BioWare is known for bringing unequivocal depth to its video games. There is a long list of deep, and engaging titles under their belts, and Mass Effect is only part of that repertory. Though the other games developed by BioWare are great, none have captured the hearts of so many gamers like the Mass Effect series has. Mass Effect 2, in particular, is the game which has helped cast the series as a staple of this generation in gaming.
BioWare has provided gamers with something that other developers have only dreamed of imparting on their games, choice. In Mass Effect 2 you can expect your choices to play an enormous role in the outcome of the game. In fact, whether your teammates live or die is up to you and the decisions you make throughout the entire game, and it’s no easy task to determine the right and wrong decisions. Mass Effect 2 boasts a phenomenal character import system that allows you to transfer a character from the original Mass Effect and all of the choices made into Mass Effect 2. If you save an obscure character from Mass Effect, then it is very likely that you will cross paths with that same character in ME2. This opens up the game to become a powerful character-driven story that provides a different experience for each player.
The story starts with Shepard dying after an attack on the Normandy. You are then picked up by the infamous Cerberus team, and are reconstructed from the ground up into your original state. You soon find out that humanity is under attack and you are the only hope of survival, which explains why Cerberus went through so much to bring you back to life. Your mission is to recruit members for your team from a list of dossiers and fight the threat against humanity. The story is more character driven than anything else. While many stories to a great job of drawing you into the world that has been created, like Dragon Age Origins, others like Mass Effect 2 draw you into the characters and establish emotional ties between the gamer and the character’s stories.
Changes have been made to the game this time around, and those who are familiar with the first game will find that even though things seem very similar from the outset, they are actually very different. The basic premise is the same, kill baddies, get experience, upgrade your powers. BioWare mixes things up by abandoning the typical experience curve, and only relinquishing experience upon completing quests rather than defeating enemies. For instance, clearing the first mission will give you 1000 XP points and grant you one level; clearing the next-to-last mission will also give you 1000 XP points which allows you to level up in the same way you did at the beginning of the game. This is a great way to keep grinding to a minimum, but it abandons the basic RPG formula and in turn generates more linear gameplay. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but those who absolutely loved the elements from the first game may suffer a bit from the change.
Many can remember the massive amounts of guns, ammo, and armor from Mass Effect, and the drudgery of managing inventory and getting stuck in a level with nowhere to sell items. It became overwhelming when trying to distribute items to your characters because the lists of items were so long and time-consuming to navigate through. Mass Effect 2 throws all of that out of the window by giving everyone a basic weapon for each type of weapon, and scattering a few more powerful weapons throughout the game. For example, you may start out with the M-4 Shuriken Machine Pistol, but you won’t get a more powerful version of the SMG until later in the game, and it will be the only other SMG in the game. The way BioWare handles the change is by giving you upgrades in various places in the game, such as marketplaces or as loot. While this is an improvement, I miss having an inventory that gave me more of an opportunity to customize my character, and I would have liked to have seen a few more guns per gun type.
Probably the biggest change made was involved with the Mako. Many remember this part of Mass Effect as being the painfully slow and irritating task of driving across rugged terrain and locating minerals. The slightly better alternative requires the player to travel to other planets and scan it using a tedious and time-consuming process of locating spikes on a graph and launching probes to gather the minerals. It’s called “Mineral Scanning”, but it’s much like walking the beach with a metal detector, only there are no bikinis. Having the option to travel to a very large number of planets to mine them gives players the illusion of an “open-world”, “free-roam” game; but in actuality Mass Effect 2 tends to remain quite linear.
While all of this may sound like Mass Effect 2 has turned out to be a disappointing title that has turned away from its roots, BioWare stuck to its guns and the change proves to be seamless. The combat style is the same other than the fact that it has been worked over and improved tremendously to redeem the issues from the first game. Delegating commands to squad members has never been easier now that the D-Pad allows the user to map out movements and hot key attacks for other teammates.
Classes are more refined, and each has rewards that make it difficult to decide the best route for your style of gameplay. If you choose the path of an engineer, then you will have special powers that no other tech based class has; and the infiltrator will have special powers that a soldier, sentinel, or engineer doesn’t have. This is all a testament to how well the combat system works and how it has improved the “shooter” elements of Mass Effect 2.
The story, and how it ties in with gameplay, is where Mass Effect 2 shines. There is enough character history, emotion, and plot twists to satisfy any RPG junkie. The story is cohesive, and the progression is perfect; add in stellar (literally) graphics, and great voice acting and you’ve got the recipe for an engaging 40+ hour experience. Don’t miss picking this game up; and you might want to go ahead and get started, you’ll need to be ready to import your character into Mass Effect 3.
Check out our Mass Effect 2 Strategy Guides