Wot I Think: Mass Effect 2

By John Walker on February 9th, 2010 at 12:00 pm.

First of all, to explain why this review is so late. We’d hoped for code well in advance, but sadly it wasn’t sent to us until the release day. I have since played the game to absolute completion. Thus it is only proper to tell you Wot I Think. (You can safely assume this review contains enormous Mass Effect 1 spoilers, but I will not spoil ME2.)

I feel like I should declare my interests. I had a savegame. My original save of my original Shepard from the original Mass Effect. A Shepard with whom I’d bonded, and a Shepard who had bonded with the galaxy. I cannot imagine the frustration of having lost a save, and discovering that BioWare recklessly backed down on the claims to let you pick the events as you remembered them. To have found that the game had decided I’d destroyed the Council, or killed Wrex, would infuriate me beyond belief. But this didn’t happen to me, and it seemed important I make that clear.

Pretty!

Mass Effect saw Shepard, whether male or female, saving the galaxy from the threat of the Reapers, via the tricks of action RPG. Sovereign, a ship-sized Reaper AI, intended to wipe out the alien races occupying the Citadel. A stop was put to that. But despite this rather epic plot, the real story of the game was humanity’s emergence into the wider cosmos. It was a game about being the youngest race, the new kid at school, and the confusion of humility and humiliation this imposed upon one of space’s most arrogant species.

This sequel reverses the theme. While its main story is about humanity, and the disappearance of entire human colonies – millions being wiped out while the Council authorities do nothing – the real plot here is made of the smaller stories of individuals. And the action is much more, well, actiony. But more on that later.

The One True Shepard.

So there was that moment. Booting the game, having imported the save across, and seeing my Shepard, the One True Shepard, there on the screen. An Infiltrator, entirely Paragon (Mass Effect’s morality is divided between goodly Paragons and naughty Renegades), who had saved the Council and Wrex but allowed Captain Boringpants Alenko to die. And I beamed a huge smile. Shepard! We’re off again.

However, those scared of commitment are given plenty of options. Due to plot events in the opening scenes of the game (and even they I think would be too much detail to reveal, beyond that it contains Shepard’s apparent death) it is possible to change the appearance of your Shepard, should you wish him/her to have aged, changed hairstyle, or become a strange ugly old crone. You can also change specialisms, should you maybe wish to switch from Tech to Biotic, perhaps try out the Adept class, or have a go at being an Engineer. Oddly, later you’re still given some dialogue choices about events from the first game – a person’s fate can be decided by what you remember, rather than what your save game says. Which is very odd.

Potential love interest?

Once past this extreme muddle at the start, the experiment begins to work. In the attempt to cater for every contingency, they’ve created this blur of options that rather spoils the fluid idea of just importing a character and carrying on. But get through that and it really does feel like the galaxy you once stalked. You will meet many people you previously encountered, even from the most minor side quests. Everyone wants to say hi, make a comment about how they thought you were dead, chat to the hero. Then more significant characters will reflect key decisions you made.

In fact, some of these are extremely significant to both the galaxy and the plot. Shepard is recruited by a black ops human organisation called Cerberus, rogue from the military Alliance, funded and controlled by the mysterious Illusive Man. They intend to find the source of the human disappearances, believed to be at the hands of the Collectors, and ancient race thought to be mythological by most. But Cerberus is neither liked nor trusted, and to defy the Alliance and work for them is to ostracise yourself. This is also to rebel against the Citadel Council, and indeed the Spectre organisation you joined in the first game. Unless of course there is no Council thanks to your actions. The story of the Krogans is equally defined by the actions you previously took, while relationships established previously can carry over here. I was looking forward to seeing Liara.

See, these are dark tones.

The darker tone so frequently promised over the last year of promotions is absolutely true. Mass Effect was a game about potential. Humans were not trusted, not respected, and Shepard demonstrated that they at least deserved to be heard. But Mass Effect 2 is a game about death. It begins in brutal death, and rarely offers hope beyond that.

This extends to your companions. Shepard’s primary goal is to gather together a team of the most adept and dangerous fighters and tacticians in the galaxy, who will then together face the menace waiting for them at the other side of the Omega 4 mass relay. Given dossiers of potential recruits by the controller of Cerberus, the Illusive Man (voiced wonderfully by President Barlett himself, Martin Sheen), you set about convincing them to join your cause.

That's quite a cold.

As is apparently a tradition at BioWare, only broken by Dragon Age, it’s crucial to begin with two really boring characters you’ll never want to bother with again once you’ve recruited some others. This time there’s Jacob Taylor, a human biotic soldier who is… oh, I don’t know. It’s hard to imagine how they could have made him less entertaining. He’s even overtly surly toward you from the start, meaning he refuses to chat. So, well, bye then. The other is Miranda Lawson, biogenetically engineered to be the perfect human. Perfect in all ways other than having anything interesting to say. She’s voiced by the completely lovely Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck’s Agent Walker), with her face modelled on the actress, but sadly she’s just not that engaging.

So fortunately you can pick up at least nine others (I found eleven companions in total, but there’s suspicious space left on the selection screen for more). And could I encourage all to make sure that Mordin is one of the first they pick? I’d hate to influence someone else’s decisions in a game that leaves itself quite so open, but missing out on Mordin for much of the game would be a tragedy. But we’ll get back to him.

Krogans quite like combat.

I really should have mentioned the combat by now, what with it making up about half the game. Whatever your memories (or indeed what you might have heard) about the original game’s slightly flaky fights, forget about all that. This nails it. While the difficulty is, in contrast to Dragon Age, set a little low, this is splendid third-person action stuff, but imbued with and embellished by some really smart RPG skills.

A lot has been stripped down. Gone are inventories, ammo types, armour selection, and then all the confusion of augmentations added to these. Now the battlefield is focused on the action, using an absolutely fantastic cover system to orchestrate thrilling fights. Holding down Space to sprint, and aiming toward an object, will see Shepard slide magnificently into cover. Then you can fight in real-time, your two selected buddies making smart use of their abilities and weapons, and the cover (but always giving up a key spot for you should you want it). Hitting Shift pauses the action and opens up a very simple menu system from which you select a special ability from anyone’s collection. This also lets you change weapons, and heal fallen party members (again, super simple, just click the button and so long as you’re carrying medi-gel, they’ll get back up and carry on). It’s possible to issue instructions to your companions, Q and E creating markers on the ground ordering them to that position. But mostly they’re so efficient you’ll not need to worry about that. Instead you focus on firing off some awesome biotic or tech powers, perhaps pulling an enemy out from his cover and into the air, so you can then fill him with bullety goodness.

Thane has a fantastic voice.

As an Infiltrator I had access to sniper rifles, which were just wonderful. As my abilities improved (again, a very simple skill selection system whenever you level up), using a sniper rifle gave me a few moments of slow-motion time in which I could fire off three or four shots into three or four foreheads, making me feel like the greatest shot in the universe. This feeling emboldened by a buddy commenting, “Great shooting!” only when it actually was some great shooting.

Improvements are made to weapons and armour through research back on the Normandy. Research information can be found during missions through hacking, or learned from companions, and then purchased in exchange for raw materials gathered through mining planets. Which brings us to hacking and mining, two areas where Mass Effect 2 perhaps falls a little short. Where by “little” I in fact mean, “a stretching chasm of horror”.

Oh dear.

There are two hacking “minigames”. Both are essentially picture pairs. One requires you to match five different symbols with their partners, by hovering the mouse over blue blobs to see which are which. Then you click on both of them. So it is, in fact, like picture pairs without the challenge of having to guess. The other is even simpler, where you must click on a block of coloured text that matches the block of coloured text at the top of the screen. You do this three times, without accidentally moving into one of the red rectangles, and you win. Neither requires more than a vestigial brain stem to complete – in fact, to take more than half the available time would be embarrassing. They instead serve to be enormous irritants, when the game might just as well have let you get the info with a single mouse click.

Mining is far more time consuming. There’s five different materials needed for purchasing upgrades, and you’ll need them for not only weapons and armour, but also making significant improvements to the Normandy for the final stages of the game. To get these you fly about the stunningly huge cosmos, looking for unexplored planets in the dozens and dozens of solar systems, and then scanning them. This involves laboriously sweeping a clumsy cursor across every millimetre of a sphere, waiting until a meter on the right spikes, then firing a probe to retrieve that ore. Each planet contains approximate 15 to 30 spots to find before it’s depleted, with very many needing to be mined to buy the available upgrades. I found the only way to tolerate this was to put on a TV show on my other screen to prevent madness. Although the “PEEOONNNG!” noise made by launching a probe is nice.

So you can no longer land on most of these planets to perform your searches. Instead very, very occasionally your probing will reveal an anomaly, which can then be investigated. These lead to unique, somewhat perfunctory mini-quests, but with far more imagination than the identikit warehouses of the first game. But also gone is the vehicle for exploring surfaces (despite the controls still appearing in the options – later DLC it seems).

Some sort of probing pun.

To get the other two gripes out of the way: The indication that something can be interacted with appears in the form of some extremely crude text at the top of the screen. (Crude in the sense of being ugly, it’s not swearing at you – not here, at least.) It looks so tacky, like some placeholder they forgot to fix before release. And there’s a couple of frustrating bugs. When holding a sniper rifle, for some reason using other abilities (like AI hacking) will cause you to become zoomed in, and unable to zoom out for a while. Worse is Shepard’s odd habit of accidentally climbing on surfaces then not being able to get down. This became completely farcical at one point when I was stuck on a table, and then had my two companions float up to join me. It seems mysterious that this bug wasn’t spotted pre-release. And that’s enough moaning.

Because by God’s beard, this game is brilliant. The combat is brilliant, the missions are brilliant, the worlds you explore are brilliant, and most of all, the characters are so very brilliant.

Lovely Mordin?

You’ll have a favourite. For most it’s Mordin Solus. A Salarian geneticist, his fast-paced chatter is wonderfully written. He analyses, constantly, including everything he’s just said. And then you learn about who he is, what he’s done, and things get interesting. BioWare have long had a special skill for creating morally interesting situations, but never with the sophistication of Mordin’s back-story. This isn’t a couple walking up to you in the street and asking you to decide if they should have an abortion (and I should mention here that there appears to be a joke in the game directly referencing this piece I wrote about such moments, and it made me laugh long and hard). This is about a complicated, nuanced and extremely well argued debate. Oh, and he sings a song.

But I can’t share my favourite character, as it’s another big spoiler. So instead I shall talk about my second favourite, Jack. She’s the one from that ghastly trailer, all swears and attitude. And she is all swears and attitude, but executed brilliantly. I was nice to her when I first met her, as is my Paragon way. “Shit,” she replied, “You sound like a pussy.” She’s bad-ass, she’s furiously angry, she’s shaven-headed and covered in aggressive tattoos. In so many ways that might make her so many game characters. But she’s unique. She’s a phenomenally, devastatingly broken person. The tragedy of her life, the reasons she’s the person she is now, are explored in traumatic detail. And even they are nuanced beyond even her own expectations.

When she's in prison somehow no one refers to her as

Jack’s past, and indeed elements of the lives of all eleven companions, are explored in ‘loyalty missions’. So you have the initial mission to recruit them, then as you get to know each of them they will ask you to help with a particular situation. Once completed it opens up new abilities for them, and rather ridiculously, an alternative costume. Again here the bleak tones of Mass Effect 2 emit their gloom. Whether you secure the loyalty of a companion or not often comes down not to whether you’re capable of successfully completing a mission (although it is possible to fail, and the game carries on), but more to do with whether you find the goal morally acceptable. Many will challenge you on this. And even when they don’t, the outcomes can be… well, this isn’t a game about puppies and flowers.

Among the morbid tones are some real moments of fantastic humour. In fact, I haven’t laughed out loud at a game this often since Time Gentlemen, Please. One conversation in particular, toward the end, was so beautifully written and performed that it had me in stitches, awkward and cute and silly and bursting with love. There’s also some lovely self mockery from BioWare. Along with the apparent reference to objections regarding strangers asking Shepard to solve their personal problems (something that does occasionally still happen, but each time with a rational reason behind it), there’s so many wonderful conversations to overhear as you walk around. A favourite was a couple in the souvenir shop in the Citadel, arguing over the idiotic gifts available. Goodness knows how many of these I missed when rushing past crowds on an important errand.

It's Jayne!

The desire to escape cliché extends further. The self-awareness on BioWare’s part seems to have led them to cleverly defy expectations. A good illustration appears aboard a prison ship. It’s a place for some of the worst criminals in the galaxy, but also home to some terrible brutality. At one point you walk past a caged prisoner who calls you over. He’s a sweet guy, friendly, chatty. He helps you. And so here we go, it’s the wrongly imprisoned/ambiguously guilty man we can help to set free if we see his side of things. (See every BioWare game ever, including Dragon Age.) But then you can ask him why he’s in the prison. Ah, he explains, he murdered nineteen, maybe twenty people. And blew up that colony. Oh.

“Good deeds are like pissing yourself in dark pants,” explains Jacob in a strange moment of not being rubbish. “There’s a warm feeling, but no one notices.” That’s a great line. And it’s one of hundreds. Of which a considerable number belong to the interactions between your pilot, Joker, and the Normandy’s new AI, EDI.

Good old Joker.

Also more interesting is the Paragon/Renegade divide. While Dragon Age usefully got rid of a good/evil rating altogether, Mass Effect 2 evolves it to be something much more appealing. It doesn’t win over the approval of your companions. The missions aren’t really appropriate for their shock or delight at your actions. Most of the people you’re with are so morally ambiguous that they’d be hard-pushed to be bothered whether you murdered some babies, or arranged for them to be adopted. It’s about opening up conversation options, and thus resolving situations in different ways.

The other purpose is the interruptions. During some scenes you’ll see either the Renegade or Paragon icon appear on screen. Hit the appropriate mouse button at that point and Shepard will step in to do something either nice or nasty to change events. Don’t click and things will carry on despite you. This can often save lives, or quickly end them. What’s most interesting here is that choosing the option that goes against your normal nature doesn’t feel like a betrayal of who you are. It’s not like in KotOR, where you’ve been spreading happiness across the whole of the universe, and then suddenly announce to a stranger that you’re going to stamp on her child’s face to see if it sounds funny. It’s about assessing a situation and wondering if a less than holy response might be more appropriate here. (The only problem with this is my habit of playing DS games during conversations meant I kept missing the appearing options.)

When post office ticket counter queue systems turn bad.

The balance between story and action has never been so deftly handled. It’s not compromised action, a weedy RPG version that’s really only dice rolling. It’s hands-on, real-time, well designed combat. And it’s not a story draped over the action. It’s an intricate, epic, involved and emotional series of adventures and meaningful relationships.

Where the main story does fall down slightly is on reflection. Finish the game and look back at what the main thread was about, and it’s a fairly hollow thing. Because this is a game about smaller, intertwining plots, personal stories about those who keep you company. It’s the middle section of a trilogy, and as such its plot cannot be complete, nor revel in introducing a new world. The solution of involving you in the complex lives of your shipmates works magnificently. And the finale makes clever use of taking advantage of all the efforts you’ve made. You need not have recruited everyone to reach this point, so any extra work you’ve put in feels rewarded.

Look at him all mysterious.

It’s a stunning thing. There are so many stories I’m left wanting to tell. So many situations that merit discussion afterward. So many characters I’d love to talk about in more detail. It’s been agony not to give anything away. But you should go find out for yourself. If you’ve not played the original Mass Effect, don’t be put off by talk of the clumsy combat. It’s definitely clumsy, and I’m quite certain if you played the sequel first you’d not put up with it. So go play the original, then come to this. It’s worth it. If there’s anyone who did play the first game and for some reason hasn’t yet picked this up, for goodness sakes get on with it.

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392 Comments »

  1. cqdemal says:

    Stunning indeed. I kept the final string of main story missions for later, then did them in a marathon session yesterday through to the end. I believe those 3-4 hours were some of the best I’ve ever had since I started playing games.

  2. TheBlackBandit says:

    Great review, John… and despite playing this on the 360 box and missing out on the pretty graphics I agree with you wholeheartedly. It’s funny, personal, brutal, beautiful and very very innovative.

    The Jack mission will stay with me as ‘the loyalty mission’, because if its poignancy and depth, although unfortunately the person I’m playing it with was out at the time so missed why this tattooed bitch had suddenly exceeded expectations.

    And as for Thane…

  3. Shrewsbury says:

    Suggestion: Put your favourite character into a pastebin and link to it.

  4. Adrian says:

    brilliant game! the only thing that really bothers me is the planet scanning! it takes forever, finding enough element zero for your upgrades takes hours and its absolutely NO FUN at all!

  5. Trezoristo says:

    It has a lot of great characters. It’s just a shame that the one you’re playing isn’t one of them. Considering that Shepard is involved in all conversations, that is a big problem for me.

    Great game though.

  6. Lilliput King says:

    Was something special alright. Hope ME3 can live up to it.

    Also, John, that is hands down the ugliest Shepard I’ve ever seen. Is ‘it’ yours?

  7. dancingcrab says:

    And now I will buy it. But first BS2. Thanks RPS!

  8. Wolfman says:

    I’m loving this game, I’m slowly working my way through all the loyalty missions at the moment. They are my favourite part of the game so far. Fantastic. Mordin is one of my favourites too! He goes everywhere with Shepard in my game!

    Why didn’t they just use the scanning from the previous game? I guess because everyone would just zoom round collecting minerals getting upgrades all the time rather than working for it. I just wish they could have come up with a more interesting way of doing it than that bloody mini game!

    • Rob says:

      I still don’t know how they put together a mini game that involves placing flags on a grid and not come up with a minesweeper variant.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Mordin is gloriously written, and he’s made me laugh out loud many times. But he’s not left the ship since I found out what he’d done. And I’ve left his loyalty quest till last.

  9. Rob says:

    Am I right in assuming you favorite character has reach?

  10. Wolfman says:

    Oooh I forgot about the whole medical bay thing as well, I like the idea that you can choose to get the upgrade to heal Shepard’s scars. Mine proudly bears scars to all, sod looking perfect!

  11. Tei says:

    Is a great game. You finish it, and you don’t know how or where to continue with your gamming habits. Nice “Wot”.

  12. Rinox says:

    Mass Effect 2 was everything I hoped for – the final mission and the decisions you take could have been a little harder and more harrowing and your squad mates’ loyalty missions should be ‘failable’ more, but other than that I was stunned, in awe, blown away by the last 1.5 hour of the game.

    They really did build on the first (sometimes dull) installment to create a The Empire Strikes Back. Kudos to them.

    As for the mini-game scanning…yeah, it’s boring. But it’s also hardly necessary to do it all the time. I scanned every planet in the game I think, and I ended with 300k+ of every resource (+70k Eezo) after purchasing every possible upgrade I could buy. Problem is of course that you don’t know that you absolutely don’t need to scan every planet when you play the game for the firs time.

  13. sonofsanta says:

    Is the PC version truly superior to the 360 version? I played through on the Xbox originally, and have my save game there, but could fairly easily find a satisfactoy save from that online repository thing. My PC is new and shiny as well so could pump it out prettier than the 360.

    Other persuading factors may include: £10 cheaper on PC for some reason; got a wired 360 controller to use anyway so I can choose which controls to use; and my missus absolutely detests ME1 as “the most boring game you’ve ever played”. And she’s watched me play Eve Online.

    • blah says:

      Like most multiplatform games, the PC version is indeed superior. If you have a capable PC, there’s no reason you should get it for XBox (unless you absolutely need to continue with your old save).
      Also, the reason the PC version is cheaper is because there are no royalties to pay. All PC games are $10-$20 cheaper than their console counterparts. MW2 and AC2 are the exceptions.

      BTW, the game doesn’t natively have controller support. Just like ME, they’ve redesigned the interface to work only with Mouse and Keyboard only, so a controller won’t work just by plugging it in. You’ll have to use a key binding program (such as Xpadder) to get it to work, and even then probably won’t be comfortable to use.
      I’m not sure why not include an option to switch interfaces when plugging in a gamepad (kind of like GTA4 did), but that’s how it is. But trust me, it’s a shooter, you’ll want to play it with a mouse anyway.

    • mrmud says:

      It really depends on how much attachment you have to your character.

      I absolutely adored my Shepard and I could never imagine playing an imitation so I would definitely go with what I had played it on before. However if you dont really care then I see no reason you shouldnt play it on a PC.

    • sonofsanta says:

      @MrMud: Due to some shenanigans with getting Xbox Live working with my account when I started playing ME1, my original game is on a different profile to everything else, and I replayed it on my full profile to get a save ready on that. So as far as I’m concerned, my “true” Shephard is already lost to me :(

      @blah: Fair point, I’m still thinking of ME1 with the Mako (that I always enjoyed) rather than ME2 with its proper shootiness.

      Of course all this is elementary at the moment as I am completely flat broke. Being a grown up with a proper house and mortgage and stuff is not the satisfying experience I was led to believe it would be.

  14. merc says:

    Good review, superb game.

    The planet scanning is probably the biggest misstep, and even that is not particularly annoying once you get the hang of it (get the scanning speed upgrade from Miranda ASAP, only bother with rich planets, do not ever try to be thorough; scan fast and move on to the next rich planet you find).

    Other than that, brilliant characters with brilliantly written dialogue in a excellent world with superb interactive storytelling and sharp, fun combat. So good.

    • merc says:

      Oh, and another pleasant suprise: well directed, too.

    • suibhne says:

      The one reason to scan non-”Rich” planets is for Eezo, which is relatively rare and can be found in semi-abundance on other rocks.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      I’m on my second playthrough of ME2, and it quite ridiculously gives you 50,000 of each mineral as a bonus for having already finished the game. You can burn through 50,000 of the other three elements quite easily, but I suspect I have more than enough element zero to buy every upgrade that needs it — they should have balanced the “new game+” bonuses a little better.

      Also, having had more than my fill of the scanning minigame the first time, I’ve hacked my ME2 to bind a keyboard shortcut to give me minerals — now I only scan planets looking for anomalies, which is much less tedious.

  15. Mr_Day says:

    A challenge for you all – to beat the final boss without, as I did, bursting into a bout of laughter that would last until 20 minutes after you kill it (on your first attempt).

    • Pace says:

      I had the same reaction. Given how much flak Bioshock took for its stupid boss battle, I’m surprised it’s not mentioned more often for ME2. The fact that it was the plot climax as well made it all the more disappointing to me.

  16. Wichtel says:

    “[...] a person’s fate can be decided by what you remember, rather than what your save game says. Which is very odd.”

    They screwed up the Autosave after the ME1 endgame, it saved before the decision if Anderson or Udina should lead the Council.

    [minor ME2 Spoiler] There is a quest on Illium that’s kind of like the one you wrote about. You have to help a asari decide if should should get kinds with a krogan (answer is obviously Yes! ;) ). But insead of asking Shep for help (like the scene in ME1) you go to her and ask her if the Krogan is bothering her. This makes all the difference. Nearly all conversations feel more natural, even those were you ask your teammates about their favourite toy when they were a kid or what there dreams for the future are.

    PS Alec I told you that Jack is a great character.

  17. subversus says:

    Man, you’ve skipped VERY cool companion and his loyalty mission, that twists MAJOR things in the plot of Mass Effect 1. You really should bring him to the ship on the second walkthrough.

    • Lilliput King says:

      If you mean who I think you mean (and it’s a truly brilliant character, with a really interesting backstory and loyalty mission, granted) then John didn’t miss him. I don’t think you can.

      I think he just missed Zaeed.

    • John Walker says:

      I don’t believe I missed anyone. I’ve deliberately not mentioned a lot of people, because of spoilers. Everyone’s guessing my favourite character wrong, but I’m not naming him because it IS a surprise that it’s him. Going by a different name.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      @John Walker
      But that companion is boring! And his in-combat utterances and exclamations sound like they’ve been done by a different voice actor, or at least done on the regular voice actor’s bad day, which I find particularly sad because I really like his voice in conversation.

  18. mrmud says:

    Im really suprised by everyone saying that the last hours are so fanstasic.

    If anything I was awestruck for almost the entire way throughout the game but when I actually finished it I couldnt help but feel a little bummed out that the overarching story never really goes anywhere. There is no drive in the plot other than for your group members. Everything else is pretty much fantastic (bar the planet scanning) and if they had managed to make the overall story more engaging it would have blown my mind. It seemed the seeds were all there for a plot twist or something spectacular happening but it never did.

  19. Piispa says:

    My main grievance of the game is the all around implausibility of the story. I mean, right from the start, the hero of the universe, the first and only Human Spectre, drops off dead for two years and suddenly no one gives a shit. The Alliance, nor the Council (wether the new or the old one) not so much as want an audience with the man to ask a few questions of his whereabouts and current allegiences. And now, we’re supposed to work for the brutal and racist Cerberus? Not my Shepard, not in a million years!

    Similiar stuff goes through the whole story line, but I don’t want to spoil. The final boss? C’mon, seriously…

  20. MadMatty says:

    as for your ads, is it really possible to build 5 kgs of muscle in a week, with that amazing product?

  21. Nick says:

    In my last mission someone died. They died not because the story demanded it, but because I made a mistake. My first instinct was to reload, but that felt wrong, a mockery of the game. So today I’ve got a little sad spot in my heart because a character who I really, really wanted to know more about, died because I was over-estimated them.

    It’s been a long, long time since a game did this to me. For that alone, Mass Effect 2 was worth playing.

    • Rinox says:

      Yes. I have a friend who lost a party member (one that goes way back to ME1 for him) because he made a bad decision as well, He had the same reflex as you, and gave in: he wanted to play the final mission over so he could not have her die. Guess what? Apparently, you cannot change the choices you made in your first playthrough if you want replay the final mission from the start. :-D You need a save from way before that. And he didn’t have that (relying on autosaves mostly)…I loved it. Brilliant counter to a lame move of my friend, Bioware!!

      Now he’s talking about replaying the entire game with his high-lvl character however, and he already read up on what he should and shouldn’t do in the final mission. That would be so frakking lame of him. And it’d be a rape of a game with actual emotional depth, darn it.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I feel kinda chuffed I didn’t lose anyone, now. Although it probably wasn’t difficult.

    • mrmud says:

      I lost the same character (who was also one of the two characters I had gone through most of the game with). But I honestly dont really understand why I lost her, so I wouldnt know what to do differently even if I had wanted to go back and change things.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      My God. If you’re talking about who it sounds like you’re talking about, I’m not sure the game would be worth finishing without her. I finally got her to confess her love for my Shepard yesterday, after nearly two whole games of trying.

    • Rinox says:

      I always kept her at my side throughout the finale. No way I’d let anything get to her if I could do anything about it!!

    • Kester says:

      I had the opposite response; I managed the last mission with only one death and was a little disappointed that so many people survived. I wanted my Dirty Dozen bloodbath, dammit!

    • jsutcliffe says:

      I had one disloyal character who I greatly disliked, and even though I kept putting her in critical and dangerous positions through the finale she survived. I was trying to kill her off!* It makes me wonder if BioWare forced her to survive because she needs to be in ME3.

      * My favourite, most cathartic moment in DA:O was when I finally got the chance to give moany old Alistair the boot. I was especially pleased when in the text descriptions of what happened to people I’d met on my journey at the end of the game it seemed that it had been crueler to kick him out than to just put him to the sword. I wanted that moment in ME2, too.

  22. The Colonel says:

    I enjoyed the game, but feel it fell well short of the first one. The combat is dire. It feels like Gears of War all over again – not an experience I ever want on a PC.

    The G-man thing really didn’t work for me. Not only brazenly unoriginal, the game made no effort to make the man seem anything but slimy and untrustworthy.

    The plot also felt like a by-the-numbers rehash of the first, with a few poorly disguised mechanics to draw the game out.

    The dialogue and characters, animations and general IP are still top-notch.

    Please put a health bar and proper ammo back in for ME3!

    • Lilliput King says:

      proper ammo

      ?

    • Frosty says:

      @The Colonel

      So I wasn’t the only one who was disgusted at the unneeded introduction of ammo? Suddenly I’m having to run around scavenging ammo. This is infuriating; if your game is Stalker it works if it is ME it does not.

      In fact, I found ME2 to be a big disappointment in so many areas.

      I cannot see what everyone means by fluid or enjoyable combat, I found the combat dull and above all irritating. Having Shepard get stuck to walls or boxes was really not fun and in general I wished to skip past the combat as soon as possible. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say (thus marking me out as insane) that I enjoyed the combat in ME more. It felt more tactical, more intelligent. The loss of grenades is horrifying.

      Then there was the loss of…scale. I’m not sure what everyone else thinks, but I felt like suddenly every environment was so closed and small. That great galactic scale was gone. Don’t get me wrong, I hated the MAKO but at least I was exploring a planet-I could lose myself in a billion starsystems (maybe a couple less). Suddenly now I have to unlock, (UNLOCK!) starsystems. Which I have to scan. Sometimes there might be a mission, but very rarely. And those missions are on very small constrained environments; a great disappointment. The citadel suddenly felt cramped and small instead of the galaxy’s greatest city. No longer was I a single man in a galaxy full of possibilites, I was now just a character in a videogame.

      Ah, yes, the side missions. What a massive disappointment. Firstly ME had masses more, ME’s were more involving and entertaining and MEs made me feel more like a SPECTRE/Commander of the Alliance. A few more Cerberus missions might have let me slip into the role better.

      Oh Cerberus, what a disappointment you were. A crap storyline, or at least pretty boring one (luckily the character quests make up for it). The world was no longer shades of grey, there was only black and white. This made me highly angry.

      I missed the inventory elements too (but that’s a more personal thing; I understand most people were happy to see them go). I missed my old characters, (the interaction with your old lovers is severely lacking and unrewarding) but the new ones eventually found a place in my heart.

      But there were good elements. The characters were relatively well developed, the writing was generally pretty good and the voice acting was sublime.

      It all boils down to two things. Firstly I expected this game to be more RP like. A good involving storyline is the first stone of a RPG, except it wasn’t that. The characters were enjoyable and the conversations were fun but it was flawed; the renegade paragon system seems far too eager to award points for the smallest of things (and also I had a few issues with how some decisions were seen as good/evil). I went into ME2 expecting more ME. It was not that.

      In many departments it was a good game, it was a enjoyable game. It was in no way a bad game. I played all forty odd hours, but I would have waited for this to go down in price had I known how I felt by the end of it.

      Which brings me to my last issue; I kept playing to see one of those really hard, emotional involving moments which made me genuinely question which decision was right. It never came. I kept playing, waiting for those same struggles I faced in ME. They never came.

      Have I changed so much in the past year that I found this game not challenging on a emotional level, or was it put simply not as good?

      A big disappointment. A good game, but a damned disappointing one following the first.

    • Soobe says:

      Totally agree, the combat in this game is absolute rubbish. It’s soo easy, so contrived, and so predictable. Maybe I’m getting to old for video games…

  23. Maxheadroom says:

    “(The only problem with this is my habit of playing DS games during conversations meant I kept missing the appearing options.)”

    Good god man! All that great dialog and you missed half of it! You’re like that girlfriend that wont shut up during the film then insists on asking what’s going on! (or something)

  24. Anthony says:

    I now have to wait for all my friends to finish before I can talk about my favourite character. But I’m more than certain that *character who may not be named* is without a doubt the best. Especially with his reach ;)

    You’re right in the sense that the main plot is more or less your standard ‘team of badasses save the galaxy yet again’ but the team is largely so well written that it doesn’t really matter. The little moments are legion, and most manage just the right emotional resonance for the situation.

    It has to be the best-written game I’ve played in pretty much forever. Better than Dragon Age, and definitely better than the first Mass Effect. It’s really obvious how much care and attention they’ve given to the characters and atmosphere that you can forgive the sci-fi tropes and vauge sensation you’re still playing KOTOR.

    Oh, and the shooting is ace.

  25. pewbeng says:

    I AM COMMANDER SHEPARD AND THIS IS MY FAVORITE SITE ON THE INTERNET

    <3

    <3<3

    <3<3<3

    • NateN says:

      Now go to all the other sites and say that too….

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Did anyone else find it odd that you get paragon points for abusing your celebrity status to get store discounts?

    • Spork says:

      I was expecting to get called on it and have all my discounts cancelled. Still, exploiting the capitalists seems perfectly moral to me.

    • NateN says:

      @somnolentsurfer: I didn’t it was any weirder then having multiple romance threads at once giving you paragon points for some reason. (The “I like you” choices were almost always top-right, but the choice text doesn’t always seem to tell me “I’m a good guy and I try to be nice to everyone or do say what I feel is right.” vs “I’m a nice, caring guy who wants to get to know you better. And also have sex with you.” ) I tried to avoid having multiple romance threads at once, but one of my “Nice Guy” Jack choices ended up starting a second romance thread, so I had to just stop talking to her to avoid going down that path with her.

      (ME1 ended up thinking I wanted a romance with the wrong crew member last time since I was just trying to be a nice guy to everyone. I guess there was supposed to be scene where you have to definitively pick the crew member you are interested in, but it never triggered for me. Annoyed me a little, but I didn’t feel bad having my Paragon M-Shep start a new romance this time around. I just made sure to avoid talking to crew members once things started seeming TOO nice.)

    • Nalano says:

      To be fair, the middle choice was usually also ‘nice guy,’ but a bit more restrained and professional.

      A good example would be one particular dialogue with your yeoman: One of your options to her “I feel like I could fall into your arms” or something like that were, top right: “I’d embrace you,” middle right: “I’d catch you,” bottom right: “I’d drop you.” And then you’d say something of that general sense.

  26. toni says:

    games is epic. played it 4 timesy already. one for the ages.

  27. Lobotomist says:

    For me ME2 is step backwards from first part. In so many ways…

    But one thing is hard to argue. Both story and dialogues , and their acting execution is simply brilliant.
    So if you play a game to see interactive movie…well this is probably the best thing yet.

    As for my favorite character.

    Jack is solidly added to my rooster of all time Bioware favorites.

    Bitch!

  28. The Sombrero Kid says:

    jack is just as imbecilic as the trailer made her seem in my opinion, half way through her dialogues I’d just tell her I’d had enough, however it’s important to note that she feels real and i don’t like her exactly how i wouldn’t like her if I’d met her in the real world, which is an accomplishment i think (i don’t curse how badly written she is, i curse how self obsessed and attention seeking she is).

  29. Piispa says:

    “I’m all powerull BITCH!” is just that.. bitch. Annoying like a whining teenager.

  30. The Sombrero Kid says:

    also it’s the amazing power of games that if you don’t want jack or clumsy sex scenes in your narrative, then they don’t have to be there, there’s no expressing how awesome that is and it’s so frustrating when games don’t realise that potential.

  31. James G says:

    Agreed entirely, a fantastic game. I had been a bit worried about the simplifications they were putting in place, but they worked so completely it is quite clear that my concerns were not only unfounded, but were outright wrong.

    Not to say I don’t have minor quibbles. I wish it had been easier to give the middle finger to Cerberus at the start of the game, although recognise that this would have been difficult to impliment, especially in the streamlined setup they had. The hacking minigames didn’t bother me too much, but they could have done with improving the scanning system. Had the upgrade given you a wide area scanner which flashed up nodes then things would have been better.

    Very much looking forward to ME3.

  32. MadMatty says:

    Incidentally, John Walkers´ Sheperd looks almost indentical to mine, i only had bigger cheekbones- my convo choices largely landed in the Renegade area.

    • Dante says:

      All female Shepard’s look alike to me, just with different hair.

      Male Shepard’s can get a little more… distinctive: http://twitpic.com/10pbrz

    • Wulf says:

      That’s because many of the female Shepard characters would appear to be made by people who want a really sexy Shepard, and because of that a lot of the face options get ignored. When I set out creating a female Shepard I actually based the character on someone I know personally, and the results were much more distinctive.

      http://i50.tinypic.com/2ch2i6q.jpg

    • Nalano says:

      If you go to masseffect2faces.com and do a search by popular female faces, you get the impression that everybody who plays Mass Effect has something of a lolita complex.

      Not that mine is terribly different, but my femshep got a more GI Jane look.

    • MadMatty says:

      Nice shots guys :)
      I was thinking of that Marine chick in Aliens 2- she was pretty bad ass- got a bit of a giggle from her last words, when they suicide themselves with the grenade: “You always were an asshole Gorman” lol!

      Unfortunately i´ve lost my ME1 savegame due to reformatting or something (unistalling prolly).
      Just got back to keeping a “Savegame” folder on my harddrive for all those games that get uninstalled for space issues.
      Mine, is (or was- doh!) as Johns, a pale red head.

  33. Dante says:

    I actually ended up romancing Jack, much to my own surprise after seeing that first trailer, she really a spectacularly broken and vulnerable person and the paragon romance track is really quite heart warming, as you’re literally the only person in the galaxy who hasn’t used or abused her.

    One of the saddest things about Mass Effect 2 is that the ‘anyone can die’ attitude means we’re unlikely to see the likes of Jack, Mordin, Thane and Archangel return. I’m also holding out hope that Reiger (who I noticed you snuck in a picture of) comes back as a team member. Baddass Quarian marine voiced by Adam Baldwin? Yes please.

  34. Rinox says:

    I can’t believe no one mentioned

    ELCOR SHAKESPEARE ADS

  35. +--JAK--+ says:

    Loved this game, the loyalty missions are the best bits and are done better than any other rpgs sidequests! Especially like Thanes’ cuz he is just badass!

    • +--JAK--+ says:

      Also i have completed the game, How come i don’t get the favourite character “Reach” joke thingy =(

    • Bugsport says:

      I think I know who it is. It is reference to a conversation that teammate had with shepard when they refered to past military experience and a ring fight they had with a fellow officer. It is largely considered the best line of dialogue spoken by that character.

      As best as I could remember
      “We fought it out for nine rounds. I had reach, but she had flexibility. When the CO finally declared it a draw and pissed off alot of bet takers, we decided to settle it with a final tie breaker in her quarters. I had reach but she, uh, had flexability. (the character then smirks)”

      That line of dialogue, along with a certain squad member (not Jack) in engineering endeered me to them forever. endeered me to them forever.

      And mordin’s comments on interspecies sex is bloody hilarious. “Have to go. Studying single cell reproduction. Much simpler than real relationships/courting rituals. Less alcohol and mood music.”

      And don’t get me started on the ointments for ‘chafing’ comment. I was left laughing for ten minutes.

      Though, John you should really get Zaeed. He has absolutely no conversation items on the ship. You just walk up to him and click speak to have him give you little stories about his past. Has a great preface to his stories though. “Oh Shepard, didn’t hear you come in. I was just waxing goddamn nostalgic, if you want to hear”

    • +--JAK--+ says:

      Lol yeah, you have just jogged my memory, thats a totally brilliant line and a fantastic character!

  36. rocketman71 says:

    He, all the same choices as me, Alec. You should be worried :P

  37. Nameykins says:

    This year is going have to work hard to come up with a game that I’ll like more than this. Best 30 hours I’ve spent on a game in literally years.

    I really think Bioware has hit the perfect balance between a good action game and their own trademark stly of wonderful character interactions, without being bogged down with too much micromanaging RPG elements. I loathed the old weapon/armor/mod/ammo system in ME1. This is also the first game sequel, where the “darker and more grim” continuation of the first game actually works. Having tons of humour helps with it, certainly. It doesn’t feel like forced darkness, rather than it just comes naturally with the nature of the plot. Large amount of your team mates start off seemingly “grim and hardcore”, but talking to them and doing their mission usually unveils their softer, more human sides. I came to the game expecting that I’d hate people like Jack, but in the end almost everyone positively surprised me. I like that.

    That said, I’ll agree that both probing and hacking are a waste of time as they are and they could have put a little more work in both of them. Make probing even remotely fun and make hacking actually challenging. Also without spoilers, I dislike some of the timing of the story. There is a part where you can royally screw up if you rush in too fast and want a perfectionist ending. There are no points of no return in a traditional sense, but you might miss certain opportunities.

    I heavily suggest making a save before departing to any obvious main plot location, so you can get back and do things you might have missed.

  38. Wulf says:

    Even I found this a much more compelling game than the usual Bioware fare, the character dialogues were much more intriguing and believable than either the original Mass Effect or Dragon Age. Did they finally get themselves some decent writers? It’s no second coming fro them, and it’s no Mask of the Betrayer, but it’s a marked improvement and it was quite enjoyable, which surprised me. I might actually have to buy it. (Yes, after the huge amounts of doubt and hatred Dragon Age filled me with, I wanted to play it to completion before buying it.)

    The biggest problems I had with are…

    - The areas feel a little too purposeful. Don’t get me wrong, I thought they were superbly pretty, but it was clear that such and such a place was meant for chatting, story exposition, or combat, and each type of area was blatant about this, it gave the game a mildly artificial feel which I feel that they could’ve worked more at avoiding, though that’s just my opinion.

    - There are parts of the writing that still bother me, because aside from the Quarians (and I really dig the Quarians in Mass Effect 2) the whole Universe seems like some right-wing fascists wet dream. YOU CANNOT CREATE AI, AI IS BAD, AI IS EVIL, AI IS WRONG AND WE KILL YOU FOR IT, MATING WITH OTHER SPECIES IS BAD, WE MAKE EVIL TERRORIST GROUP TO SHOW YOU, GENETIC MANIPULATION OTHER THAN TO BE A SLIGHTLY MORE PERFECT HUMAN IS BAD, BAD, EVIL, AND BAD, YOU SHOULD NOT DO IT, EVEN A TAIL IS ABOMINATION UNTO GOD, PEOPLE WITH TAILS ARE EVIL! …and it just goes on and on like that. I still found the game enjoyable, but I kept wishing I could ally myself with the Quarians, since they seemed to be open minded, in fact, they seemed to be the sole open minded race. Don’t get me wrong again, the crew can be open minded, but the races… ugh, distressingly fascist. There are times when I felt like the game was being targeted toward Rush Limbaugh. After reading things like Accelerando, it becomes clear just how depressingly right-wing their Universe is, and how much creativity is drained from it by being so nutty.

    Just my opinion, but without those two things, the game could’ve been so much better. It ranks about 3.5/5 for me, but it could’ve been 5/5… but the writing still wasn’t quite there yet because of the problems described, and it all felt rather artificial. I’m hoping Mass Effect 3 will be 5/5, because they’re definitely on the right track.

    • Rinox says:

      There are parts of the writing that still bother me, because aside from the Quarians (and I really dig the Quarians in Mass Effect 2) the whole Universe seems like some right-wing fascists wet dream.

      I think you will find that fascism and xenophobia come rather easy to mankind. We’ve spent thousand of years fighting the “others” within our own species because of their religions, ideas, skin colour, culture and whatnot. Does it really surprise you that humanity would react like that when faced with other intelligent species altogether? Especially as the new kid on the block.

      The game leaves plenty of room to not conform to that feeling, btw, both as a paragon and a renegade. If anything I feel it’s almost a social experiment: do you go along with this undercurrent of racism? Or do you refuse?

    • merc says:

      I would give this post 3.5/5 for entertainment, worth a chuckly but still a bit of a disappointment after enjoying the superb humor of Wulf: The Dragon Age Review: The Drama. I was hoping for an even better followup for ME2.

      Still, I got a chuckly out of the OMG right-wingers under the bed angle and I enjoy the amusing mental imagery of you finding ME2 to be “distressingly fascist”.

    • Wulf says:

      @Rinox

      But the fascism also came from the asari, turians, and salarians, the humans weren’t alone with it, and that’s what was so depressing about it. I’ve read so many works where races have uplifted humanity culturally as well, or where humanity has gotten past their own problems (such as in Accelerando, which you apparently really need to read) and we’ve become a beautiful race by our own merits. Mass Effect 2 has much of the xenophobia and even homophobia (no gay relationships, but there are lesbian ones) that today’s society has, and it doesn’t seem like we’ve made any advancements from today. I just find that setting rather depressing, blame me for that if you will… but I can’t help it.

      And I don’t disagree with the latter part of your argument at all, in fact I completely agree with it, so I’m not the big, bad, Bioware-hating evil that I’m sure some would believe I am, I feel my concerns are valid. The issues I have with it is that instead of it being more 50/50, the fascist/open minded balance is something more like 95/5, in favour of the fascists. The player, their crew, and the Quarians seem to be the only examples of open minded creatures in the whole Universe. And Gods damn it, yes, that’s depressing. I just hope that in Mass Effect 3 they move past that and go for a 50/50 balance. I want to see some AI wandering around and accepted as everyday people with the same rights, I want to see genetically and cybernetically modified aliens! I feel that removing this limits the creativity of the game.

      But again, this is just my opinion, take it, leave it, or vilify me for it as you will.

    • Wulf says:

      @merc

      Thanks, I was waiting for someone to be a total ass and act like a brainwashed dolt just because I had something slightly negative to say in a mostly positive review. As the kids say today: gg.

    • Wulf says:

      @This mess starting up right here…

      I also wish people would stop being damn cowards and use their regular names if they’re going to troll. I mean, it’s funny how I’ve never seen a ‘merc’ post before, but I expect I’m going to be seeing a lot of this.

      And I can’t believe it’s going to start again despite the review being mostly positive.

      Good grief.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      it’s strange that you took this from mass effect 2 given that the terminus systems are supposed to be a lawless frontier, not a totalitarian nightmare, particularly illium which is designed to be a kind of anarchist utopia, although the stuff going on in the citadel is a deliberate allegory of modern new york and london i don’t think it portrays this kind of thing positively.

    • jalf says:

      How is it a problem with the writing that the universe is being portrayed as not entirely an utopia?
      Does that mean every single fantasy game ever created had bad writing because it’s always some royalists wet dream and democracy is nonexistent?

      I haven’t played ME2 yet, but one of the things I liked about ME1 was that the setting wasn’t just completely fantastical. It might be the future, and on the whole, it seems a fairly nice future to be in, but people are still jerks and dividing the world up into “us” and “them” is still the most popular pastime. People, regardless of species, are basically conservative and really just want things to stay the same. They don’t want to risk upsetting the status quo by going around building AI’s or radically changing the genetic make-up of their own or other species. It showed people in the future being basically the same as today: Self-centered, resistant to change and possessing an amazing ability to filter out anything that might upset their world-view.

      I think there’s an important distinction between “the setting it portrays doesn’t seem like it’d be heaven to live in”, and “the writing sucks.

    • Wulf says:

      @The Sombrero Kid

      You actually read what I had to say, gave it fair consideration, and came back with a point that isn’t trolling? That’s… unexpected. Thank you.

      I actually completely agree with that, too. But I also point out that that’s why I found it depressing, because most of where I’d spend the game seemed to be in areas where more fascist beliefs were embraced, the opposing side of things was so few and far between, I wanted to see more like that, I’d like to have seen a ector of the galaxy devoted to such a movement, with both positive and negative elements thereof, I think it could have opened the door to a lot of creativity. What I’m trying to say is that the fascist airs of it meant that it comes over as just 20th-21st century Earth in space, and I wanted a little more than that.

      Yes, the Citadel was depressing, I found it depressing too, and I also had a pick at the VI for being so fascist (I was surprised I was given the option), but considering that it seems that most of the areas of the game contain people and cultures which are just like that, the ones that diverge are few and far between. Does that make sense? I just wanted to see more of those little hints, expanded up to a more real presence rather than just a token presence.

      …but I don’t know if this is going to be understood, and I’m still expecting to get more trolls than posts like yours.

    • merc says:

      Oh no, it’s not like that; I’m just a humble fan who was hoping for only, say, at least a lengthy blog post of accusations of fascism. Surely you can see how this anemic output would fail to please the fans of your comedy.

    • Wulf says:

      @jalf

      We’re talking about two different things, here.

      Read my initial post and my replies and you might grok where I’m coming from.

      But again, it’s just my opinion… I simply felt that there were a lot of avenues for creative writing lost, that’s all.

    • Rinox says:

      @ Wulf: sorry if you felt I villified you – maybe I came on a bit strong with the “you will find…” intro.

      Anyway, yes, the xenophobia (more that than fascism, imho) is all-intrusive in the ME universe, in almost every race you meet. But that is the universe Bioware wants to paint. To me, the story of Commander Shepard and humanity is exactly about overcoming all that.

      Humanity is the new, strong kid who needs to impress its new playmates without having them hate him. The other races – notoriously the other 3 council races – are extremely suspect of this new race and its rise to power. That’s just the background. It’s a cold, paranoid and often racist universe.

      SPOILERS:

      But look at ME2…your crew has more aliens than humans. Part of the dialogue of most of your teammates will at least sideways refer to tensions between the Cerberus crew and the alien squadmates. But Grunt has a human (!) Battlemaster. Mordin struggles with his role in the creation of the Xenophage. Legion gives the Geth, the ultimate ‘other’ of ME1, a very different face than before…even Tali shows understanding for their motives in the end. There’s also the recovered datapad at the crash site of the old Normandy, with the log of an Alliance soldier who describes how he went from distrust and hate to acceptance of your alien squadmates after seeing their courage and loyalty. There are the Asari discussing the issue of Asari ‘purebloods’ if you go to Illium (how they are a ‘relic’). The discussing couples of interracial species on Illium, like an Asari and a Salarian who have vastly different life spans and know and accept this as a fact. And so much more.

      These little cracks are found in the entire universe. A xenophobic universe, many species distrusting each other, your (forced) cooperation with a ‘Human Power’ agency (Cerberus) and a common, imminent threat (Reapers)? I sense a major change coming up in ME3, where all these petty changes must be swept away to withstand the storm that’s coming…so it’s probably not what you think right now.

    • Lilliput King says:

      or vilify me for it as you will.

      You know me, Wulf. I’ll do my level best.

      Joking aside, I agree the areas a little bit too functional, but for different reasons.

      I can help but feel they’re a little short on spectacle this time around. You sort of get a feel for the areas, but they’re so small they begin to feel artificial. The Quarian fleet was the worst offender

      I think you’re missing the point, BTW, by criticising the universe for being ‘right-wing.’ As Rinox pointed out, it’s part of the defining characteristic of the universe. Humanity on the rise, insanely quickly. Every other race feeling sidelined and threatened. Depending on how you play it, by the events of ME2, humans are already leading the galaxy. There’s a building feeling of resentment and xenophobia, especially towards humanity.

      This is part of fantasy. You need to be able to accept other worlds as they are to be able to explore them, and not expect them to conform to your ideals. It’s more interesting this way, honestly. I’ll put forward 1984 as the best and most obvious example.

      People are afraid of AIs because of the Geth, and to a lesser extent the Reapers. This is why AIs are ‘evil.’ It’s a theme that’s been explored a fair bit in sci-fi, (pretty much the entire plot of the BSG reinvention), so it surprises me a little that you didn’t pick up on it. The entire galaxy is pretty much governed by fear, and I thought that was conveyed pretty well.

      Also, how are the Quarians open minded? The only reason they won’t experiment on live Geth is because they’re afraid of having them on board. If they could exterminate all Geth, they would, and they’re fairly unequivocal on that point. They’re driven by hate and fear as much as anyone else.

      Finally, pirating a game with lax DRM? Lilliput King dissaproves -10.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      i think the Darker Universe™ is the reason for all the racists and right wingers, that and the obvious and strained metaphor for the world be live in today.

      I know what you mean and to a degree, i agree it’s a little too constant, but then it’s not often you get a game which stresses criticism of US/UK Governments role in terrorising their own populace and overall i think it should be applauded for that, Blacksite for example was an embarrassment in that regard.

    • Kester says:

      @Wulf: Um, I don’t know where you’re getting your ideas about the Quarians from, but they’re probably the worst of the lot. At best they could be described as “insular”, and I take it you haven’t had a crack at Tali’s loyalty quest yet, because that shows you an even worse side of them. “Genocidal” would probably be a more correct term.

    • merc says:

      I think it’s appalling that ME2 doesn’t even have positive portrayals of any socialist workers’ collectives!

      And how dare Shepard attack the collectors without an attempt at multilateral peace negotiations or even at least a round of mighty tough sanctions! I bet it’s because the collectors are brown people. That’s it Bioware, I’m with Wulf, I won’t stand for this horrific fascist riech wing propaganda any longer! If you don’t put this right, if ME3 doesn’t conclude multilateral peace talks in which mutual understanding persuades the Reapers to agree to commit to building a more progressive future and ending imperialism then I am writing a lengthy blog post.

    • Schadenfreude says:

      It’s worth baring in mind that the whole tone of the Citadel was substantially different (for me anyway) depending on what had happened at the end of ME1. With Udina in charge of a human-led Council there was lots of anti-human talk, outright resentment and general bad feelings with humans cracking down on aliens.

      With the original Council still alive and Anderson on the board there were much happier feelings all round. A hostile shopkeeper in the other playthrough was downright friendly there were news reports about the Turians making financial reparations to humans over the First Contact War and people weren’t trying to tear down a commemorative statue of Shepard. It’ all one big love-in in Citadel Space on this playthrough.

    • Man Raised By Puffins says:

      YOU CANNOT CREATE AI, AI IS BAD, AI IS EVIL, AI IS WRONG AND WE KILL YOU FOR IT

      Yes, I found that tone particularly rankled in the first game, but I think they’ve done a good job of rectifying it in Mass Effect 2. The late game reveal about the Geth builds on a couple of hints about them from the first game and finally casts them as something other than a mindless swarm of roboevils, plus there’s EDI. Yeah, practically everyone is still suspicious of AIs but in the context of the recent Geth aggression and what happened to the Quarians that’s understandable.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Wulf

      I take your point about the racism, though I think others are correct that this is a fairly normal state for human and human-like intelligences so I don’t see it as being a political statement but simply a representation of a credible reality. Fortunately, as others have said, there’s plenty of room to buck the prevailing non-wisdom in this regard no matter what alignment you’re playing. In fact, as both renegade and paragon, I’ve never actually gone the racist route because it just makes the main character unappealing IMO.

      As to the AI thing, well, AI IS evil. Sorry, but creating a genuinely independent, thinking intelligence is not a good idea, and it’s a common enough theme in science fiction to point that out. I wouldn’t characterize that as remotely “right wing,” indeed if anyone does end up hooking up a thinking machine to a weapons system I suspect it’ll be the right wingers over the vocal protests of myself and my fellow lefties.

    • ohnoabear says:

      Yeah, I second Vinraith’s comment about AI being bad. And if you’re going to name drop Accelerando, Wulf, you should realize as much. I mean, one of the main ideas of Accelerando’s third act is that true superhuman AI is an alien, frightening thing that is, at best, indifferent towards mankind and, at worst, hostile and either way capable of annihilating mankind utterly at will.

      SPOILER
      The book ends with all of humanity exiled from their home system, completely irrelevant, mired in a hedonistic, but ultimately meaningless utopia. It’s pretty much the Quarian’s situation but even worse: at least the Quarians have a reason to live, and a chance to achieve their goals. Even if your reading of the book’s end is cheerier than the existential nihilism I found, it’s still not a happy ending. Mankind is obsolete, on the run from its alien god-children who have devoured the solar system. Don’t you think that’s worth fighting against? And don’t you think it makes sense for people in Mass Effect to oppose it, when they’ve seen its effects first-hand?

    • Nalano says:

      Considering how ubiquitous genetic engineering is, I doubt the moral consensus in the ME universe is as one-sided as you make it to be. However, killing humanoids in genetic research is another question entirely, and that’s pretty much evil.

      As for AI, there’s good, applicable reason to be afraid of AIs: They can decide, logically, that biological life is a threat to their continued survival because people as we know it are inherently irrational and prone to wars. They can conclude, thus, that a pre-emptive strike is preferable to an inevitable attack by biologicals. With this conclusion, they can instantly reach consensus with their entire race, retool their entire society on a total war footing no biological civilization has ever managed, and kick our asses in a way more methodical, efficient and brutal than we could retaliate with.

      After all, look how an army of robotic domestic servants kicked the asses of the entire Quarian empire – the Quarians themselves being technological experts – and are pretty much fending off the combined enmity of the rest of the biological galaxy and thrive in the meantime with hardly a fraction of their total mobilization potential.

      Also, considering the big bads are themselves giant cybernetic constructs… yeah. Plenty of reason to fear AIs.

      Or, to channel HK-47: You are weak, meatbag.

  39. Pardoz says:

    I’ll play the heretic here and say that, especially compared to Dragon Age, ME2 is an absolutely crap game.

    It is, however, an absolutely fantastic movie, despite being regularly interrupted by annoying bits where you have to click the mouse a lot.

    • Rob says:

      Not really. Dragon Age is written much better, I never found myself in endless dialog loops like I can in ME2. Choice actually matter in DA where choice in ME2 comes down to being an idiot or not. Now ME2 is much better than ME1 which was vastly overrated. I think ME1 was the nadir of Bioware, it was the end result of continuously resting on their KOTOR laurels, KOTOR itself being overly praised because the world wanted a decent Star Wars game.

  40. ThePinkNinja says:

    Since I completed it all other games and forms of entertainment ahve seemed slightly dull and washed out.

    Is there any higher form of praise?

  41. tomeoftom says:

    A really nice review! I remember feeling slightly hollow after the credits had rolled, also, but you’re perfectly right in putting it like you did:

    “Because this is a game about smaller, intertwining plots, personal stories about those who keep you company. It’s the middle section of a trilogy, and as such its plot cannot be complete, nor revel in introducing a new world.”

    It’s not a storyline meant for progression, or even consumption; it functions really quite comfortably as a stage of construction and development. The characters and the galaxy’s effect on them were all the “meat” the plot needed. I never felt like exploring worlds and talking to people was a mere deviation from the Great Arc, precisely because the Great Arc basically straightens out in this chapter. Despite the streamlining and action-packing ME2 benefited from, it was almost relaxing; the way you could ensconce yourself within such a delightful mass of conversation and investigation really appealed to me. A game less memorable than its predecessor, but hugely, hugely more fun to actually play.

  42. Paul S. says:

    Everyone’s favourite character has reach. Archangel is completely wonderful, and beautifully handled both in the writing and vocal performance.
    One problem I had (and it’s a minor one) is the lack of interraction with your mates outside of the loyalty missions. In DA:O, NPCs contribute to all the other stuff you do, have opinions, start fights etc. Never happens in ME2. Shame.

    • +--JAK--+ says:

      Minor Spoiler Warning!!!!!!

      yeah i was a little dissapointed that the characters don’t really chip in much unless they are on their loyalty missions. I really hoped that taking Grunt and Mordin along for each others loyalty quests would have raised a conflict in interests and made an interesting situation but Grunt just happily played out his part without even making a single comment!

  43. Wichtel says:

    There is one thing that really funny about sending out probes. Go to the Sol system and send a probe to the seventh planet.

  44. Gnarl says:

    What mrmud and Piispa said. The main plot began nonsensically for most previous Shepards then handily stopped discriminating and made no sense for everybody. And then decided to not finish almost all of the threads it had been throwing in your face for the entire game anyway. At least all the character stories, or most of the actual game time, were great.

    Oh, and everything else was great too. I even liked the planet scanning, as it felt in universe. I mean scanning planets for resources would be boring, yeah?

    And while the clip thing did make the combat a hell of a lot more fun, it still feels a shame they got rid of a different idea for the standard method.

  45. FP says:

    Still kicking myself that I lost my ME1 save (especially since I have a whole folder full of saves from other games). I’m not sure whether I want to use someone else’s save, it doesn’t feel right somehow.

  46. Wulf says:

    @merc

    Thanks, I was waiting for someone to be a total ass and act like a brainwashed dolt just because I had something slightly negative to say in a mostly positive review. As the kids say today: gg.

  47. Tornik says:

    For what it’s worth, I’d like to second everything said in this article. I actually left Mordin’s loyalty mission until quite late in the game, as I never really ‘clicked’ with his character. I found his mannerisms and way of talking interesting from a character design point of view, but had him written off as a solid second-tier character. His loyalty mission changed that.

    My jaw was damn-near on the floor several times on the mission, as the quality of the writing conveyed fantastically the enormity of the decision the good Professor had to make, and how he had rationalised his actions and came to live with himself. I had honestly expected Bioware to give him an off-hand remark or a blazé attitude towards the whole thing – colour me corrected.

    The game isn’t perfect. The decision to leave out the option to talk your way through your actions in the previous game if you’re sans-save is as infuriating as John suggests. I resent the fact that the games makes assumptions about my actions, that they’ve gone down this road is a very bad choice.

    While it’s not perfect, it is superb. Aside from Mordin’s mission, the writing had me blown away again and again. If you’ll excuse me, I need to call in sick from work for the next few days to play through ME1 again so I can start ME2 properly this time.

    • archonsod says:

      I was the same. When I first learned of Mordin’s role in the genophage I wrote him off as some kind of Salarian Mengele. By the time I’d finished his loyalty mission however I had a completely different view of him. Superb writing by Bioware I think.

  48. mandrill says:

    I have to take issue with you over the hacking and mining minigames. The mining I found very satisfying and much better than having to land in a Mako and traverse spiky terrain to get the minerals. I’m sure about 10 hours could have been shaved off my completion time had I not gone after all the rich planets and mined them dry.

    And the hacking games were just genius. No more “Decryption skill to low” messages just a minigame that unlocked the goodies. on the odd occasion that I messed them up I found I couldn’t re-do them (apart fromthe meta method of quicksaving and reloading) The minigames themselves were simple, relatively diverting, and doable by even the most cak-handed.

    Both mechinics were IMO a definite improvement on the original.

    Oh and Mordin’s song is brilliant!

  49. Heliocentric says:

    @John Walker So which ds games did you play during me2? I’m partial to playing advance wars: dark conflict during the long spawn times you’ll often suffer while playing “realistic” multiplayer shooters.

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