Mass Effect 2 or Episodic RPGs

First of all, this review will contain tons of potential spoilers about both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.
Consider yourselves warned.

Rabidgames regards Mass Effect 2 as a complicated game – the experience ranges from excellent to annoying to outright retarded.

Technically, the game worked fine except for one thing: First thing that happened when Rabidgames started playing Mass Effect 2 by importing his character was a freeze – yes, the one after 10 minutes of cutscenes you cannot skip – way to go! This bug has not been fixed for years although it is well known. The fix is as weird as Bioware is lazy: Switch off your controller after the Normandy has been shred to pieces and it’s allegedly fine (it worked for Rabidgames) … what irony the import seems to be fucked for quite some people in Mass Effect 3, too.

The Story

Yes, the story is the reason why Rabidgames chose the headline “episodic RPG”. Mass Effect 2 doesn’t feel like a huge game, it is rather a collection of a not-that-great story arc combined with tales about different characters. Most of the single stories are connected way to loosely to guarantee a coherent experience.

To cut the story into bite-sized pieces is not necessarily bad in theory. In Mass Effect 2 however, we have about 6 missions which really deal with the Collectors, the main threat of the game, while there are almost 20 side missions which are considered main missions as well – without basically any link to the main story. And make no mistakes, this week – spending more than half of the game taking care of personal luggage while whole colonies get harvested feels like a troublesome case of misplaced priorities (looking at Mass Effect 3, it seems history is bound to repeat itself).

However, almost each single mission plays in its microcosm – and there we find an actually fleshed out world. Most loyalty missions are designed in an intriguing way, letting you know more about the character or his species, and getting to know this character better. And make no mistake – the main missions about Cerberus vs The Collectors are great – especially the suicide mission. The very last mission is where Mass Effect 2 and Bioware really shine – it is an epic tale of drama – especially when playing it for the first time. Rabidgames was shocked as hell when (the loyal) Miranda took a shot and collapsed … luckily she survived but that moment was a good example how can feel connected to characters …

But the ending twist is incredibly weak … a fucking Terminator embryo? Really? Sure, it makes sense to harvest humans due to their diverse genetic code and the fact Shepard brought down Sovereign … but it still sucks! Bioware could have chosen a different form at the very least. The other “twist” – the Collectors are degenerated Protheans – came as a real surprise in Rabidgames‘ first playthrough though.

As in the original Mass Effect, the lore is simply awe-inspiring in its complexity and detail: Be it the council which refuses to acknowledge the Reaper threat, the fleshed out universe with hundreds of planets – dozens of them with a short backstory themselves, the inclusion of new races, the fate of the Protheans … it is all there to be explored. Yet, Rabidgames still feels it has been done better before – in part 1. You got to talk to new species, you tried to understand them … in Mass Effect 2, you mostly read about Vorcha, Hanar, Volus or Batarians. Sure, it is easier to do that in the introduction of a series, but places like Ilium or Tuchanka offer some insight admittedly, but Rabidgames feels something is missing in Mass Effect 2.

The characters

They deserve to be reviewed as an own category because Bioware put a lot of time into designing them.

Let’s start with our dear friends from the first game: Kaiden respectively Ashley play a very minor part and can therefore be neglected. Wrex (if he survived, of course) has started uniting Krogan clans. A clever Krogan all of a sudden … It’ll be interesting to see the differences in Mass Effect 3 when we’ll try to recruit the Krogans. Tali’s fate has 3 possibilities: Either she is exiled, not loyal or still a member of the Quarian society. Sounds interesting, too. Garrus is the most interesting character because he is the only one who can have paragon/renegades paths in both games (and in Rabidgames‘ humble opinion, he is the best character anyway). Liara has changed significantly – from the naive scientist to the all-knowing Shadow Broker.

It still seems odd we will be able to play those characters again in Mass Effect 3 – all other characters introduced in Mass Effect 2 won’t be in the crew. Bioware, that fucking sucks. Why? Rabidgames wants Mordin and Legion in his team, for fuck’s sake!

Oh yes, the other characters: Mordin is awesome. He is a mastermind who has done good and bad and a really deep character who reflects his decisions. Has Rabidgames mentioned he wants Mordin in his Mass Effect 3 squad? Damn! Grunt is a blueprint Krogan who is not really that interesting. He teaches us a bit about Krogans, but that’s it.

Jacob is a boring, pure paragon character (though not as whiny as Kaiden was). He’ll die in the Renegade playthrough. Miranda is useful in combat (not for just staring at her ass, mind you) but not that interesting as a character, either. She’s not really the pure Cerberus officer in the end anymore (she even defends Paragon Shepard’s decision to blow up the base) … Jack is a fucking walking apocalypse – an interesting character who sadly is not explored that much.

Thane only serves one reason – to introduce the Drell. It works. The part time Assassin was really helping to understand the weird Drell culture. Samara and Morinth represent the bright and the darkest sides of the Asari culture. Interesting in theory, but Rabidgames didn’t give a fuck about any of them. Legion is the last but definitely not the least addition – and mainly because of his influence on the lore: the Geth are not the pure evil we’ve always thought, and its/their thought processes are hilarous.

Kasumi and Zaaed just tell some stories … Zaeed’s stories are sometimes funny as hell, Kasumi’s not so much.

The Gameplay

Compared to its predecessor, the gameplay has evolved and mostly improved. The clumsy battles from Mass Effect have made way to some almost Gears of War like fighting. It plays smooth and more tactical. But while shooting has improved (but still not en par with proper shooters), your abilities have degraded. You still have quite a lot (depending on your class) but your squad mates are stuck with meager two abilities until half of the game at least – sorry guys, that’s just not enough variety in battle. Plus, it renders characters such as Jack pretty worthless …

The Paragon/Renegade choices are still there, and while most are of a more personal nature, they might still have grave consequences in Mass Effect 3. The interrupt options are a decent addition – be sure not to miss ’em!

The upgrades are fun to develop – but near the end of the game, you still get them in missions – yet they do nothing any more (thanks to all the DLC). This could have been implemented way better. That’s a blatant design omission.

The DLC packs

This might be interesting for players who bought them years ago when they were cheap and are not sure what to do with it now – or for people who want to complete Mass Effect 2 before importing a character into Mass Effect 3. OK, let’s start with all those weapons and appearance packs – just forget them. They’re basically crap and wasted resources. If you want one certain weapon though knock yourself out – it’s not that they’re expensive …

Zaaed is not really necessary although he is a good addition to the squad (thanks to his Inferno Grenades) and his stories are awesome. Plus, if you bought the game new back in the day, he is free anyway. Same goes for the Normandy Crash Site (short collecting mission without any fights) and the Firewalker pack (the Mako was bad but the Hammerhead is outright boring).

Project Overlord has a decent backstory but the sections with the Hammerhead are a fucking pain.

Kasumi‘s mission is fun to play – first we have nice little adventure mimicking the Ocean flicks, then it’s taking on a shitload of enemies and a boss himself. Plus, you get the best SMG of Mass Effect 2.

Lair of the Shadow Broker is undoubtedly one of the best DLC packs ever and definitely worth the money. The story is great, the battles are challenging … but the boss design sucks. You basically do the same stuff again and again … why would anyone empty a fucking shield or barrier bar again and again? Why? Apart from the tenacious boss fight, the Shadow Broker’s base gives you lot of options to choose from after completing the DLC: Background checks on your squad, changing your squad’s abilities and getting freebies are just some of them. BUY!

Arrival is pretty vital to understand the beginning of Mass Effect 3. There is also a sneaking section (although very easy) and a “Survive 5 waves of enemies” arena battle – Rabidgames has to admit he failed since his Adept was not really well-equipped there …

The Stats

Here are some random stats Rabidgames shares with you for no reason at all:

Playtime: 75:53
Credits: 186.123
Resources:
Palladium:       828.446
Iridium:           958.413
Platinum:        791.694
Element Zero:  227.537

All squad members were loyal, the whole crew survived.
Rabidgames played as Paragon Adept on normal difficulty and imported his old Shepard (Ashley’s dead, Wrex, Rachni Queen and Council survived).
Each and every planet has been scanned and at least one probe has been sent there (including Uranus).
FYI, all the bonuses for importing a character and replaying Mass Effect 2 helped to reach Lv. 30 and get everything bought and upgraded.

By the way, if you want to have a look at the suicide mission gone horribly wrong, enjoy:

Rabidgames is divided: Yes, Mass Effect 2 has more content than Mass Effect 1 – basically 30 hours more. That’s quite something for your money. And while the story is not as deep and the RPG parts have shrunk, Mass Effect 2 is still a decent game which tells a more personal story instead of a universal one. We’ll see what all our choices really mean pretty soon …


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