Don't rage, this is simply an opinion piece. If you have a different opinion, guess what? That's fine! I just want to start blogging more often, and I felt particularly passionate about this.
But of course, this is the internet.
Let's Replay Mass Effect 2
Before we get into it, let's go over my feelings on Mass Effect 2 pre-replay: I didn't like it. I couldn't quite remember why since it had been a few years since playing it, but there was a feeling of dislike there, at least partially due to the characters. I wanted to give it another chance though, see if maybe I just had a bad week when I first played it or if my tastes had changed. It's okay to change your opinion on something; I do it all the time.
This week I have been working on a new save file to import to ME3, playing through both of the previous games on PC. My goals were few and simple: Create a Shepard whose choices mesh with my own ideals, and get Jack into my bed because holygodsheisdreamgirlsohot. I was also hoping to lose a few of my team in the suicide mission as I lost none on my first time through and it fell a bit flat; I would have enjoyed the drama and tension of losing a friend since it would have made for a better character and story.
Mass Effect 1 was fine, just as I remember it: A solid RPG-shooter hybrid with a great story and some good characters. There were plenty of problems with it, but overall it's an enjoyable game to this day.
Then we come to Mass Effect 2. I fucking detest this game.
It starts out fine: The opening sequence is quite nice to watch since yay, explosions. I did the Archangel mission early on, and I really like Garrus as a character and he has some great lines, so meeting up with him was fun. Then something unfortunate happened: the rest of the game.
Here's the deal with this game: You have the main hub of the Normany where you'll essentially choose what missions to undertake, and the sub-hubs of planets like Omega in which you'll branch out into other missions: The worst offender of how deplorably abhorrant this game is. These missions are corridors in which you'll move from point A to point B, having gunfights around conveniently placed objects that you can use for cover. This is mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly boring. If you think I'm simplifying the structure of the missions, I'm really not. Here's a diagram.
Shoot through corridor > Cutscene > Shoot through corridor > Cutscene > End Mission
This is so, so dull and formulaic and exactly the kind of thing that developers should be avoiding. This is, essentially, the plague.
Let's look at one of the main parts of my wonderful diagram: The shooting through corridors part. The gunfights are also horrendously boring, consisting of doing little more than unloading bullets into your opponents until you have to reload. Sure you can throw in the occasional biotic ability, but all that does is remove a few enemies in a flashy display of blue and purple explosions; you're not actually doing anything. This. Is. Boring.
Bioware, if I'm getting so bored during these gunfights that my mind is drifting off, or I find it more interesting to mindlessly finger my phone, you have not made a good videogame. If your combat is not compelling enough to hold my interest, you should probably rethink it.
A thing that I miss from ME1 is interesting locations and characters. I remember Ilos, Noveria, Feros, Virmire because they were stacked: a ton of great stuff happened there and there was so much depth to the planets that they felt lived in and real. I've literally just been playing Mass Effect 2 and I can't tell you where I was. The only name I remember from that game is Omega because you go back to it a couple of times. While superficially Omega is great because it brings up memories of locations in great sci-fi movies such as Blade Runner, it has nothing interesting going on: It's not a simplification to simply label it a “scumhole.” What I'm basically saying there is that it's only saving grace is that it plays on your nostalgia. This is not a good thing; it's horrendously lazy. Do you remember any locations from ME2? Do you remember where the lab Jack grew up in that she blew up was? Do you remember where you found Jacob's father? No, because there is nothing interesting about it. I bet you remember where you had a stand off with Wrex, though. I bet you remember where you were forced to choose which friend to save. I bet you remember exactly where you realised what the Reapers, the Protheans and the “cycle” was. They are standout moments in videogames; a bunch of disconnected decisions that tick a box as to which characters live or die are not.
Then there's the characters themselves. Fair is fair; Mass Effect 1 didn't have the most amazing characters in history, but they were far better than ME2's one-dimensional cast. At least in ME1 we had Ashley, who actually really grew on me this time: she's a nice study in familial pride, and I really enjoyed questioning whether she was really racist. On that point: No, she isn't. Wrex was another wonderful character: A proud member of a race that's struggling to survive, whose ideals clashed with his own fathers and led to his exile. The stand off on Virmire was still a ridiculously tense moment, despite having gone through it before.
Garrus is a great character in ME1; a lawkeeper who is frustrated by the bureacratic bullshit surrounding his position, it was good to hear him say at the end that he was going to try going back to C-Sec and re-applying for a Spectre position. So obviously while I was initially happy to see him return in ME2, I was disappointed to see him reduced to “lol fuck The Man,” though he has some great lines. Unfortunately this is a trend among characters in ME2; they are essentially defined by a single trait, whether it's Mordin being quirky, Garrus being a “badass” or Jack being a crazy, psychopathic bitch. Even if I do cry myself to sleep at night because she's not next to me.
The only good thing that's come out of replaying Mass Effect 2 is that at least I know now that I am completely justified in my vitriolic hatred of this game. Over the last two years people have tried to convince me otherwise, but I was right: This game is truly, truly awful.