Mass Effect 2<< Adam, February 22nd, 2010 >>

Having finally completed Mass Effect 2, I must say, it impressed the hell out of me.  I’m going to stay out of spoiler territory until after the click through link.  I don’t consider game mechanics spoiler territory, so we’ll go into all of that first.

Every review of Mass Effect 2 has noted the removal of a lot of RPG elements from the first game.  Whether you consider this “streamlining” or not depends a lot on your perspective.  Personally, I was happy with it.  The fun part of RPG games to me has never been in collecting massive amounts of crap to carry back to a vendor and sell.  It has never been min/maxing sets of weapons and armor.  It has always been about playing through an engrossing story.  Mass Effect 2 has basically decided that it just wants to be a shooter, but have a really fantastic story, and for that, I appreciate it.  There’s no more, “Hey, is this gun better than this one? ” nonsense.  You’re told flat out which guns are improvements to which guns.  To me, this is streamlining; in Mass Effect 1, it was simply a distraction.  Mainly, I think this works because the game is a shooter, and does in fact rely on the player to be “good” at the game.  This is in contrast to “traditional” RPGs where there are more number mechanics in play for miss chances, resistances, etc.

I had also forgotten how awesome the dialog system is in Mass Effect.  Mass Effect 2 leaves this system exactly intact – no tweaks or changes necessary here.  It was interesting to play Mass Effect 2 immediately after Dragon Age: Origins to compare the difference between having a main character that talks to one who doesn’t.  I actually feel like I know Commander Shepard, where my character in Dragon Age, for all her in-game world renown still felt completely anonymous to me.

As for how your decisions in Mass Effect affect Mass Effect 2?  Well, yes and no.  Your decisions come up.  Do they ever drastically change the nature of the game you’re playing?  No, not really.  In the end, these decisions end up being flavor more than anything.  I imagine that the same will hold true for the decisions you make in Mass Effect 2; your decisions will color the world, but they will not end up changing the overall course of events.  This actually comes out in the dialogue every once in awhile.  For example, in one character’s Loyalty mission, it is made fairly clear that no matter what action you take, there is no 100% guarantee that you could eliminate the threat you’re dealing with.  The writers are very crafty in giving themselves an “out” to make your decision be important, but strangely not have any permanence.

Inside, lets talk about the completely bad ass final mission.

Spoilers on.

So assaulting the Collector’s base was an absolutely amazing set of events.  From the moment the Normandy went through the relay, I really felt like all the chips were on the table, and that I might start making bad decisions that would get my crew (who I felt seriously devoted in by this point) killed.  Little did I know that I had already doomed a bunch of NPCs by not immediately heading into the Omega 4 relay after getting the Reaper IFF.  And who could blame me?  I still needed Legion’s loyalty!  I am conflicted though, as cool as Legion’s loyalty mission is, I was quite sad to see Yeoman Chambers die.

I did manage to get out with all my team members alive though.  Reading some FAQs, this is apparently very contingent on having done their loyalty missions.  It is also contingent on buying two of the more clearly necessary upgrades for the Normandy.  I’ll be honest though, I kept having flashbacks to watching Serenity.  I thought someone was going to get blown away any second, and it was going to crush me.

Impressively enough, apparently if you don’t bring loyal squad members with you on the very last portion of the game, Shepard can actually die!

Oh, and last but not least, if you don’t explore dialog options with EDI and Joker after they make nice, you’re totally missing out on some great stuff.

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