste missions kept some interest with it's varied stories and dialogue. 5) The circumstances that allow your crew to be captured at the endgame are blatant railroading if I ever saw it. 6) The final boss looks like the Terminators idiot half brother and is really tedious.

On the whole, while Mass Effect 2 improved the originals gameplay in bounds, it's story and characterisation suffered big time, ultimately, it depends on whether a bad story ruins a game or not.