Mass Effect 2 Review by: endingsMass Effect 2: "The Magnificent Seven" in space
Mass Effect 2, carries on the 3-part story of Command Shepard, captain of the Normandy space cruiser, the war hero and savior of the galaxy in Mass Effect 1. The notable changes in this game from the original are the boost in graphics, a darker, more personal storyline, and combat feeling very much like the multitude of cover-shooting games that were popular at the time (Kill Switch, Gears of War, etc.). Coming from an RPG that felt like it wanted to be a third-person shooter, now the game has flipped, ME2 is a shooter that sometimes acts like an RPG. This game has tons of Bioware's two C's : combat and conversations. It sounds kind of like it wouldn't work, but it does. There is much less of an RPG feel to this game though, gone is inventory management, and a feeling of exploring a larger world.
This game has plenty of side-quests.. but doesn't really have a lot of story acts, since most of the game is built of you just getting a team that can survive the mission. But its still quite a long game, since recruiting each person is deviously its own journey, and there are 7 of them (plus some optional ones, and some stowaways lol), so this game has the largest cast of people you can take into battle... and that means more to talk to.
This game is quite famous (deservedly so) for its final mission. The Bioware team is good at making you invested in your team, and want to hear their conversations and care about them. Thats why the 'Suicide Mission' stands out as one of the most thrilling stories in Mass Effect, as each and every crew member you have could potentially meet their maker on this quest, all based on the final decisions you make. It could be just one, a couple, or your WHOLE ship (lol yikes). Or maybe they all live, and make it to Mass Effect 3.
Quite a difference from the first game, technically speaking, a complete improvement. The cut-scenes are fantastic, and the s
election of ship designs and weapon graphics is improved. But really one plays these games for the well-acted cast, so how do they fare?
Gone are the flat-colored faces of ME1, hello high-def bodies and shadowing in ME2. The people here looks quite realistic for the most part. From the seductive 'I'm not bad I'm drawn that way' Miranda Lawson to the older, mysteriously always-sitting Illusive Man -- the character designers had a field day on this game, everyone pops and is noticeable. I also like the smaller touches to characters to show personality, the small lines of war paint on some of the alien's faces (to show rank, or clan, all sorts of things) that help flesh out their culture.
And the tech-graphics and effects are nice and bold. Seeing someone use an omni-tool (a holographic computer on your wrist) and summon little robots is pretty cool. Freezing enemies solid with a blast of a cold ray is quite impressive. You also can be a biotic (think space-wizard psychic) and create chains of attacks that decimate the enemy in flashy explosions.
The only thing I would knock down in this game is related to most of the environments being small hallways and feeling tiny. When you visit the Citadel (the biggest city in the galaxy) in the first game, its at least 3 giant maps. Here, it feels like Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. its just a tightly compact area with some shops. There's no real exploring for some of the maps, it feels like a step back in a couple places.
If we are talking vocal cast, lets give it a 10. There is so much dialog, and so many characters, Mordin, Tali, have unique voices and memorable moments that make them stand out. I had no issues at all with the main characters, a few smaller one-note roles do all seem to sound the same (the volus guys for example) but thats probably because they have so few lines of dialog one person just does all the voices.
Sound effects here are pretty good, I didn't notice the loud clomp-clomping step from ME1. I did like the volume of characters was noticeably affected the further you walk away from them (there is more ambient talking in this game). Music is played often, but I found it unmemorable, with no stand out tracks for me at all. It does sound very similar to the music of the first game (and should, its the same composer).
Its quite exciting. There is so much to talk to (and shoot), and the fact each recruiting of a character is often a entertaining mission on its own, I had a lot of fun with this one. This game introduces a lot of new characters, and manages to make them engaging and just as interesting if not more so than the people who left. Its quite amazing.
Its a good story, it is. But there were a couple forced plot-points I wasn't so crazy about. In this game you are brought back to fight off a new threat, not the giant threat that almost ate the galactic U.N. last time.. but the odd Collectors. a mysterious group of aliens that kidnap humans off colonies and take them through a teleporting gate.. That no ship (but theirs) has ever survived using. So the first thing I thought of is, ok so only they use that gate right? Blow it up! But it turns out doing that pretty much kills all life on the planets near the gate.. So... bad idea.
So you meet these "Collectors" as soon as you start the game. In an opening cinematic, they attack your ship and blow your character up. Its pretty infuriating actually. No one likes to die in a cut-scene(ask Aeris). But your body is recovered by some shady, rich scientists.. who want you to work for them. They want to rescue all the humans the Collectors have captured, thats good right? Yeah, so it seems. For now.
I didn't like not having a choice. Despite being a soldier for the Alliance, you are forced to work for these morally grey bad guys, but the first thing they do is have you meet their pretty lead scientist, give you a new ship - totally like your old one - down to the supposedly-top-secret technology (rich and well connected), and tell you to get a team together to invade the infamous Omega Relay. Oh yeah, they have a list of people that might work, start on that. Its a lot of help, actually lol. But once you get the ship, why not just run off an leave the bad guys? I dunno. But while the bad guys in this are not as intimidating as the first, the build up to the finale is quite fun.
Having a all new cast of squad mates, and the returning ones saw you die, so each character you recruit doesn't fully trust you, fortunately the game has these things called "Loyalty missions" which are really neat, and basically give each person their own personal mission, tailored around their life issues. Some are really awesome (Tali, looking at you, girl) but it became a trend in the series after this. I was a little put out how some of your former team-mates treat you.. the human one especially. It seemed it needed more there.
A shooter with talking, this is half-an-rpg, really. There is not as much to see here as in previous games, thought there is an impressive number of places to visit. The world feels grittier here than in ME1, like you just went down the bad-side of the galaxy and it shows in almost every way. You can now act out in cut-scenes at certain times, where a pull of left or right trigger on the controller will prompt your character to act good or bad if you did it quick enough. The bad boy approaches often make me feel like an anti-hero, and that the more evil you act, the more your facial surgery changes is kind of silly, but interesting. The fact you learn about your crew and slowly begin to build their trust so they ask you about the Loyalty mission was really nice. Your squad has a TON of dialog, and some real gems may surprise you.
The Illusive man, your frienemy/benefactor and the leader of Cerberus, walks a careful line between doing whats best for humanity and selfishly serving his interests. He's a great character here, and I spent the whole game wanting to know where in the heck he was hiding. His office has the best screen-saver in the world (lol).
Harbinger, the big bad guy, is not so impressive. He comes off a flat character, like a stock sci-fi villain and has boring dialog filled with threats and how dare you and so on. He made me wish for the great villains of ME 1.
Its not such a difficult game, but its quite different in combat from the first, and RPG players may be intimidated with this run-n-gun action. Gone are the (smarter) choice of using recharging energy packs in combat, now you must contend with using bullets.. its a strange side-step, done to make combat fit in with modern gaming.. but not one I support for this world, who had already had better technology.
That being said, because there is so much fighting in this game, I did find myself dying a couple times at least. Strangely, what this game suffers from most is boss fights. There really feels there should have been more of them, with all the shooting going on.
The fact they can almost completely recast the crew and make them just as awesome, combined with great graphics is a win in my book. I don't like this one as much as the rpg-roots of the first, but its a very, very solid game that excels at telling set character pieces. The missions to recruit (or not) your crew and play through their world is very engaging, as is learning about them and wanting to help them in their personal Loyalty mission.
But the fact this is a continuation is what makes me rate this slightly higher, the story evolves, and you start to see some of the heavy choices you saw in the first game bear fruit. Seeing my old squad mate the battle-scarred warrior come over and call to my character, calling him friend.. I knew what they had been through together, and it felt like a real friendship in how they talked. This is Biowares strength, cinematic storytelling, and the best reason to play this game.