Review: Mass Effect 2

Recently I’ve found myself fascinated and compelled by the universe of Mass Effect and after completing and enjoying the first game so much I was very eager to carry on with the trilogy; as you may gather from the presence of this post, I have now finished Mass Effect 2  and wish to reflect on it accordingly.

Mass Effect 2

Initially, I was expecting ME2 to carry on where I’d left of with the first game and be literally more of the same. As sequels go, that may sound unimpressive but Mass Effect was so good in my opinion that wouldn’t have mattered; just to continue interacitng in the universe with such engaging characters would’ve been just fine.

BioWare had other ideas, and interestingly had me essentially starting over again. I was initially uncomfortable with control changes that seemed needless to begin with but quickly bedded back in and my immersion in the game was restored. In hindsight, the control changes were a good addition as they made squad management much easier and didn’t require as much immersion-breaking thought – one button pretty much did all I needed to do and that was fine. However I did feel that the gameplay mechanics had been simplified considerably and the jury’s out as to whether I feel that good overall or detrimental.

Story-wise I found that I was a million miles from the idealism of the first game’s ending but the shenanigans that took place in the interim did indeed seem very much like what would happen – the big spectacle at the end of Mass Effect essentially being swept under the rug by politicians being short-sighted – does this sound familiar?

Characters new and old cropped up, and while the old friends gave a necessary connection to the first game, the new characters all had their own personalities that did lead to a number of quite hairy situations where, much like in ME1, I had to make quite big moral choices in the blink of an eye and get on with those decisions for the rest of the game. The Save-File Transfer system of taking a ME1 character and importing the decisions made there right into the story of the new game worked really nicely, and it was nice to have to face finally some of the consequences. Characters actually seemed to have a memory of my past dealings with them and in a computer game it really sold it as more than a game but a story in which I move along with interactivity.

The free-roaming nature of the game was retained, although events cropped up that reminded me of the main story and gave me gentle nods where to go. Planetary exploration has received a welcome overhaul and is considerably less of a chore of exploring though identikit worlds, and leads to new gameplay opportunities besides  simply achieving a sterile “finding X of Y unobtainium” goal etc.

Generally I was very impressed with Mass Effect 2 and would say it was definitely on par with it’s excellent predecessor. I don’t want to make direct comparisons between games in the series until I’ve played all three major games and have a trilogy-wide overview. But it was great fun and I only wish I’d played it before!

And deep breath, as the controversial third game is next! Suppose I’d better (begrudingly) install Origin…

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7 thoughts on “Review: Mass Effect 2

  1. The gameplay in 2 was definitely a huge step up from 1. The gameplay in 1 was, frankly, broken. 2 made it much better.

    The characters were all cool, but I feel like there were probably too many. It ended up hampering the main point of the game – the team-building. By having so many characters, they made it effectively impossible for those characters to interact. So it ended up feeling less like a team, and more like a bunch of people who wanted nothing to do with each other.

    Also, there was too little story. The whole thing felt like a series of sidequests to what was, ultimately, a sidequest to the main plot of the trilogy.

    1. very true comment. All the points you make are right, I would have been happier with less characters and more story and overall team development. I do love the atmosphere in the game though, they set the scene well.

      I haven’t played Mass Effect 3, whats it like? did they improve on these areas?

      Jamie

      1. Jamie, you gotta play all three games in order! Though the interactive comic that settles you into the universe of ME1 in case you missed it was a neat touch. Are you paragon or renegade?! :-P

      2. The gameplay is improved. The squad is tightened up, and there’s a lot of interaction between squadmates – I’d argue it does the best job of all three at making the squad feel like a real team.

    2. Yeah, once I’d adjusted to the streamlined controls they felt way more natural.

      I liked the characters (and liked disliking a few of ’em!) but it did feel very much an interim between the revelations of the first game and the conclusions that await in the third game. It did start to feel slightly formulaic when each new recruit had a personal favour that they invariably asked that affected the mission at the end.

      I did wish there was a bit more interaction with the characters beside the more overall philosophical bickering, ie Miranda-Jack, Tali-Legion that weren’t down to the characters themselves but the races/factions the characters were associated with and the backstory therein.

      I did feel a bit uncomfortable with only cameos from my comrades in ME1; felt strangely disconnected from the story I’d gotten into in the first game, as if I were a pariah from my former faction for a strange reason…

      Still, the game itself was really enjoyable and I’m looking forward to 3! Cheers for your comment! :-D

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