Mass Effect 2 Review

Mass Effect 2I feel like it is long past time I said a few words about the Xbox 360’s Mass Effect 2.  Mass Effect 2 is Bioware’d space RPG that continues the story of Command Shepherd in his battle against a great threat to humanity.  I am leaving plot references vague, in order to to avoid spoilers, but be warned regardless.   Long story short: It was a good game with a lot of great things to say about it, but I was still disappointed.

A Game of Choices

Mass Effect 2 is a game of choices.  Your actions have an effect on what will be occurring later in the world and in the eventual Mass Effect 3.  These are usually moral choices, such as saving military infrastructure on a doomed planet and letting the civilian population die, or vice versa.  Depending on your actions, teammates and even Shepherd himself can live or die.  That’s right – it is possible to conclude this game with the main character dying.  However, these decisions often seem to only have future unforeseen implications.  I would have liked to have seen more decisions feel like they were affecting the game I am playing, rather than the game I might be playing in 3 years.  Dragon Age did this very succesfully.  Choices made in the first game impact events in this game, but often they are only mentioned in passing and have little impact on what is going on (other than perhaps your decision to save or eliminate the Citadel Council in the first game), which I found disappointing and made me less interested in the moral calls I had to make as the consequences seem like they will really not matter much.

RPG anyone?

Mass Effect 2 has been hailed by many critics for its simplified game mechanics.  Have trouble managing your inventory?  Don’t worry – it’s gone.  For me, this made the game feel too much like a third person shooter because alot of these RPG elements are missing.  I like finding that new gadget of +5 awesomeness while on a mission and equipping it.  Instead, you can equip various items that you find while still on the ship, but only on Shepherd – there is no squad customization other than an alternate costumes.  That being said, this isn’t a game killer and is actually a plus for many people.  I just liked the old system better when I could kit my team out.

Let’s((not) Go Exploring!

ME2 JackpotI Mass Effect 1 you could explore planets throughout the galaxy by dropping down in your handy APC like vehicle and having  a look around.  You could fight bad guys, find treasures, etc.  This is gone in Mass Effect 2.  In its place is a system of searching for minerals(for upgrades) and potential side missions with your ship’s scanners.  I appreciate that a lot of people did not like the planet roaming missions (I suppose I was the only who did), but that was no reason to replace it with a tedious mode that resembles playing with a magnifying glass.

Sequel Syndrome

Mass Effect 2, like any sequel, suffers from a need to improve what came before it, while trying not to stray from what made the first so great.  ME2, therefore, plays it safe.  The game does not show anything radically new, but rides the first game’s coat tails.  Mass Effect 2 does do many things better.  The side missions, for example, are as well scripted as most of the plot missions.  However, the game did not capture the magic the first one had.  Without giving away plot elements, I felt the story taken it its whole just wasn’t as epic.  Even the new characters lacked the charm of the old ones, regardless of whatever couch or bed scenes the designers could dream up – the only teammates I really listened to were those leftover from the first game that I’d grown to love then.  To be fair – Mass Effect 1 was a piece of storytelling genius that would be hard to replicate.  To be fair, this is the Mass Effect’s ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and it really did feel like it was trying to just bridge us towards the endgame of Mass Effect 3.

Length was also an issue for me – this game did not take long to beat at all, and I did not feel compelled to play it a second time.

To Sum Up

Mass Effect 2 is a strong game, despite my criticism.  I bought it, and do not regret it. I’d recommend it to others.  Still, I felt it could have been better.  The game should have been longer and could have been more emotionally resonant with its storytelling.  However, I may just be squeezing blood from a rock on this one.  Mass Effect 1 left with high hopes of what Mass Effect 2 might be – hopes that were probably unreasonable.  That being said, this game was fun the whole way through and that really is the point, isn’t it?

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