Words can’t really describe just how excited I was for this day. Outside of the infinite replay value of Super Smash Bros. and Halo, the original Mass Effect is one of my favorite games of all time, and I didn’t even really like playing it.
What I mean is, I love Mass Effect in SPITE of the fact it’s a video game, as I mostly felt like I was playing an exceptionally well-written twenty hour long movie. To me, the game controls were clunky, the leveling and equipment systems were a mess, but it was all taking place within such a rich, beautiful and fascinating universe, that I didn’t care one bit.
Like many big franchises churning out sequels, Mass Effect 2 had a big long checklist of improvements to be made over the first game, and seven hours in, I can already see how many lingering issues have been fixed, though the “game” aspect of things still does need work in areas.
But first, we have to set up where we are. After saving the galaxy from the apocalyptic Reaper threat, Commander Shepard finds the Normandy blown out of the sky by an unknown vessel. Before things completely break apart, he’s able to rush his crew to the lifeboats, but he doesn’t get out in time.
He wakes up and is told that he has been dead, for two years, and a mysterious corporation has exhausted all of their resources to literally bring him back to life via the “Lazarus Project.” The reason? The Reapers are still out there, and the Alliance doesn’t care, so Shepard is the only man that can stop them. However, the corporation he now works for is likely to have some ulterior motives along the way.
And it’s very annoying to work for someone named “The Illusive Man.”
Shepard finds out his old crew has been disbanded across the galaxy, and the first part of the game, and where I find myself now, is his search of the galaxy for the “best of the best” to join his team to fight the Reaper threat. A biotic convict, a Krogan genetic experiment, a mad scientist and so on. Each has their role to play, and it’s up to you to find them and sway them to join the fight
Playing Mass Effect 2 has elicited a response from me that I’m almost ashamed to be reporting. It’s all very, emotional. Even just to see my own custom created Shepard back in action was a sight for sore eyes, and as I saw the Normandy rebuilt and christened, and ran into old familiar face after old familiar face, I felt like I was seeing old friends again. I’m not some sort of social deviant, but really, truly Bioware has created a game that allows the player to fully emotionally become the person they’re controlling, and their relationships become your relationships.
Despite my Paragon-ness, some things I meet just don’t want to be friends.
As expected, the depth of Mass Effect 2 so far is just as phenomenal as the first. Each SUB-mission could potentially be its own feature film, much less the main questline, and the writing and digital acting is excellent throughout.
Another amazing part of the game is that when you import you old character, it’s not just a face, all the decisions you’d made in the first game come along as well. Who you loved, who you killed and who you showed mercy toward all come up. Whether it’s in a big way, where they rejoin your team or fight beside you in a mission, or a tiny one, where you run into an old warlord you spared who has now turned her life around as a social worker, it’s little touches that make you really appreciate how your decisions matter in this universe. I’ve yet to find my darling Liara, but I do have a picture of her on my desk in my quarters on the Normandy, because the game remembers how I lovingly banged her that one night before we all thought we were going to die. As I said, it’s the little things.
But enough nostalgia, what’s DIFFERENT about Mass Effect 2? What are all those things Bioware fixed from the first game?
Combat is a great deal better. There is now no weapon specialization and also, no more infinite ammo. This means that players freely switch from weapon to weapon when running out of clips, greatly diversifying combat as players don’t have to be worried their class isn’t “shotgun proficient” or whatever.
It is a bit annoying however, that when you go to recruit all these new squad mates, you watch a omnipotent biotic tear up three mega-mechs in under a minute, or a legendary fugitive snipe an entire army of mercenaries, but once they join your crew? You’re lucky if they kill one enemy for every ten you put down. But to be fair, partner AI is much improved from the previous game, and you won’t have to spend the majority of the fight reviving your teammates, as they generally now now how to shoot straight and use cover.
I never use biotic or tech powers, I just let me teammates do it, so I can’t speak for that aspect.
It all still feels a bit clunky however, because as much as I love Bioware, they don’t do smooth combat very well, as demonstrated by my foray into Dragon Age last month. It’s like a rougher version of Gears of War combat, with cover playing a larger part in things this time around, but it still just doesn’t feel quite…right. But the fact is, it is leagues above the last game, and is a great deal more fun this time around.
The inventory system was completely broken in the first game, where players collected mountains of useless ammo and armor and gun upgrades that sat in a large useless pile, waiting to be broken down into omni-gel. But the revamping of the system, is not a revamping at all. There is now NO inventory system at all. Instead, every so often the player finds gun or armor upgrades, which cost minerals to have your ship’s scientist research. Ammo upgrades are now combat perks, where the player has to activate them mid-fight in a system I don’t fully understand. Are they always on, or do I have to keep pressing it every few seconds to get it to kick in? I mean it IS assigned to a button in combat after all.
I don’t really like this system. So far, I haven’t found any sort of way to compare weapon or armor stats, as they simply don’t have any. They just have paragraph long descriptors as to what they’re effective against, and I guess you just assume that the newest thing you find is the best. I feel if minor tweaks were made to the old inventory system they just could have left it in place, as “random item drops” are often the best part of RPGs.
This is all the time we have for today, even though there are a million more things to discuss, but that’s why this is a journal series! I’m sure I’ll beat this game at least twice in the next month or so (gotta play through making all the opposite decisions!) and I’ll be reporting back on my newest adventures soon. So far, it’s everything I wanted it to be.
But one more thing before I go: DOES ANYONE KNOW HOW TO USE MEDI-GEL IN THIS DAMN GAME? If you do, please enlighten me.
I’ve been told not to bang the crazy chick. We shall see. 13