Mass Effect 2: The Illusive RPG

I am finally catching up on the games that I missed while my Xbox was MIA and this week’s agenda was full of some robo-killing space adventures. The first Mass Effect aroused me in ways that no woman ever could. It was one of my favorite games of all time. So I pop in Mass Effect 2 and discover that this game is quite different from its predecessor. The differences are all very hit or miss and left me unable to judge this book by its cover. So let’s dive in.

The game begins by teaming you up with Cerberus, the villainous corporation from the first game that you butted heads against on several side missions. Your testicles lay in the hands of “The Illusive Man” aka the big cheese at Cerberus.  While there are initially some trust issues, they never really seem to be a problem. You would think working for your former enemy would cause more awkward situations. Alas, Shepherd goes off on an adventure to save the universe with them anyway.

No. He has creeper eyes.

The main story is wonderfully simple. You are to investigate the mysterious disappearances of human colonies around the galaxy. There are interesting plot developments, but the majority of missions revolve around your crew. If you choose, you will get to know your shipmates very well. They each have interesting background and story missions to play through. This is where the heart of the Mass Effect universe lies. There is a brilliant feel of reality in the people and your interactions with them. Unfortunately, a lot of RPG elements were removed from the game.

While character and story missions are both fun, they have a very strong “mission” feeling to them. The first game’s progression felt natural and free. You went where you needed to and figured out what to do to achieve your goal. This time around, you go where you have to and fight through enemies until your objective is met. There is no sense of exploration. Oh, and that reminds me of something. You cannot explore worlds anymore. Instead, you get to scan and probe them for minerals from the comfort of the Normandy. Exciting, no? No.

Minerals are used to update your ship or your squad’s armor and weaponry. Gone are the days of have an inventory and free market economy. I never bought anything from a single vendor and I only changed my weapon load-out once or twice. I am truly unsure of why there is no longer different armor. I can only assume the point was to make this more of an action game and less of an RPG. In fact, I sometime thought ME2 was beginning to feel like a rail shooter. A large bulk of the missions involve going from point A to B, while killing everything in sight. That is rail shooterish behavior! Someone threw the RPG elements out the window.

Without the Mako, worlds seem much smaller. You only traverse a small part of them on foot. But that isn’t the only downsize. If you were wanting to visit the Citadel and explore some familiar territory, your hopes will be crushed. There is only a small new section that you are allowed to visit. The old familiar areas are off limits.

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Guest Review Mass Effect 2: Aliens on Broadway

Mass Effect (not affect) was a pinnacle of storytelling when it came out waaaaaay back in 2007 (we still had Dubya in the White House). When I finished it for the first time I truly felt like I had done something epic. My in game decisions mattered and I even got some hot alien lovin’. Mass Effect 2 builds upon the storytelling aspect and improved the gameplay so well that it could very well be an all time classic in the Malonish household.

The graphics in this one are slick and futuristic. Alien characters are unique in their facial tattoos and markings so not very many of them look the same as in the first Mass Effect. The familiar places from the first game are revamped and look more futuristic and colorful and there are many new places to go in the galaxy that were only mentioned in the first game. The best thing about the graphical upgrade is that every location is unique and there are no open world Mako shenanigans. The character graphics are also nice in that Yvonne Strahovski from Chuck is in the game. The only actor missing is Keanu Reeves.

Keanu Reeves loves Mass Effect 2 and Morality Points

Mass Effect 2’s gameplay is a nice upgrade from the original. It feels more like an action game than an RPG-based shooter but still has the RPG elements we all love. The cover system is pretty good, as any should be, and the ally controls are improved so you can send one partner ahead instead of only both. The weapon selection is awesome in this game since there are many different weapon types including a new heavy weapons class. There is no infinite ammo in this game but guns can no longer be overheated (I always got pissed when an enemy would overheat my gun). The abilities that you can use are fun. The lift power is directional and fires like a shot but what if the enemy is behind cover? You go Wanted on their ass and curve it around their cover so they fly up spread eagle and then you can shoot them to your heart’s content. Another large upgrade to gameplay is that there are actions you can take during conversations that interrupt a scene. For example, you punch a guy you are interrogating as opposed to trying to convince him nicely to give up his info. These interrupts give some new spice to the already scrum-diddly-umptios flavor of the conversation system.

The story is awesome if you just picked up the series for the first time and even better if you import a character from the original. Your decisions can carry over into the next game and you can meet people you saw in the first game that thank you or hate you. Some of the best story happens in the conversations you have with your teammates on the ship between missions (not to mention some more alien lovin’). My favorite conversations are with a Salarian scientist named Mordin. He seems like a serious scientist until this happens:

He also gives you some manuals with preferred positions of the alien species you may be hooking up with and offers some oils and lotions. This game, while serious, has plenty of funny and melodramatic moments.

The Good: Awesome graphics, gameplay, and story that push the envelopes on how modern games should be.

The Bad: New players might be behind on the story and wonder what the plot of the series is; there was also one time that I finished a mission and on the cinematic afterwards I got a game over screen but no other glitches so far.

The Verdict: Everyone should make love to this game like you can make love with the alien in the biosuit. I believe this game could be in the running for game of the year.

Thanks to Malonish for submitting this guest review.

For another opinion on Mass Effect 2, read Neutrally Chaotic’s review here.

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Mass Effect 2: A Breakup Letter

Dear Mass Effect 2,

Mass Effect 2. Dearest, Mass Effect 2. Whatever will I do with you? We’ve had our good times and bad, but you’ve made some decisions that have left me scratching my head. You’ve changed ever since your early years as Mass Effect 1, and while I’m still the same old Shepherd, you’re not the same game I fell in love with. This is going to be hard to hear, especially since it seems you have millions upon millions of admirers and–dare I say?—fanboys, but sometimes the hardest things to hear are the most important.

First, I’d like to say that you still sport that superb storytelling that first drew me to you. Actually, in this area you’ve improved across the board. Recruiting team members, gaining their trust, and simply getting to know each person—each one flawed, fleshed out, and masterfully written—was a treat. The voice acting has been ratcheted up to another level; Martin Sheen is Shepherd’s boss in this go around, and every time I heard his voice, I imagined him sitting behind his desk in the West Wing. I’d go to the ends of the universe and back for President Bartlet, and in fact I did.

Meet President Bartl--err, the Illusive Man

But here’s the thing: your universe feels empty, beloved Mass Effect 2. When I returned to the Citadel, the whole scale and grandeur I had felt when I first walked through the Presidium and Wards was completely lost. I remember back in our old days, when you were still Mass Effect 1, we would romp about planets, and even if they were empty, at least we were romping. Sure, the vehicle controls sometimes sucked, but it sure beat the hell out of sending probes to scour a planet for minerals. Finding minerals might be the most boring thing I’ve done in a video game for a long time. The inclusion of hacking mini games is certainly an improvement over the old you, but still, don’t ever make me scan planets, ever again. My play through lasted 35 hours. That’s a pretty big chunk of time, but at the same time, I’d say at least 5 of those hours were spent gathering resources.

Pretty, but you won't be seeing this much

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