Between watching Olympic Curling, and playing Mass Effect 2, I haven’t had a ton of personal time two blog. Fortunately that should change now that both are pretty much finished.
There is so much good that I’m going to have to break this into subsections.
Can’t stop playing!
I haven’t been this hooked on a game in years. The characters, story, and universe were so compelling that I just wanted to experience more. I can’t remember the last time I actually lost track of hours while playing a video game.
In the middle of the night after playing four hours, I frequently found myself exhausted and hungry, yet thinking, “I’ll just play one more mission…” then I’d play three.
Decisions, decisions, decisions
If you played Mass Effect 1, the decisions you made in that game shape the story of Mass Effect 2 in significant ways. I didn’t, so I played a default game. I never felt lost or confused.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the decisions you make in Mass Effect 2, will reportedly have a dramatic impact on Mass Effect 3, and after playing through I believe it.
Throughout the game, you feel the weight of the decisions you are making. You can see the potential long-term ramifications, and they aren’t always easy. Some moral decisions actually stressed me out a bit; a first in my long gaming career. You are put in the position where you have the fate of cities, or even entire species in your hands. Reading that in a review might seem abstract and funny, but the universe that you play in feels so real that those decisions become personal, even after you’ve turned off the game.
A ship full of characters
Each and every character (and there are a lot of them) are worth the time to get to know. They all have unique stories, and as you play out the character loyalty missions, you really get to know them in meaningful ways. Each of the characters in Mass Effect 2 could be a main character in a movie or game of their own.
My favorites are the surprisingly peaceful assassin Thane Talos; the psychopathic Jack; the pragmatic-to-a-fault Dr. Mordin Solus, and Legion. I would love to talk about Legion at length, but saying anything specific would spoil some great moments.
If you really get to know the characters, there are some pretty funny moments.
On the flip-side, I loathed Zaeed Massani. He was a very useful character, but the more I learned about his, the more I wanted to kill him… and I came really really close to killing him. Looking back, I actually regret letting the son of a bitch live. I’ve never wanted to kill a character on my own squad in a video game before. The fact that the games creators achieve that has left me deeply impressed.
Speaking of killing characters, there is no guarantee that all of your squad members will survive the last mission. I managed to keep my whole squad alive, but I lost a lot of my ship’s crew in a very gruesome manner. I’m still a little sad about it.
I can hear voices
Not only does the game look pretty, but the voice acting is superb. Martin Sheen plays your mysterious benefactor; the Illusive Man. As a die-hard West Wing fan, Sheen’s voice is a voice that I feel programed to trust. The fact that his character isn’t necessarily trustworthy made it so hard for me to distrust him, but I did. The rest of the voices whether they were performed by voice actors, or movie stars were spot-on.
The Cerberus Network
Free downloadable content for people who didn’t buy the game used, or bought access for $15. It’s a very gentle way of ensuring that the makers of the game actually earn a profit. The downloadable content consists of a free character (the aforementioned SOB Zaeed Massani; a useful suit of armor; an additional level; and more good stuff is yet to come.
If you aren’t hooked up to the Cerberus Network, you aren’t playing Mass Effect 2 properly.
BioWare developed Mass Effect 2, and they have been the company behind most of my favorite RPGs dating back to the late 90’s with Baldur’s Gate. Not only do the folks at BioWare know how to craft brilliant characters, they know how to make a game feel epic, and the player feel like they are the only thing holding the universe together. The scale of the game, the decisions, the events are just massive, and the last mission… oh the last mission.
The Not So Good
The combat system works pretty well, and it did grow on me, but it was far from perfect. The controls were a bit clunky.
I really wish there were more weapons. Everything was so plentiful in this game, except for the variety of guns and armor. Weak.
A number of the loyalty missions were very predictable. On quite a few occasions I would start a mission and realize how it would end 30 minutes before I finished it. The mission was still fun, but I would have liked a little more unpredictability.
(Image pulled from here)
Twice during combat I backed into a wall, and then got stuck on it. Both times I had to load my last save point. It never happened in a convenient place. Bugs like this are not acceptable.
Scanning planets for resources gets really old really fast, then it becomes annoying… but it’s still necessary.
The load times are painfully long and far too common. I recommend doing push-ups or sit-ups while new areas load.
If you don’t play this game, you are missing out on an exceptional experience. It took me 42 hours to complete, but I did absolutely everything. If you go at it more cavalierly, or don’t care how many of your teammates survive, you could do it in half the time.
As I finished it, I saw visions of a potential Firefly game. I’ll have to do a post on that vision soon.
This game is worth your time. Play it.