Mass Effect 2
Well it’s been a few months, but I’ve been busy. I’d been meaning to write a review for a game I finished recently, Mass Effect 2, on top of a few other things happening over the last while for me. Now, I was hoping to hold off on this until all the DLC for the game was finished, but I think I can just update on how each bit of DLC is as I go along (Arrival is coming March 29th for example, so expect a review of that in April). Be warned that as usual this review will contain spoilers.
There’s a lot to go over with this game, so let’s start with what I bought – the Mass Effect 2 Digital Deluxe Edition. It’s available on Steam and comes with some pretty nifty things, including a comic, the soundtrack for the game, a documentary on the making of Mass Effect 2, and a digital art book, along with access to the Cerberus network and some free items for DLC stuff. Speaking of extra stuff like that, Mass Effect 2 also has quite a few comics that go along with it and 3 novels that go with the series in general (along with an incredibly shitty iPhone game taking place before this one), and I highly recommend trying to obtain all of them except that last one, as they are surprisingly good.
The start of the game is a bit of a shocker. The Normandy is attacked by a mysterious ship and gets completely decimated. Shepard tries to save Joker from the destruction but just ends up getting himself killed.
Wait, what? You’re dead in the first 5 minutes of the game? Yeah, that’s right. Mass Effect 2 doesn’t fuck around. However, through the power of SCIENCE, Shepard’s body is recovered by Cerberus (remember those assholes from the first game?) and he is brought back to life through the Lazarus Project. After an unfortunate incident involving mechs, Shepard meets up with the head of Cerberus, the mysterious “Illusive Man”.
And no, that caption isn’t an exaggeration either, I swear to fuck there’s no scene in which this guy is not smoking constantly. The Illusive Man explains to Shepard that his ship was brought down by a mysterious race known as the Collectors, a group that go through the Omega 4 Relay to trade highly advanced technology to other races in exchange for odd requests, such as people with green eyes, female krogan, or any other peculiar requirements one can think of for an exchange of living people. Those people are never seen again, and it’s impossible to track down the Collectors, as no one who goes through the Omega 4 Relay is ever seen again. Whoops! It’s been a few years since Shepard has died, and in that time the Collectors have gone and abducted human colonists from the Terminus systems for an unknown reason. The Illusive Man informs Shepard that he’ll need to collect a group of highly skilled professionals from across the galaxy to try and find a way to stop the Collectors – a suicide mission, essentially.
You not only get characters for the upcoming mission but also have to upgrade the new Normandy that Cerberus has built for you so that it’s not destroyed instantly again by the Collectors. A few old squadmates return, and your choices from the last game will have an effect on certain parts of Mass Effect 2 as well. After a halfway point in the game, you can start doing loyalty missions for your squadmates. A loyalty mission is a mission basically given to you by a squadmate which develops that member of the team more, and when you finish it you’re able to unlock a special power for that squadmate and have them perform better during the suicide mission. Similar to the first game, you’re also able to romance certain party members, though that does present one annoying thing regarding achievements – you can only get the Paramour achievement by romancing a new party member, but that betrays the one you might have had in the other game. Personally, as a renegade, in the first game I went with Ashley as a romance and in this one went with Jack, as it completely fits my concept of Shepard to be a cheating bastard.
There’s also some other interesting changes made from the first game. The Mako no longer exists, though you can get something similar in the Firewalker DLC but it controls infinitely better (the M-44 Hammerhead). Instead of exploring side planets like the first game you scan planets for minerals using probes, which cost credits. Credits in this game are pseudo-finite (you can only get infinite if you bet credits at the vorcha pit but this is painfully stupid and slow) so you want to try and make most probes count, plus using probes can sometimes let you do side missions. Since the Collectors are nowhere near as numerous as the Geth, during most side missions you are forced to fight against one of three mercenary groups – the Blue Suns (turians, batarians, and humans), the Blood Pack (krogan and vorcha who also use varren as attack dogs), and lastly Eclipse (salarians, asari, and humans who also use mechs). You may be wondering “what the fuck are vorcha”, and the answer to that is that they are absolute fucking mooks who pose barely any threat to you whatsoever, so no worries.
Right off the bat in this game you can start on Insanity difficulty, and you absolutely have to use cover if you want to survive this time. Thankfully the cover system is much improved over the old system in Mass Effect, and directing your squadmates is incredibly easy. This game is actually really interesting compared to the first in another way, which is that if you import a save from Mass Effect, you can get all the achievements in the game in one playthrough as opposed to the 3 full playthroughs you needed for Mass Effect. Overall the game is about 30 hours shorter than Mass Effect if one considers getting all the achievements in both games. Combat is much improved in the sequel, and while still fairly easy, Shepard is a much more vulnerable character in general compared to his immunity-spamming counterpart from the first game. Many enemies will try to get around cover, making my infiltrator annoyed to no end, and enemies will try to pin you down with covering fire or biotics at times while drawing closer. Fighting the Collectors can be a particularly annoying experience due to the presence of Harbinger – a total asshole who can possess any Collector on the battlefield, rejuvenating them and giving them annoying biotic attacks to deal with.
Roleplaying options are fairly similar to Mass Effect, but a few key things have changed. For one, clicking “Investigate” no longer makes my PC crash for no fucking reason. Secondly, during conversations you will sometimes see a mouse icon at the bottom right of the screen. This is called an “interrupt” and can increase your renegade and/or paragon scores, letting you do certain cool things such as shooting hostages an enemy is trying to hold, pushing people out windows, shooting people, or shooting more people (can you take a guess which kind of triggers I liked?). Instead of Charm or Intimidate as something you can manually level up, you instead are judged now based on the amount of paragon/renegade points you’ve accumulated over the game to see if you can choose the appropriate intimidate or charm option. This is particularly aggravating for anyone trying to go with both kinds of options, as you need to stick with one or the other to make some really important intimidate/charm options near the end of the game which can affect the suicide mission.
Lastly, the inventory system has been removed entirely. Breathe a sigh of relief knowing you’ll never need to turn another fucking crate full of items into omni-gel due to lack of space.
Let’s go over some of the DLC. The digital deluxe edition came with the Aegis Pack, which has the M-29 Incisor sniper rifle, and it’s pretty fucking awesome as I carried over my renegade Infiltrator from the first game and this is one hell of a gun. The Aegis Pack also has the Kestrel armor which is equally nice for an infiltrator. The Collector Weapons’ and Armor also comes with the Digital Deluxe Edition, giving you access to Collector Armor and a Collector Assault Rifle, neither of which I gave a shit about, so we’ll move on.
The Normandy Crash Site, Zaeed – The Price of Revenge, Cerberus Weapon and Armor, Arc Projector, and Firewalker Pack are all free DLC items you can download, and they add a decent amount to the game. After that, you have to start buying DLC via Bioware points. Kasumi – Stolen Memory adds a useful party member to the mix with a fun loyalty mission, the Equalizer Pack gives you some more armor and frankly isn’t worth the money for an infiltrator, Overlord lets you go on an interesting side mission, and Lair of the Shadow Broker is one of the best DLC missions I’ve ever seen. From here you can get even more DLC if so inclined – Blood Dragon Armor for registering Dragon Age: Origins, Inferno Armor if you preordered the game from certain retailers, Terminus Weapon and Armor if you preordered from EBGames, and 3 items if you happened to buy Dr. Pepper. As you can tell, given that this writeup on DLC has taken up about a third of this fucking review, Bioware didn’t skimp on all the extra stuff you can have in Mass Effect 2.
While I haven’t covered everything this game has to offer, that should be enough to interest some people into trying the sequel. The plot is weaker than the one Mass Effect had, but offers more development for the characters. Overall it’s definitely a 4/5 game that you should check out when you can. I’m looking forward to Arrival on the 29th. (P.S., Admiral Hackett returns in it, he was awesome in the first game). You may also wish to check out the shitty iPhone game, Mass Effect Galaxy, if you want more backstory on Jacob and Miranda, two characters that are also in Mass Effect 2.
All in all, Bioware did a pretty great job with the sequel. Be sure to get it, even if the main story is a little short.