Is Mass Effect 2 Really Better than Mass Effect 1?

In my last blog entry, I talked about my backlog problems, and noted my difficulty in breaking free from Mass Effect 1 and moving on to Mass Effect 2. That blog post and its discussion was a bit cathartic for me, and I finally dumped ME1 halfway through my fifth play through and went on to the nearly-universally-lauded-as-superior ME2.

So far, I'm not convinced.

Now granted I'm probably only 10 hours or so in. I'm still tooling around putting my team together. (So far I have Grunt, Jack, the Professor guy, the English-accented merc guy, Archangel and the two Cerberus lackeys.) So I haven't seen all that much of the story, though as of now I'm just about to try to take on some Collector dudes. So with that in mind I'm certainly not making any final judgement or anything.

But as of right now I liked what ME1 was a lot better.

The visuals are empirically far superior to the first game. This isn't just the graphics themselves, but also the menus, the UI, all the overlays and whatnot. All better, for sure. The women are also a lot better looking. I mean Miranda, smoking hot. The best body genetic engineering and 3D modeling can buy.

But everything else? I just don't know.

  • All of a sudden I'm playing basically a pure shooter with RPG conversations and character progression. Not only that, but all the skills got dumbed way down. Is that really all the skills you get per character?
  • Surveying was stupid in ME1, but they made it even worse here. So now I have to actually SCAN the planet and then launch a probe? What am I playing here exactly? Aren't I Shepard? Don't I have people to do that kind of shit for me?
  • We're swearing now? I'm no curmedgeon, I love me some "fucks" and "shits" where they fit. Hell, I listen to the Bombcast for fuck's sake. But now I can't play this game with my kids in the room. Just so they can make it "grittier?" The first time I heard someone swear it totally pulled me out of the game.
  • And space travel got a whole lot more confusing. Now I need to worry about fuel, and I toodle around a little toy galaxy in a little toy spaceship to get from place to place. It just feels silly.
  • No more Mako missions? Oh wait, that's categorically better.

I'm still enjoying it, and the worm could certainly turn, but right now I'm kind of missing what Mass Effect was that Mass Effect 2 isn't. In a lot of ways it feels not so much a sequel as a total reboot. A sequel refines and improves on the original, it doesn't totally rewrite nearly every system. But that's exactly what happened with ME2. ME1 was a Space Opera, a clean Sci-Fi RPG that sometimes tricked you into thinking it was a shooter. What I've seen about ME2 so far is that it's a gritty, Sci-Fi shooter with a good story. Those two things are actually totally different in my mind.

Again, this isn't to say there is anything I would call BAD about ME2. Many of the changes can easily be recognized as improvements. I like the research elements so far, it's a good story, the characters are great, and it is just a lot of fun. It just isn't really Mass Effect 2.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to see how to move forward in a romance sub-plot with Miranda.

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Posted by BeachThunder

I definitely thought ME1 was better; sure, it had its flaws, but they didn't seem to fix the issues. One example is Mako missions, I loved exploring those planets, but the controls were a bit messed up here and there, and there was a lot of repetition; but they didn't improve on it, they just ditched it ={ Also, ME2 felt like it didn't have much of a fleshed out story, it was mostly a bunch of vignettes about the people you have to recruit.

Edited by Veektarius

The core story of Mass Effect 1 is better than the core story of Mass Effect 2. So are the game-changing decisions you have to make. It's an RPG, so that counts for a lot. Maybe, in your mind, it's the only thing that counts.

Here are the things that are better in Mass Effect 2:

  • The side quests - side quests in ME1 were just a generic room full of enemies and a dialogue sequence at the end (when you even got that)
  • The characters. Okay, this wasn't exactly a weak point for ME1, but personally, I felt even the good characters became a lot better when they were reprised for ME2.
  • The actual gameplay. Yeah, you had fewer skill trees, but many of those skill trees were useless or affected the game in ways that weren't very exciting
  • The graphics, as you said.

I don't think it's a clear 2>1 proposition, but I'd put it like this: Mass Effect 1 is a great SciFi story with some big gaping flaws in the game design. Mass Effect 2 has a good story and good gameplay, without clear flaws. The ones you pointed out largely seem very petty to me. I do feel that ME2 was the game that set up ME3 to disappoint many by punting on the ramifications of your decisions in 1, but that isn't a flaw that was obvious at the time.

Edited by Oldirtybearon

You'll find that a lot of the RPG in Mass Effect was gutted from 2, but it still plays well. My personal pet peeves were the planet scanning (which believe it or not, was so much fucking worse at launch), the lack of Mako/planetary exploration, and the lack of skill points. It just bugged me that instead of tightening up the controls on the Mako that they abandoned it entirely. There was a real feeling of discovery when you touched down on an uncharted world for the first time. It was great to just bomb around the landscape looking for crashed probes or Prothean ruins while listening to the wind howl outside. Nothing in ME2 comes close to that sense of discovery, and I think ME2 is poorer for it.

All in all ME3 reintegrated a lot of the RPGness from Mass 1, so if you find the skill trees too dumbed down in 2, just know that 3 makes things at least a little better. As for the next 20+ hours of Mass 2 ahead, sit back and enjoy. There isn't that much in the way of swearing outside of a couple of characters (I think Jack/Subject Zero is the worst/best of it). If you're that concerned about your kids hearing bad words just avoid talking to the bald tattooed woman while they're in the room.

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Posted by Irishdoom

I think maybe it's not so much that I want to make a comparison of one game being better than the other, maybe the real issue is that they are SO different. It seems to me like they are completely different games and experiences. Calling it Mass Effect 2 is almost disingenuous.

Posted by jdh5153

Mass Effect 2 is way better. It's smoother and faster. The Mako is horrible in the first game. It slows action down to a crawl and is very awkward to control. The combat is more fluid in the second (and even more so in the third) which makes for a more enjoyable experience. The story is also more gripping, especially with the Illusive Man.

Posted by phantomzxro

I feel its a very mixed bag of one game did this better while the other do this worse. To the point where people are split on it. Mass effect 1 felt more like a epic Sci fi rpg that had a lot of big idea. Truth be told not all worked and some were a bit janky. Mass effect 2 improved the combat to feeling more normal or what you would expect from an third person shooter game. The setback is Mass effect 2 threw away anything that was janky from the first game even if it was a cool idea.

The saving grace at least for me is that the character interactions was still great and you had so many new characters to explore and relate to. That alone made it great along side the feeling your choices were remembered.

Posted by scalpel

I haven't played the first ME, but as someone who finished Mass Effect 2 around two weeks ago, I don't recall hearing any swearing beyond "damn" and "hell" every now and then.

Edited by Bigandtasty
@scalpel said:

I haven't played the first ME, but as someone who finished Mass Effect 2 around two weeks ago, I don't recall hearing any swearing beyond "damn" and "hell" every now and then.

"Don't fuck with Aria" is the most obvious one. Jack in general swears a few times.

Anyway, I think 2 is the best, because it's incredibly polished and because the storytelling is the most compelling and immersive to me, even if most the details don't mean as much in the grand scheme of the storyline.

Posted by EXTomar

Basically the issue is that there are many technical problems with Mass Effect 1 that make it really difficult to play today while it is readily easy to play Mass Effect 2.

Posted by JadeGL

Mass Effect 1 was janky and had more technical issues than the second game. Mass Effect 2 had much better combat but lost the more RPG bits of the first, like messing around with different armor and ammo. However, I think I liked the scope and story of the first game more. The second game handles the interactions between you and the team members better, especially with the added weight that the loyalty missions bring to the relationships. Then again, I found the romance options to be much less interesting then in number 1, especially as a female character. The options seemed really meh, while I think the people who played male Shepard had more interesting choices overall.

It's really a mixed bag and it depends on whether you can forgive the gameplay of the first one, I think, which is it's largest stumbling block. Otherwise the story is still fantastic and my favorite of the three games.

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Posted by BeachThunder

Basically, rough diamond > polished turd.

Posted by joshthebear

I always say that 1 is the best of the series, and that 2 is not this perfect game that everyone proclaims it to be. The second game traded in all of the RPG hooks to become an okay shooter with barely any exploration.

Also, it was the start of conversations becoming top right/bottom right with no neutral options.

Posted by Irishdoom

I always say that 1 is the best of the series, and that 2 is not this perfect game that everyone proclaims it to be. The second game traded in all of the RPG hooks to become an okay shooter with barely any exploration.

Also, it was the start of conversations becoming top right/bottom right with no neutral options.

This reminded me of one other thing that's been bugging me. I imported a full Paragon character from ME1, and always pick the "blue" choice when I can. It seems the "Paragon" choices in this game can be just as bad. One Paragon response recently had me threaten to break a guy's legs. Not so Paragon hehe.

Posted by Winternet

Mass Effect 2 is a better playing game than Mass Effect 1. But, overall, I still prefer Mass Effect 1 over 2.

Edited by Chibithor

I very recently replayed both, my biggest problem with ME2 was the way the story and missions were structured. In ME1 everything you do is about catching Saren in a very direct manner and pretty much every place you go has husks/geth/Saren there.

ME2 consists of getting a squad, finishing their loyalty missions and then it ends with a final mission. It's all very disjointed, every part has it's own self contained objective. Yeah you're recruiting Garrus to help defeat the Collectors but the connection is not nearly as direct as in ME1. Garrus and the entire Omega are doing their own thing not caring about the Reapers or Collectors.

About the Reapers, it doesn't help that they take the backseat while the replacement Collectors end up being pretty bland. Basically they're like ME1's geth except there's no Saren, Sovereign or the somewhat interesting lore coming from Tali. There some effort to make them more interesting but not nearly enough.

EDIT: Finished ME3, I think I might consider ME2 to be the worst of the three? The contrarian in me is having a field day!

Posted by mems1224

ME2 was the best game in the series to me. It took out all the annoying things from the first game like the Mako and managing your teams inventory and focused on the things that made ME awesome(story and characters). ME3 kinda took the best from both worlds but it fell kinda short in the story department.

Posted by sdharrison

ME 1 had the promise of being a better game than 2 ended up being. If that makes any sense.

After ME 1, I had a sense of wonder and excitement about how amazing 2 would be. How much bigger, deeper, richer, etc. What I didn't understand at the time was, developers had essentially tapped out what was possible for a cross platform game in this generation. The only way to add MORE, was to remove something somewhere else. In the case of ME 2, it added richer story missions in exchange for removing RPG mechanics and exploration.

The promise of Mass Effect 1 was that it put you in command of your own ship, and set you loose in a vast galaxy to explore, fight, loot and become engrossed in a deep overarching story. Not everything worked quite right (planet landings and exploration) but it seemed to do enough right to ensure that future sequels would realize the dream.

2 and 3 dialed down the freedom and put a premium on story and drama. That's just the kind of game it ended up being. It's a fabulously entertaining series, but I don't think the promise of the original can be fulfilled until we have new consoles with a lot more options technically.

Edited by Irishdoom

I'm glad to see I'm not just crazy. ME2 does seem to be a very good, polished game. The world is far more "filled out" than it was in ME1, the mechanics of combat are more action-y, and damn but it looks beautiful, but it's a totally different animal from ME1. Exposing Saren, chasing him down, and in the process uncovering the story of the Reapers was amazing. So far in ME2 all I see is "insect aliens, bad."

Also, I don't want to spoil the game for myself, but where are the Reapers? At the end of ME1, knowing NOTHING about ME2, I assumed it would be about trying to track down the Reapers. All I see so far is some off-shoot enemy that wasn't mentioned in the first game at all.

Edited by Mr_Faraday

I'm just going to make this short, in 5, 10, 15 years from now when I look back at this series. I'm not going to be thinking "I should play the Mass Effect series again", or "I'm going to play Mass Effect 2 again." No I'm going to want to experience THE Mass Effect again and leave it there.

Posted by ll_Exile_ll

I'm glad to see I'm not just crazy. ME2 does seem to be a very good, polished game. The world is far more "filled out" than it was in ME1, the mechanics of combat are more action-y, and damn but it looks beautiful, but it's a totally different animal from ME1. Exposing Saren, chasing him down, and in the process uncovering the story of the Reapers was amazing. So far in ME2 all I see is "insect aliens, bad."

Also, I don't want to spoil the game for myself, but where are the Reapers? At the end of ME1, knowing NOTHING about ME2, I assumed it would be about trying to track down the Reapers. All I see so far is some off-shoot enemy that wasn't mentioned in the first game at all.

The Reapers are still in dark space, presumably using the collectors to find another quick way into the galaxy after the their plan to enter through the citadel was disrupted in the first game.

As for the story, just know that ME2 is primarily about characters. There are only a handful of main story missions that pop up throughout the game, but the character missions are the clear highlight of the game (and make up the majority of it).

Posted by Fredchuckdave

Yes, the end.

Better question: Is Mass Effect 1 a particularly good game?

Edited by Irishdoom

It has some borderline bad elements. The Mako stuff, overall, could be infuriating. Trying to drive that thing to where you needed to get to could be terrible. And the times in the higher difficulties where you needed to take out turrets or enemies with it were bad bad bad.

If you can get past that, and if you can accept that the combat is really dice rolls and not so much skill based, ME1 is a particularly good game in my estimation. It has a real sense of exploration that I'm missing thus far in ME2, and the story is really, really good.

Edited by casper_

i played them all for the first time a couple months ago and can say that ME1 was easily my favorite and the only one which i felt had its heart in the right place all the way through. it had some rougher edges but it didn't feel watered down in any way.

Edited by Irishdoom

@casper_: That might be the best way of saying what I'm seeing so far. ME1 had its heart in the right place.

Posted by Hamst3r

Mass Effect 1 is better than Mass Effect 2.

Posted by spykereightsix

Personally, from a gameplay perspective, yes. The combat just felt way, way better. But from a story/space exploration standpoint, I found ME1 a lot stronger. ME2 doesn't have that same sense of wonder that the original evoked. But for a game in which combat is such a heavily used mechanic, it just felt out of place in ME1, like they weren't sure how to implement it.

Edited by Brodehouse

Totally. I played Mass Effect 2 several times simply for how fun it was. I would never played Mass Effect 1 for the gameplay. Furthermore, I actually greatly prefer Mass Effect 2's pacing and almost episodic nature to Mass Effect 1's big slog through the traditional BioWare Four Areas Then End Game plot line. Mass Effect 2 is like a great season of scifi television, with a few episodes about the core metaplot and then a lot of character episodes in the middle.

Posted by TangoUp

Yes I think Mass Effect 2 is a much better game than the first one. Like most have admitted, the combat mechanics and the actual 'gameplay' portion of the game is clunky and awkward. Mass Effect 2 refines almost every aspect of the gameplay, although that said, the planet probing was atrocious.

It was just more fun to talk to squadmates because they all have different personalities and the convos are varied and downright funny sometimes. I'm replaying the trilogy and I skipped almost all the conversations in the first game but am trying to go through every available dialog path in the second game. Story wise, sure, the Collector plot line is a little far-fetched but the game makes the odds against you seem really high. And the payoff at the end is amazing. I liked the team building and loyalty missions because there was so much of gameplay and the huge roster of characters was downright stellar. It's just a lot of fun.

Mass Effect 1's story was great overall but its rendered irrelevant by ME3 anyway.

Posted by SpaceInsomniac

Now granted I'm probably only 10 hours or so in. I'm still tooling around putting my team together. (So far I have Grunt, Jack, the Professor guy, the English-accented merc guy, Archangel and the two Cerberus lackeys.) So I haven't seen all that much of the story...

Actually, you have. The vast majority of the story of ME2 is building your team, and earning their loyalty. The "main" story of ME2 is crap, but thankfully it's also by far the smallest part of the game.

ME2 is still my favorite ME game. ME1 main story is better than any other game, but the combat is just SO much better in the sequels.

Posted by gla55jAw

I don't know. I had stopped playing ME1, started it again a year later, then took another 6 month break before I finished it, right when ME2 came out. I then played ME2 straight through in a week or something. I also never finished ME3, so there's that as well. ME1 has the better story, but game wise is clunky, yet still playable. I was going to say I plan to go back and play though them all again, but I guess I have to finish ME3 first.

Posted by ShadowConqueror

I don't know where I stand on this one. The original is a great RPG and the sequel is a great action game.

Posted by TheManWithNoPlan

The correct answer is yes.

Posted by joshthebear

Also, the first Mass Effect has the best music of the entire series.

Posted by bgdiner

I'm having a little bit of the same problem you're having right now, except that I've played Mass Effect 1 several times before to completion. Now, I think Mass Effect was the most awe-inspiring of the games, creating a great operatic setting that felt like the answer to all of the near-miss sci-fi games that came before it. You could explore the universe, land on planets and drive around; hell, you could explore what seemed like a lot more of the Citadel, and I felt the lack of exploration in the later games was a gross error.

At least when I initiated my Mass Effect experience, I felt like I was the famous space captain exploring the outreaches of the galaxies, making contact with aliens and beating down pesky commandos, all the while being successful with the ladies. In Mass Effect 2, the game became a lot more linear, and though you were still saving humanity, it didn't have that operatic effect you mentioned. Mass Effect 3 returned to that kind of game a bit, as you traveled the universe scouring for help, but it never had that same sense of exploration as Mass Effect 1 did.

I'm trying to go through the trilogy once again, one after the other, but Mass Effect 1 is a little dated, and it's quite difficult to get back into it. Still though, I think the series was one of the best of the sci-fi genre, not least all time. I highly recommend you complete the game, at least to gain an appreciation for the series as a whole (and to have a persistent character, which really keeps you connected to his/her exploits throughout the series).

Posted by selbie

Fuck the haters, I still like the Mako!

Edited by ajamafalous

Not even close.

Posted by cbk486

If you care more about the overall plot arc with the reapers, then I can totally see why you would think that ME1 was a superior game. In terms of the overall plot arc, ME2 really didn't contribute much to the story in comparison to ME1 or ME3.

IMHO though, the characters and their relationship with player are why I love this series so much, and on that front - ME2 fucking killed it. The loyalty mission mechanic was just so well executed in terms of character development, and that helped ME2 (and it's overall franchise) earn it's rightful place as one of the best games this generation.

Posted by madpierrot

I loved both games, but for me ME2 was the better game. I guess it was a lot of little things that added up for me. The better UI was great, the improved graphics I loved, I enjoyed the characters and your interactions with them more, getting rid of the Mako, fixing some of the technical issues, heck even the voice acting stepped it up.

There are two big things though for me that put it over the edge and one of them is something that's just kind of unfair to compare because there is nothing the original Mass Effect can do about it. One of the big things is just the combat. I was one who literally just thought that it was improved in about every way. I still have fun with the combat in the 1st, but the 2nd's is just awesome. Lastly the other big thing, and the one that's unfair, is the fact that it's the sequel But it's the sequel to the game where the big thing was all about your character and your save file. So actually getting to see your Shepard move on and seeing choices you made in the 2nd was just something so awesome and well, there's nothing the 1st can really do about that.

There are two things in the 1st that I liked more though. One is the soundtrack. The soundtrack to the original ME is probably my favorite video game soundtrack ever. It's just freaking awesome. The second is the overall story. I liked the more personal, intimate story in ME2, but as you said just the epic, sci-fi, space opera of the first is honestly something special to me. The newness of the universe, the massive scale of everything that's going on. Love that so much.

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

I went straight from completing my 3rd playthrough of ME1 straight into ME2 on release day, ME2 does the drama alot better, the camera angles are better, the dialogue, character models, character story all superior. Plus I really loved the setup for the story in 2, so simple just put together a team but the loyalty missions for each character and how that affected the end mission was just pure genius. Such many oh fuck moments in the final mission of that game, was really on the edge of my seat.

Posted by iam3green

from what i played of 1, i beat 2. i would say that 1 had much better RPG elements than what 2 had. 2 just kind of felt like action game with a lot of dialog, some RPG elements thrown into the game.

Edited by Irishdoom

While the Mako handling was terrible, and in many ways the planets you explored in ME1 were repetitive as hell, at least it was some exploration. You actually felt like you were on a planet in a far corner of the galaxy. That's completely absent in ME2.

I'm still enjoying it right now, I'm just now getting these "loyalty" missions. I have one from Miranda and one from Jacob right now. I'm on Ilium, I picked up the Assassin, now I'll get the Justicar then do Miranda's side mission. I'm also really glad I went with Infiltrator right now, sniping is WAY better in this one.

One last thing for now, the bonuses you get are nearly unnoticeable. I had all the achievements from the first that give you extra resources and money. I barely noticed it. Oh well. :)

Edited by guiseppe

Technically, yes. Otherwise, no. Although I still think I prefer ME2 over ME1 when it comes to gameplay.

Posted by Rasmoss

The way I see it, some people will forgive anything, as long as there's an upgrade tree. 2's combat is superior in every way, except there are less upgrade options and it has more of a shooter feel.

Edited by TangoUp

I don't see how ME2 is less of an RPG than 1. You still have one of nine origin story combinations. You still have six classes to choose from. Yes the actual skill list is shorter than ME1 but a lot of fluff was removed (Intimidate/Charm, Spectre Training/Class Training, Weapon Training). The reduction in powers is compensated by the addition of MORE team members and their combinations also add to the layer of customizability.

It just seems like the automatic thing to say, "... yeah ME2 has less RPG and more action ...". I just don't get it. Sure, ME3 has fewer and less interesting squad mates so that one can be said to be just an action shooter. But not ME2, no sir-eee.

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

Mass Effect has elements that are certainly better than 2. The core story is stronger, the Role-playing elements are more fleshed out and if you mid/max, you can truly create an overpowered killing machine, which is great fun. The citadel being fully open was something that I loved and was heart broken by Mass Effect 2 when I saw I could only look at it from a balcony and the story was, as you said, Mass Effect was more of an interesting space opera.

Mass Effect 2, on the other hand, is an better overall game. The smoother, less clunky gameplay, the better side missions, getting rid of those god-awful, boring Mako missions, and the characters you encounter are some of the best in gaming. As an overall package, I will say that Mass Effect 2 is the better game, but I will not hesitate to say that the original definitely did some things a lot better.

Posted by zels

I hated the loyalty missions in that game.

What does it take for anyone on your team to trust you? Do 1 quest for them.

Great idea at its core but a horrible execution - how much better would it be if some teammates' loyalty could be gained by conversations and in-game decisions, while certain memebers of the squad required more from you than others.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Mass Effect 1 is a far less compromising game, and there's definitely a sense that the original intentions for the trilogy were altered or discarded somewhere during the development of ME2, and something to that effect has been implied by former employees.

That being said, I've never particularly thought of Mass Effect as a good game. Disregarding the multitude of technical issues fixed in the PC version, even when it was new I thought it was a bad RPG masquerading as a clunky shooter, not being especially good at either element. I shouldn't discount that it does a great job of world-building and has a main plot that isn't just an excuse to string together vignettes like the second game, but if given a choice I will pick Mass Effect 2 every time.

Posted by GS_Dan

I agreed with all of your points, and ME1 is my preferred game for those reasons. I adored the space opera vibe and how humans were very much the underdogs. The citadel felt huge, it felt like a living place. ME2 might have had far more polished combat, but I think it lost some character from the first one.

Edited by Clonedzero

i really love the ME series as a whole. my least favorite would be the 3rd one (not cus of the ending though).

the first one felt more like i was in control, that i had a galaxy to explore. i could land on barren worlds and drive around. sure it was mostly pointless but whatever it was still cool. ME2 felt very personal and cinematic. the stakes also felt much smaller in ME2. the character stuff in ME2 was better as well.

i dont really care to rank them. but ive played through ME1 and ME2 like 3-5 times each? crazy i know. but only played through ME3 once. hmmm. though i do kinda wanna play through them all in a row, maybe this summer.

Posted by bluefish

Mass Effect 1 is a far less compromising game, and there's definitely a sense that the original intentions for the trilogy were altered or discarded somewhere during the development of ME2, and something to that effect has been implied by former employees.

That being said, I've never particularly thought of Mass Effect as a good game. Disregarding the multitude of technical issues fixed in the PC version, even when it was new I thought it was a bad RPG masquerading as a clunky shooter, not being especially good at either element. I shouldn't discount that it does a great job of world-building and has a main plot that isn't just an excuse to string together vignettes like the second game, but if given a choice I will pick Mass Effect 2 every time.

Really well said. There was maybe more potential in the series that was pitched with the first game but I feel the more focused choices of two lead to a much superior game.

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