The whole idea of interactive media like video games is to make you feel like your existence matters, that you're having an impact on the universe and not just punching in ones and zeroes. That your decisions acutely have consequences and that you get to collect the rewards of your hard work or suffer the consequences of your actions. Quite a lot of games have begun to create single-player campaigns with different endings, and multiple choices, for quite some time now actually, but BioWare is pushing the concept to a new level.
In Mass Effect 2, all the choices we made during the first game, and there were plenty to make, are reflected in the second one, by importing the Save file. This never-before-seen feature adds an incredible amount of immersion to the game, picking up were you left off and making the title feel a lot more like a book or a movie. Your choices, the ones in the original ME as well as in the second, are rumored to carry over to the last part of the trilogy, so you will actually have a past. It's your character, your build and no one can take that away from you. Story
Following up from where the ME1 left off, the defeat of Sovereign and that of the geth, ME2 pits you against a new enemy, this time the exact opposite of the geth, but still a tool of the Reapers. If you paid an insane amount of attention to the mind flashes from the Prothean beacon in the first game, you might recognize these enemies, but if you didn't, the ultimate spoiler won't be found for you among the following lines. An organic race called the Collectors, almost as elusive as the Reapers themselves, has started attacking human colonies, abducting each and every one of their inhabitants for some mysterious reason. They aren't called the Collectors for nothing, as the little that is known about them is from rumors spread by pirates and slavers, Collectors pay large sums of credits for slaves from different species, an exchange made during a very brief transaction, after which they disappear back through he Omega 4 relay, one that no other ship has ever gone through and returned.
| || |
|Yeah, yeah, I know, "assuming control" ||One distracted, two left to burn |
Recognizing Commander Shepard as a significant threat, the Collectors' first task before beginning to "collect" the humans from the outlying colonies is to eliminate the commander of the Normandy. And to our surprise, they do, and do so in the first five minutes of the game. Our Shepard dies, blown into space with a damaged suit, but, just as with the Bionic Man, with the Cerberus organization having both the money and the technology, they rebuild him, us, so that we can stop the Collectors and whatever these may be, and hinder the
Reapers' plans. And so, two years later, Shepard is brought back to life and we're given a new ship and a skeleton crew to venture forth into the galaxy and save humanity.
Since it's a sequel to the first Mass Effect, the base concept of the game should be that it's an RPG with third-person shooter elements. But the title doesn't act like this at all, and if anything, it's the exact opposite, with more focus on action and on different RPG elements than the previous installment. Following the well-established BioWare formula, you'll have to steadily recruit your team as you progress further to your final objective and talk to them, and get to know them better in order to unlock their true potential.
Like I said, the game focuses on different RPG elements, and a lot of things show it. The inventory has been greatly simplified, and we can't even access it during combat. We get a maximum of around three weapons for each type – pistol, shotgun, submachine gun, assault rifle, sniper and heavy weapon, and the armor isn't any more varied. The base piece of your armor will remain the same, (though I speculate there is a chance you can get another one, and not just through the pre-order exclusive and DLCs) and all you can do is fiddle with small attachments: different helmets, chest pieces, shoulders, legs and hands that are added to your main armor. Overall, this acts less like the varied full-set armor of the first game and more like the classic piece-by-piece build of older RPGs.
| || |
|I think it's shouting at me ||Accessories, now with bonus to stats |
Weapons might not be many, but they can receive different upgrades, for damage, accuracy or maximum ammo, just like your armor can. But there's not a lot of room for customization and individuality. You just keep increasing the basic characteristics, and the only real choices you have to make are for the armor, where the upgrade resources are quite limited, so it's a bit more difficult to simply purchase everything. Gameplay
The gameplay in Mass Effect 2 is a lot faster, meaner and more frantic than in the previous game. Weapons now have a limited ammo feature, so you need to make your shots count a lot more than you did in ME1. Your powers have a munch smaller cooldown time, of just a few seconds, so you can fire in a barrage, but be careful to not evolve your skills towards the same use. At the final level, a skill can be upgraded for single-target damage or area of effect, but since all skills have a global cooldown, and using one means they all become unavailable, it's a really bad idea to upgrade two of your direct damage skills into the same direction, be it massive damage or area of effect, since you won't really get any advantages, unless they're tech/biotic differentiated.
What were once weapon mods in ME11 are skills here, so things like incendiary rounds, disruptor rounds and cryogenic ammo become available to specific classes, and these skills make a world of difference for your weapons. Not all weapons perform the same against biotic barriers, shields or armor, and these skills can help you overcome these weaknesses. The team's AI has also improved, and while you can direct fire at a single target, and catch your mark in a weapon crossfire, you can do the same with tech and biotic abilities, combining your team's powers with your own, for some really devastating effects.
As for the out-of-combat gameplay, things have been sped up here as well. The Mako exploration is gone, and the planet-scanning has become a minigame, just like what was once the electronics skill is now a memory-based minigame. Running the surface of a planet with the scanner's crosshair makes your resource scanner fluctuate, and the closer you launch a probe to the mineral, core the more you'll gain. These resources are spent on upgrades, some more precious than others, and some of the upgrades you purchase will determine in the long run which one of your team mates will survive and maybe even influence your own chances of survival.
| || |
|A Renegade moment, if I ever saw one ||Garrus never left my party |
Another thing that has become more dynamic are the conversations. While we still get the radial selection screen at the bottom, with he Paragon and Renegade special lines, an interrupt system has been implanted, making things a lot more interactive. If the villain starts their endless speech of world dominance, you can get a Renegade quick-time event to cut the senseless speech short with a tungsten round to the head. In the same way, quick-time Paragon events can have you push a civilian out of the line of fire, prevent executions or offer a comforting hug to a devastated Tali'Zorah. Graphics
I don't know what they did with the Unreal 3 engine, only that it uses the 3.5 version, but the game looks ten times better than the first one and runs five times faster on the same PC configuration. Models have been improved, textures are sharpened and the animation is slightly bettered. There aren't a lot of open areas in the title, but that doesn't mean there's a lack of lighting. The effects are beautifully made and the game's overall aspect is truly impressive, and that's without running it on maximum details. The near-death effect present on the screen is a bit too familiar, a replica almost identical to the one in Modern Warfare 2, but the damage to the game's integrity isn't catastrophic. Audio
The game's soundtrack offers a rather impressive performance, with the music fitting in brilliantly with the scenario. The voices are absolutely superb, and each character has a very representative one. From the minor thugs you run into, to the larger plot characters and your party companions, each voice adds a powerful element of depth and uniqueness to each character. Be it Thane, Garus, Shepard or Mordin Solus, each character has a voice that seems to fit so well with their make-up, that we'd almost expect BioWare to reveal it found intelligent life out there in the universe.
| || |
|My main man... turian, whatever ||Every game needs zombies |
Mass Effect 2 continues the epic story that the first game began, and while the story continues where it left off, it sometimes feels a bit shallow. While the Collectors are the main enemy in the game, the confrontations are brief and decisive, leaving little room for the story to evolve. You find out who they are, you find out where they are, how to get there and, then, you go and kill them. Four missions against the Collectors as opposed to the ten special ones you get for each party member, besides the ones in which you recruit each of them. You spend most of the time building a team that, according to your gameplay, you could entirely lose in the end-game. I, for one, lost the entire crew of the Normandy and two of my party members, but things could be even worse.
And while this may sound like a huge fault, it works great with the game. It does make the Collectors feel like a lesser threat, nothing but a string to tie the first Mass Effect to the future third installment, but spending more time with your party members than you did fighting the Collectors proved more than rewarding. You get to know each and every one of them, become attached to them, and, in the end, it will really tear your heart to give one of them an assignment that acts as a death sentence. And this alone makes the game one of the best I've ever played, this feeling of regret over sending an imaginary person to their death.