Mass Effect 2 Review (PC)
Bioware’s epic sequel was a huge success; sold millions of copies and probably single handedly funded the new Star Wars MMO (well maybe not). Of course all the reviewers loved it, which automatically makes me suspicious.
Good reviews are a kiss/curse for me. Everyone seems to be talking about the damn game, yet I so rarely agree with the general media populace. Internal struggle ensues, which is why I tend to drag my heels.
Thus Mass Effect 2 managed to get shelved behind a bunch of other less controversial items. Plus, it had an extra strike against it because I played Mass Effect (the original) on the xbox. Ugh, playing with those stupid analogue sticks made me want to scream. I think it got a total of twenty minutes playtime before I vowed to torch the disk.
But I learned, and purchased Mass Effect 2 for the PC. If only I had gotten the original on the PC, I might have played it far more.
The game was more enjoyable than I expected and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it had to do with the minimal amount of combat at the beginning, or the quirky characters, or the desire to save the world, or that I got to play a female Shepard (AWESOME!!), or just a need to figure out what the hell was going on.
Whatever it was, it certainly managed to draw me into the universe. The first two hours, though more interactive movie than action packed, was filled with story, history, and intrigue, ultimately raising more questions than answering them. But that is to be expected, as I hadn’t really played the first one, I was lacking a lot of the history. Plus it’s the beginning of the game, the time to wet the appetite and draw players back for more.
Back for more I came, but lost I was.
The beginning has a wonderfully directed storyline. It was quite obvious what to do next and where to go. But then the boss says to go out and build a team and that is the end of the hand-holding.
Much of my time thereafter was spent flying around aimlessly and talking to random people, before I discovered the “Journal”. I probably shouldn’t be admitting that I had no idea it existed, but it is true and my life was so much easier once I discovered it on the menu. Use the Journal!
So there I am flying around the galaxy recruiting my all-powerful team, breaking them out of prison, saving them from poisoning, in general being the savior of thieves, thugs, and assassins. But collect I do and my team grows. I even check in with everyone to make sure they have all they need.
And then they all start in on their need for vengeance or getting help to save a sibling or a rite of passage or whatever. For some reason my entire team needs help at the same time.
They ask so nicely that I can’t say no, what kind of jerk says no to a dying mans last request? So we go forth and save the kid or blow up the building or whatever. All the while I am thinking, isn’t the world about to end and here I am solving everyone’s petty problems. Why am I choosing my team’s problems over EVERYONE in the galaxys life?
But there is no time limit. The end of the world seems happy to wait.
And though I had originally thought to get to the ending quickly, I am really glad I played through many of the ‘side’ mission since those ended up being far more entertaining then the end.
This game can be broken down into three main activities: Story (RPG) mode (run around chatting with people, upgrading gear, flying from place to play, figuring out where to go next etc), Combat (third person shooter with multiple weapons and limited ammo), and probing probing probing.
Now don’t get too excited because probing actually refers to mining planets. While flying around the universe, most of the planets have the option to scan for minerals. When the sensor detects a concentration of minerals, a probe can be sent to that location to harvest the minerals, which are used to research upgrades.
And it feels endless; the amount of probing that can be done. Planet after planet after planet after planet.
(I wasn’t kidding! And this is but a small selection.)
Combat is pretty standard third person shooter with a variety of weapons available. Ammo is also limited so take note. Also each mission will include two team members.
Each character has up too six skills that can be upgraded. These can be used to ‘buff’ ammo or directly interact with the enemy target by freezing or floating or throwing them.
All of these weapons and skills can be switched around in combat. Hitting shift brings up the skills menu, which pauses the game.
Med packs are also found in this menu, which can be handy in reviving fallen companions. Healing also encompasses injuries or shields, but in those cases, simply waiting will work also.
Another small aspect to the game (usually combat levels) is hacking, basically little mini games. Various locked terminals or doors will be found through out the levels, which you can unlock via one of two different types of hacking. These are simple and fast.
The rest of the game is what I really consider the meat. This is the story, travel, exploration, quests, upgrading gear and weapons, building the team, and experiencing this very different universe.
Most importantly for me is that I was given the option to play a female lead character. Though I don’t mind playing guys, I can relate to women better and this certainly improves my enjoyment and involvement with the game.
I estimated that my game breakdown came to 50% story, 30% probing, and 20% combat. This was my personal experience and will be very different for everyone, though I don’t see how to get around probing unless you forgo upgrading gear.
World and Story
The creepy Cerberus Foundation has found a way to get their hooks into Shepard (that’s the main hero of the game) by spending years resurrecting him/her from the dead; nothing like a ‘second chance’ to inspire loyalty. But will Shepard really tow the line and is Cerberus really on the side of good? Have things in the Galaxy changed so much in the two years that Shepard was dead?
Fly around the galaxy gathering Shepard’s team, saving colonists, and choosing between good and evil (altruistic or selfish).
Much of the story is experienced through in game cinematics, which are supported by dialog trees. This is where much of the extra history and information will come from. Also the choices you make will affect your good/evil rating (aka Paragon/Renegade). This will in turn affect what sorts of dialog choices you are given.
Though there are lots of choices to be made, they don’t affect the overall story. Paragon or Renegade, Shepard must still save the world. It is very likely that many of the larger decisions will show consequences in Mass Effect 3.
If you are worried about consequences, then consider saving and reloading often!
This is by far my biggest gripe about the game. Realistic graphics are just not there yet. They all still look really creepy too me, especially the eyes and lip-syncing.
I will say that all the aliens looked just fine. It’s when they try to near the human threshold that it all breaks down into the creepy automaton zone.
There were also lighting issues and strange errors where something wouldn’t draw properly. This could have to do with the game being a few years old, plus it is harder on the PC since there is no uniform hardware. (Happy to blame my graphics card too!)
The worst graphics bug I found was on one of the planet missions, I ran up an invisible wall and got stuck. Thanks to there being no jumping I couldn’t get off and had to reload.
Considering how large this game really is it is quite impressive that there were in fact so few bugs. And basically the graphics are fine. None of the lighting and drawing issues interfered with my game. They just bugged me.
Replaying is available in various forms. After solving the main storyline, the option to continue on within the current game is available as is the option to restart the game using your current leveled main character.
Of course there is the option to replay from scratch allowing for different choices to be selected. And there are also different difficulty levels to explore.
Lots of choices, but its not clear how much new game play would be provided.
There is also downloadable content, which expands the world and story with new locations and plots to play. So if you don’t feel like rehashing old ME2 stuff, but still really want to continue, you can purchase new modules for the game. There are currently eleven available. http://social.bioware.com/page/me2-dlc
Single player only.
Things that bothered me
-Where am I supposed to go?
It would have been really great if there had been some sort of journal hint. There were so many others, that became irritating in their repetitiveness, that I wish they had just put in a few more useful ones.
Why why why why bother trying to get so darn human!!??!
Much of my UI experience was selecting things and then selecting them again. It seemed like there was a lot of redundancy and layers that didn’t need to be there.
Dialog trees are difficult to line up properly and often conversations end up sounding stilted because of the genericness that is required for dialog trees to work well.
I also had quite a few instances where I chose a dialog option that would then move the conversation past the dialog section leaving me no chance to ask or try any of the previous dialog options. It would have been nice to know which choices were dialog movers or enders. And no I do not mean the obvious ones like “leave” or “good bye”. =P
-Flying around is a pain.
Flying is actually a very small part of the game and it’s all done on a 2D level. It’s the thrusters that drive me crazy. I can’t count the amount of times I overshot my target because I didn’t let off the thrusters early enough.
-Open world, not!
There is this illusion in ME2 that the world is completely open ended and you may go where you please and so forth. And this is partially true, but to progress the main story line (which is the whole point of the game) you have to complete very specific things.
-Save and load.
This is a save and load game. To find the most optimum route (without the use of the internet) lots of saving and loading is required.
I am actually kind of proud that I finished the entire game. It’s been ages since I spent more then ten hours on a game that wasn’t WoW. Then again it seems like games are either getting shorter or nearing infinite play.
Played 29 hours and it really feels like I got the full experience. Thought I didn’t seduce anyone and might have to go back just to try that out, I’m pretty done with the game.
The inconsistency was a bit frustrating, but the story was intriguing. Combat became a bit monotonous, yet the personal quests were rich and entertaining. I’m still conflicted.
Will I play this one more? No. But I will play the next one!
(1 Blue) Weary of all the hype. – (2 Yellow) Hm, surprised that I like it this much. (1 Red) Stuck and frustrated and where is my help. – (1 Green) I will probe the entire galaxy! – (1 Red) Why do I have to fix everyone else’s petty problems? (1 White) Oh fine lets go save/kill your sibling/child or get your revenge. – (1 Purple) Side missions are kind of fun. – (2 Green) Must. Get. To. End.
My story progression was pretty much all Paragon with the big Kaboom ending. Lost two people by the end.
Also wanted to leave you with some T&A. Bonus for anyone who made it too the very bottom. =D