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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.
You can actually change your armour: you can buy new parts at stores, and some armours can be obtained as DLC. To be fair though, the majority of armour parts give very small bonuses and don't synergize well with other parts, so with the exception of specific builds/playstyles, you don't get much out of armour customization.
Well, other than getting Man!Shep to prance about on the dance floor in bright pink armour. XD
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