By RecSpec 12 Comments
In 2012 I bought more games than I had any previous year. From cheap steam games to old PS2 games at the used bookstore to holiday shopping deals, I ended up with a ton of games I didn’t have enough time playing. So for the first part of 2013 I’m trying to get my money’s worth out of these games. So yes, The Pile is a backlog blog. Also, a metaphorical pile, I have shelves. This week I’ll be talking about Bioware’s Mass Effect 2. There will be spoilers ahead, so be careful.
Why do I have to reload again?
The first thing that stood out to me was the difference in the combat. Okay, that’s a lie, the first thing was the Normandy getting blown up. For all of the stuff I knew about Mass Effect 2 going in, I forgot about most of it. I remembered that Mordin is probably awesome (he was), and that there’s a suicide mission at the end (which they beat you over the head with repeatedly). The intro is insane stuff, with Shepard dying and being rebuilt.
Back to the gameplay, I appreciate them making the combat less clunky with the power wheel, but I was used to letting my teammates use their powers at will, so I didn’t feel the need to change it. Reloading was a weird weird shift, and because of my wanton firing, I was running out of ammo quite a bit. It became less of an issue later on, when I powered up my sniper shots, but the first section of the game was a weird transition.
I’m not sure if I wrote this back when I did my Mass Effect piece, but I accidentally skipped most of the character creation process. I know I wanted to use a default John Shepard, so just kept hitting the button, accidentally doing the background information and class. I played Mass Effect as a Sole Survivor Soldier. For Mass Effect 2 I decided to go with Infiltrator, part tech. In my head I figured, well, I hung out with Tali so much Shepard had to have learned some tech, right? Also, just in case they didn’t change the hacking/decrypting, I wanted to make sure I could do all of that. It ended up being irrelevant. I did enjoy hacking robots and shooting fire.
As far as the rest of it goes, mining was okay, did not miss the Mako sections one bit. I was also a bit bummed out that they made the presidium one room in this game. A really small number of weapons and armor, simplified stat system, and just more streamlining in general made this a tighter game, but I don’t know. I really liked the RPG stuff in Mass Effect, I was sad to see a lot of it go.
A new look on the same galaxy.
Talking to people was great as expected, but some of the renegade options were really harsh. I don’t even mean the trigger options. Well, all right, punching the reporter was pretty shocking, I cringed at that one. I tried to play this as Renegade as possible, but it got really tricky in the Citadel. Threatening people with a gun is one thing, but standing in front of a store yelling “This store discriminates against poor people!” was insane. I was hoping one of my teammates would drag me off. That’s enough Shepard.
Playing through Mass Effect, I remember my encounters with Cerberus. I was confused throughout the game, thinking “the Cerberus network is something that you use in ME2, but these guys are pretty bad.” So working for Cerberus (and the goddamn Illusive Man) was pretty crazy. I know, they rebuilt me and my ship, but still. They represent humanity, and the thing I hate about humanity in Mass Effect, the whole “HUMANITY #1, WE’RE THE BEST.” mentality. I took every opportunity to badmouth Cerberus throughout the game, despite not knowing whether or not I’d be able to live up to what I was saying. At the end, when you can turn your back on Cerberus definitively (destroying the base and turning on the Illusive Man) was really satisfying.
Where Mass Effect was all about the galaxy and how awesome it is, you get kind of numb to it in two. The new races you see are neat, Omega is a crazy place, but it’s all pretty restrained. You go from feeling like a small fish in a big pond to being the big fish. It’s actually pretty disappointing. Not a slight against the game, you can only discover this galaxy once, and nothing can recreate that.
I’m building a team of really awesome people
Tali was my favorite non-Shepard character in the first one, and I didn’t expect her to be in my party in the second one until I got spoiled by the back of the box (my fault, but that was a bummer). So I was extremely elated when we ran into her in the first mission, only...for us to go our separate ways. I actually looked it up just to make sure I couldn’t miss recruiting her. So yeah, pretty obvious which romance route I went down. I loved that I got to visit the Migrant Fleet, and the whole name thing was also great. And yes, I had a real panicky “what do I do” moment regarding Legion. Yeah, Tali’Zorah vas Normandy is still my favorite.
Now that I got my beaming for Tali out of the way, there are a lot of characters in Mass Effect 2 that come in all shapes and sizes. I liked everyone a lot in Mass Effect, and I was somewhat disappointed that I couldn’t connect to everyone in this one. Most of the people in general. Zaeed wasn’t anything special. Jack, meh. Jacob was the usual soldier, but not as interesting as Kaidan was. Miranda is...there. I liked Kasumi’s character, but unfortunately because she’s DLC you don’t really get much out of her outside of her quips here and there. Those quips are great, but still, actual dialogue would’ve been better.
Grunt is no Wrex, but he was a reasonably intelligent Krogan, so he was alright. Thane was neat, I loved his memory trips. The first time one of those happened, really cool, and frightening. Samara was okay, even if her code mader her seem way out of place on my ship (didn’t know you could replace her with Morinth, even if I did... fuck no). I was glad to see Garrus back, but he stayed in the background a lot it seemed, like he wasn’t there a lot of the time.
EDI and Legion were both interesting characters. Both representing groups that have come off as nothing but evil in the first one. EDI turned out to be a great character as the game went on (thanks to her interactions with Joker, Joker’s still awesome). Legion was also pretty cool, and probably the character that made me feel the most guilt throughout the whole series, mainly because of previously mentioned relationship with Tali. Sorry Legion, another time, another place, and we would have been best friends.
Now, onto Mordin Solus. Throughout the first game I was hoping to get a Salarian squad member so bad, and was crushed that it never happened. The Salarians and the Krogans are probably the most entertaining groups. I was excited to finally get a Salarian on my team when I went to recruit Mordin, but I did not expect this outcome. Mordin was eccentric even for the already eccentric Salarians. The way he talked, his actions, he was intense. Added on that he worked on the Genophage and was a task force agent to boot, jeez. I feel that Mordin is the only new squadmate that was as fleshed out as the characters in the first one on his own. Plus that song, so cool.
Now, I feel like I’ve badmouthed a lot of these characters, but they are all pretty interesting in their own right, it’s just that it feels like everything interesting about them is saved for their loyalty mission. If they could have put a little bit of that dialogue on the ship, then it would’ve been an easier transition, and made them a lot more than side characters. Instead it feels like a tv show, and this loyalty mission is a Garrus episode, etc. I don’t think there are any bad characters, and I know you learn a bit about them here and there. I don’t know, maybe it’s because it’s a bigger group, but I didn’t connect with a lot of the characters in 2 like I did with one. The loyalty missions are great, I just wish it didn’t feel like a giant infodump.
There is a lot of DLC
I bought all of the Mass Effect 2 dlc before I started the game. Probably shouldn’t have, because there’s too much! I didn’t really use the guns or the costumes. I think the costumes will be neat when/if I replay as a Paragon, alternate universe and what not.
Zaeed and Kasumi’s missions were solid, fitting right in with the rest of the loyalty missions. Complete with weapons and upgrades. Firewalker wasn’t all that great, didn’t like the vehicle and there wasn’t really anything interesting compared to the other random missions you find, same with the Normandy crash site. The only thing I got out of that was the old navigator got over his space racism, which was great.
Overlord wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t really that interesting to me either. The traveling to stations (on that goddamn vehicle) was a drag. The story had some nice beats to it, probably the best part about the whole thing. I guess I could see it being more enjoyable to someone coming back to the game months after finishing it, but in the mix of my playthrough, just another side mission. Although, it could set up some interesting things for Mass Effect 3.
Shadow Broker was easily the best. Mainly because of that terminal at the end. Okay, the whole thing is fantastic, from the Illium chase to the ship, I enjoyed the whole gameplay, even if the ship dragged a little bit. The Shadow Broker being this huge monster was also great, but seriously. That terminal is worth the price of admission. I had to set down my controller and walk away because I couldn’t handle it. So much fantastic information on that terminal, and they found a way to tie Ernest Hemingway into Mass Effect. Just, gah, that terminal is amazing.
The finale of that game is one of my favorite missions ever, I didn’t think they’d be able to pull off the end of that game, but wow. From the song to the intense introduction flying through the Omega 4 relay, everything about the ending of that game is great.
First things first, I called their bluff when they said “We need to hurry and rescue the crew.” They weren’t bluffing. Everyone got turned into goo! Also Chakwas ended up dying because I became terrified of sending anyone to protect her. I regressed to the same mentality I had when I played Heavy Rain, no risks, everyone has to live! I felt bad about Kelly too, she was the only human in the game that summed up the case for humanity without sounding insane. Paraphrasing but the whole “I can run a cat shelter but that doesn’t mean I hate dogs.” statement is fantastic, and it’s a shame that it took a full game to get someone to make a good case.
Everyone survived except Legion, and I feel bad, but I’m fine with that. I was confused why that happened, but of course it came down to the confrontation between Legion and Tali. Guess which side I was on, guess why Legion died? I do feel bad though, because I spent a long time after that game trying to justify what happened. Throughout my playthroughs, I am taking a hard stance against replaying anything, but man...I almost went back to save Legion. Also he died in the worst way! He was so close!
Also, I didn’t mind Terminator at the end. I thought it was an awesome twist. It makes barely enough sense to not bring me out of the story, and that thing is fueled by my crew that was ground to mush! That thing was terrifying, and stupidly, I didn’t expect it to rise back up and fight you. I was expecting a reaper, but goddamn. As I said earlier, hell yeah I destroyed that thing. Fucking terrifying monster as it was, and I wasn’t letting the Illusive Man have it. Blowing it up at the end was so damn satisfying, just so I could finally turn my back on Cerberus and be fully justified by it.
After I finished Mass Effect, I was dying to jump into Mass Effect 2. After Mass Effect 2, I feel like I need to take some time away from the series. Just to let everything sit. Also the ominous cloud surrounding Mass Effect 3 is making me take some time to appreciate two. I’m interested to see the whole thing through. I’ve played a couple hours so far, and I feel like I can take a break. I’ll have the dlc installed so I’ll get the “best” Mass Effect 3 possible, but as I said earlier, I just want to appreciate Mass Effect 2, if only for a little bit.