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. sana says:

    “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.”
    Nope. For me they directly asked questions about things that actually happened in my save game, demanding statements from Shepard, instead of asking what exactly happened.

    • Lilliput King says:

      @Sana

      Didn’t they ask you which council member you elected? That’s the choice everyone made which the game didn’t save.

    • Springy says:

      It made sense for me because I’d chosen the ‘it’s not my decision’ option when asked in the first game to pick either Udina or Anderson. Makes less sense if everyone was asked.

  2. UK_John says:

    “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/”

    “I really should have mentioned the combat by now, what with it making up about half the game.”

    From RPG’s like Baldur’s Gate to the Action-Adventure that is the Mass Effect series and especially Mass Effect 2. Fully expec MAss Effect 3 to take place on one planet with lots of ledges to jumps across and hang on to…… Maybe the planet of Persia….. It sure as hell not moving toward being MORE roleplayingish!

    • HermitUK says:

      Role playing doesn’t have to mean lots of stats and loot. ME2 is an RPG because there’s the freedom to play it in a host of different ways. I’ll take choice and consequence over Torchlight’s piles of loot any day of the week.

    • wyrmsine says:

      It’s certainly stripping away some of the conventions of traditional RPG, but they’re not ones that really contribute to immersion in a character or playing a role. I’ve barely noticed the removal of fifty different “+X Guns of Bullety Pow”. Keeping them in wouldn’t have detracted from the story, but they would be an unnecessary distraction, IMHO. ME2 feels like the closest thing to an ideal RPG I can think of, in that it’s all about the player’s choices and doesn’t deal with character-building as item acquisition.

    • SuperNashwan says:

      I was glad not to have to constantly manage a huge inventory of nearly identical weaponry and armour in ME2, to my mind it’s been streamlined without losing the importance of tactical tradeoff, so the game doesn’t suffer at all. And y’know, ME2 is hugely more sophisticated in the actual roleplaying story elements than even its predecessor.

    • autogunner says:

      the tons of rubbish you got mass effect 1 diluted the experience. stats and items are a shite way of doing things in rpgs, hopefully we can get past it one day and focus on play a role and not statistical dress up, like in WFRP 3rd ed.

    • Lilliput King says:

      An RPG is an interesting beast in that it covers games like Deus Ex and games like Torchlight, or Diablo.

      Suffice to say, I don’t much like games like Torchlight or Diablo. ME2 retained all the important aspects of a RPG – choices, interaction with a world, character development (in the literary sense) and a driving narrative, and sidelined the boring bits.

    • Jeremy says:

      I felt this was more a literal role playing experience than the arbitrary stat based “role playing” that previous video games have coined. Not to say I don’t love number crunching in games now and again, but it really wouldn’t have fit this game in the least. Mass Effect never claimed to be a number crunching game, that’s what Dragon Age is all about :)

      Also, hated having 150 versions of Armor Piercing Rounds VI that took me 15 minutes to sell. There was an article linked to on the Sunday Papers and the writer had made the comment that there is a big difference between actual choice and redundancy… which we all know Mass Effect 1 had. What’s the point of having 40 ammo types and 120 guns, when you upgrade so fast that you never need to use 90% of them? I prefer having 3 legitimate choices for a weapon over 200 sub par choices.

    • d. says:

      Brilliant logic! Inventory, loot and items all sucked in ME1, ergo: ALL RPGs are better without them.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Whose logic is that?

    • Brer says:

      It’s worth clarifying that weapon choice and armor selection is stripped down and simplified, but NOT removed entirely: There are two of every weapon, usually trading hitting power/accuracy for ROF/ammo capacity, and a third sniper rifle, assault rifle, and shotgun. Some of the NPCs have access to one of those “top tier” weapons, and you get to pick one or expand your weapon skills about half-way through the game (so if you’re an Infiltrator with sniper, SMG, and pistol skills you can pick the top tier sniper rifle OR choose to learn to wield shotguns or assault rifles). Armor selection is now a mix-and-match affair by pieces. I went into the end-game with an eyepiece/visor that gave me extra headshot damage, thigh armor with pockets to up my extra ammo capacity, shoulder pieces that reinforced my shield strength, and so on.

      That said, again it’s stripped down, you can buy and find as much as possible and still only have three or four choices for each piece not counting the all-in-one DLC suits like the Inferno, Terminus, and Blood Dragon armor. The biggest change is weapon modifications and upgrades. They are universal and stackable improvements that you acquire in missions and have to research, or they’re schematics and specs that you buy from stores. In either case the idea is that your on-board armory and fabricators are incorporating design improvements to all the weapons it’s spitting out for you. Meanwhile, special ammo is basically a class-specific power that is toggled on or off rather than something you manage like an inventory item. There’s no real good in-universe explanation for this, but from a gameplay perspective it makes special ammo something that you have a reason to care about rather than ending the game using nothing but Sledgehammer rounds since they worked against everything. It also gives another reason to pick soldiers, since not only do they get training with every weapon, they get access to every ammo type.

    • mejobloggs says:

      I feel lonely without inventory, loot and items in ME2 :(

      I think they’re fun

  3. Helm says:

    The review captures how I felt about the game though I wasn’t as impressed with the characters or plot as John but perhaps that’s because I found it difficult to get over how the faces of the 3d models couldn’t emote anything but slight variations where the stories of them often called for all-out rage or laughter or tears, it’s a technological issue then.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      I’m gob smacked you weren’t impressed with the facial animations i rarely find Hollywood actors more convincing than these characters.

    • Zyrxil says:

      What facial animations? 90% of the time you’re talking to aliens whose facial movements mean nothing at all, as far as you know. The other 10% of the time you’ll maybe catch a smile. Source engine quality facial animations these are not.

    • Bowlby says:

      It’s weird because in the first game I was really impressed by the facial animation. With Mass Effect 2 it felt like I was watching the puppets from Thunderbirds trying to do Shakespeare. Yet, the facial animations must be at least as good as the first one, which leads me to believe that my expectations have simply been pushed raised upwards.

    • Helm says:

      what Bowlby said. It’s not a problem so much with most of the aliens since they’re either stoic to begin with or their faces are too aliens like Krogans who look constantly grumpy so that’s fine. But for the human or very humanesque types of aliens, it was really jarring. Close your eyes while someone is talking and imagine what expression they’d have, then open your eyes and look at blankface, perhaps slightly grinning blankface.

      It’s mostly the eyes and eyebrows along with skin complexion changes that are lacking. You can’t do every human expression (the story called for) by slightly manipulating the mouth area.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      i’m sorry i can understand that sometimes it’s on the wrong side of the uncanny valley or that most of the time it’s right in the uncanny valley, and that the source engines facial animations are good, but they are nothing compared to mass effect 1/2. (i even watched them again to check, mass effect is superior hands down)

    • SuperNashwan says:

      I get how not liking the facial animations would be annoying but I found them to be very well done, I was actually taken aback by the range and subtlety on offer. And to compare Source’s cartoonish gurning favourably to ME2…

    • Lilliput King says:

      Disagree! Episode Two’s facial animations are so much better than ME2′s creepy grimaces. A minor nitpick, but it bugged me.

    • Jeremy says:

      Really, the only thing missing with the facial animations was getting the eyes involved. Some of the smiles were creepy because it never affected the rest of the face, and the blank stare doesn’t evoke a ton of emotion. However, I think that was only noticeable because the rest of it was done so well… so here’s hoping that Bioware figures out how to animate around the eyes to make the emotions of the characters seem more authentic, but even if they don’t, I’ll still be impressed with how far they’ve come.

    • Brer says:

      I don’t think it’s quite fair to compare HL2 (and episodes) animation to ME2 for the simple reason of time. Even if we restricted HL2 quality to just Male Shepherd, Female Shepherd, The Illusive Man, and your party (that is to say, we ignore all the other NPCs, even major ones like Liara, Aria, Anderson, Udina, etc etc), you’ve still got double the characters (14 in ME2, 7 in HL2 counting Dog as a character) and at least ten times the “screen time”. You can add up all the dialogues from every character in Half Life 2 and both its episodes, and Mass Effect 2 exceeds the count before you’ve recruited your first character. Even then I’m being generous, since a lot of the work actually done on characters other than Alyx (Breen, Eli, Edith, etc) was much less extensive.

    • Helm says:

      Brer I’m not saying it’d be easy to do and yes it’d cost more money and more hours but for ME III if they want more emotional poignancy, getting the eyes, cheeks and eyebrows involved in expressions would be a good thing to do.

    • Nalano says:

      I think it’s because all ME2′s characters are built to a form whereas the most expressive characters in HL2 are tailor-made. So in effect, all those sliders of cheekbone height and lip width hurt the engine’s ability to do more than eyebrow wiggle and smile.

  4. Wednesday says:

    Would that other favourite teamate of yours happen to be the last one you find?

    Because I thought he was staggeringly well written.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Nah, I’ve worked it out. It’s not him. John gives a big old clue on the first page.

      Was an incredible moment when you recruit the character John alludes to. Suffice to say, I didn’t see it coming.

    • Wednesday says:

      Ah, so, are you thinking the guy in blue?

      Because he was also fantastic.

  5. Rinox says:

    I’m spamming the thread but…Joker was actually funny this time. Hated him in ME 1 – loved him in 2. Maybe I’ve just gone soft.

    • Kester says:

      Yeah, he was definitely better. I didn’t hate him in ME1, but I could take or leave him. In ME2, he was one of my favourite characters: as John said, the exchanges between Joker and EDI are a particular highlight. I think he’s a good poster-boy for the general improvement in the writing between the two games.

  6. Heliocentric says:

    As someone who touched into the study of evolutionary ai. Self replicating machines are terrifying concepts. With no environmental constraints, the ability to not only reproduce but also to specialise. If i was in any kind of position of us choosing if we send up selfreplicating drones or not it would be a big “hell no”.

    What happens when any moral or capacity constraints are accidentally “bred out” within the reproduction? Unless you don’t mind organic life being replaced.

    • mrmud says:

      The Singularity is very, very scary concept.

    • mandrill says:

      There are many options for the singularity, artificial life wiping out humanity being only one of them. Humanity becoming ‘artifical’ being another. Its all evolution anyway. one form of life supercedes another. All we can hope for is that some rememberance of who we were and what we achieved survives.

    • Nick says:

      There’s a really nice reference to a Charles Stross book, Singularity Sky, where a few characters talk about Cornucopia machines and unlimited nanotech.

    • Tei says:

      “Unless you don’t mind organic life being replaced.”

      He.. you cannot step into the same river twice. We replace all our cells several times in our life.

  7. Eight Rooks says:

    It is a very good – not great – game, possibly the first Bioware title I’ve ever actually enjoyed, and definitely the first to come anywhere near deserving the praise their legion of acolytes unquestioningly shower over anything they ever do. Shooting, much, much improved – not the best third-person action game ever conceived or anything and it can get pretty unbalanced (though nowhere near as horrendously broken as Dragon Age – three words; ‘Cone of Cold’). But it rewards different tactics and mixing it up and does so pretty satisfyingly. Writing, greatly improved, brilliant in places.

    It’s just a crying shame they’ve shot themselves in the foot so much with the limitations of their game mechanics – the way once the loyalty quest and (possibly) romance quest are over, your teammates shut up; the way you’re still railroaded into behaving like one of two vastly polar opposites in some very conspicuous places (Mordin’s loyalty quest was possibly the worst example of this in the game – you can only respond to him with either ‘YOU ARE A MONSTER AND YOU SHOULD HATE YOURSELF’ or ‘Yeah, cool story, bro’ and it’s quite frankly not on); the way there are plot points that blatantly go absolutely nowhere… there’s at least one character you should not be allowed to take to a certain location without a potential all-out war on your hands, yet the most the game gives you is an ‘Oh, how interesting’, there are several character traits – Jack’s in particular – which are just vaguely touched upon and then never mentioned again and there are various topics which are screaming out for the mother of all meaty, dramatic arguments but which get passed over in a couple of throwaway lines… (And no, it’s not an Empire Strikes Back type of thing. These are subjects Bioware have absolutely no excuse for not dealing with here and now.)

    But hey, it’s a Bioware game, and therefore the overabundance of big words and epic-sounding thematic content will be more than enough in and of themselves for millions. I guess I should be grateful some of it actually has quite a lot of substance this time. Which I am! 40 hours and counting over two playthroughs, and yes, I did enjoy both quite a bit. Which is what’s important, I guess. I just wish someone, somewhere in a position of (relative) authority within the games industry would wake up and give Bioware and their adoring faithful a stern talking-to. They’re talented developers but they’re nowhere near the living gods people take them for, and even with all the progress they’ve made in ME2 (seriously, it’s so much better than the vapid tedium of Dragon Age it’s unbelievable) there’s still room for so much more.

    • Jesse says:

      Indeed. I quite like ME2 so far – I’ve got most of the companions and done half the loyalty quests – but it is always just pushing the edge of ‘too damn game-y’. I have to work a little to suspend my disbelief about the companions, and I wish I didn’t. If only it wasn’t SO NAKEDLY OBVIOUS that each one’s dialogue options will refresh once when they first join, once to request and answer questions about the loyalty quest, once after the quest, once demonstrating vulnerability and expressing interest in romance but ‘needing to think about it’ if they’re a romance-capable character, then sex scene and that’s about it. Total robot conversion completed. This is one instance in which the previous Bioware titles were simply better, and not due to budgetary or technical constraints. There used to be more talking with the most interesting characters in the game. Now there’s just this really very small bit. There’s plenty of incidental dialogue about missions and locations, but what we really want is more conversation with party members about what they think, am I right? Remember recruiting HK-47 on Tatooine? That’s a huge, very funny dialogue tree, with lots of hidden detail for the persistent to discover.

      My suggestion would be to save disc space (if necessary) by removing most of the redundant, not-very-interesting info you get from all the three-question interrogations Shepard can perform on all the bit part, quest related characters, and use that space for party member speech. Yes, everyone has a favorite character – if only you could talk to that character, and get new information, more than five times! To me it feels like a corporate level decision: face editor, morality system, each character speaks five times, check.

      I think everything else done in the transition to Mass Effect 2 (besides the hacking and mining, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING) was a great improvement. I may actually not resell my (XBox) copy. Unfortunately the main improvement I wanted, and an improvement I think the nature of the game cries out for, is expanded involvement with the characters in the party. Maybe they could leave their rooms once in a while? Maybe they could not all have the same getting-to-know-you arc? Maybe they could come to you once in a while, instead of (almost) always the other way around?

    • Drew says:

      I totally agree with you. I was disappointed that this review was so gushing. ME2 IS a good game, but it is not a great game, for the reasons you mentioned and more.

      Mass Effect 2 is a funny game, because its basically an adequate shooter wrapped in a choose your own adventure novel, albeit one with far fewer outcomes.

      All of the “battle zones” are very similar, all the missions are 100% linear, all the side quests so shallow as to be barely extant. The characters ability to interact with the universe really does boil down to Talk, Shoot, or Fuck. The hacking sequences could have been removed from the game without impacting anything at all, except for eventually who lives or dies at the end of the game. Which felt very arbitrary. Its sad that some of the ultimate repercussions of your choices happen because of whether you felt like playing stupid mini games enough, as opposed to real choices.

      Its a game that so desperately wants to feel “alive” with all the top shelf voice talent and heavy dialog, and yet is also incredibly meta-gamey. See the inventory, the combat, the ship upgrades, the Magic Quest for each character. All of whom you lock in a box on a ship until you need them in the final mission. An utterly asinine plot btw. You essentially require a team to work together to defeat a menace, so the man with the resouces for you to build the ultimate team sendds you off to find all the most extreme individualists in the galaxy. After sitting in their private rooms on your ship (and never interacting unless you take em out on a mission, where they might exchange 1 or 2 lines) they are thrown together in a firefight where you take no particular advantage of their skills. duuuuuuumb.

      Additionally, all of these “superheros”, because that’s essentially what they are, certainly don’t feel like superheros in the shooty portion of the game. All the biotics are alike, as are the engineers. Some of these characters are supposed to be vastly more powerful than others, and yet in the shooty section they are all interchangable thanks to the way the rpg portion of the game was set up.

      If you are going to move away from the rpg format, have the balls to ditch the underlying system entirely. Make each character uniquely powerful or skilled in some way that actually matters to the majority of the game. As is, there is only one (crucial) time where it is important to understand the relative skill levels of your characters. That was well done, and yet *still* felt cheap. I chose a character that would have been able to carry off a particular mission PERFECTLY well, except bioware decided arbitrarily that he would fail, and the particular way they made him fail was random! A big fuck you to me on that one. Either that sequence IS to some extent random, and hard choices result in hard outcomes and no one gets off unscathed OR you make it a silly little minigame of simply picking the right people for the job. Dont let me pick someone who IS perfectly equipped and then kill them in a “random” way because I failed your minigame….

      The ending was cliched and poor, some of the characters were well written, but some were embarassingly bad. Virtually all the romantic scenes were painfully silly, with Jacks being a particular low point. Shepard was at times quite stupid. I found particularly, as did you, that in Mordins side quest Shepards dialog was just dumb and made me detach from him as a character.

      So yes, an uneven game, and one where the “interactive entertainment” slider skewed heavily towards a dialog based “choose your own adventure (as long as you want adventure A or B),”, and away from an actual universe to explore and engage.

      There haven’t been any games in a long time, to my knowledge, that combined a sci fi, space oriented plot with a universe in which you were able to interact on more than a totally superficial level. Space Rangers 2 was the closest I suppose, in its way, and it was superb.

      I just don’t understand why we haven’t had almost any games in this space since the 90s. We used to have rpgs & hybrids like Star Control 2, Hard Nova, Privateer, Starflight, and Buck Rogers. Space combat games like Freespace and Independence War.

      It feels like this space is so rarely explored these days, and when it is, you get a game like ME2 which is very much like a movie. You get to enjoy dialog and acting and a fun space opera plot (albeit a bit shakey in parts), but you no longer can interact with the universe in any but the simplest ways. The shooting in ME2 just feels like another minigame to pass the time between movie sequences.

      Will they simplify it still further for ME3? They have really reached a mass appeal game here, they should just call it Talk, Shoot, Fuck: In Space. The formula of this sort of interactive movie is a fun one on its own, it just saddens me its the only one in the genre.

      TLDR: ME2, entertaining but not great. Where are all the rest of the space rpg’s?

    • Drew says:

      As a last note, compare the interaction of plot and game elements in a game like Freespace or Tie Fighter where the drama is explored during the “game” portion (flying around in space). In ME2 the shooty parts are rarely particularly dramatic, for example. Imagine that you played the “adventure” part of ME2 and a friend played all the shooty parts. You would have an almost entirely complete experience, while they would know virtually nothing of what was going on. Compare that to a Freespace or Tie Fighter.

      I think that simply put, the interactive element of ME2 is the wrong choice. I’d rather a dozen other things, including a Jagged Alliance 2 style game that combines rpg/tactical combat/world interaction and super characters all in one package.

      But I guess those don’t sell as well as these new *streamlined* games.

    • Jeremy says:

      @Drew

      I would argue that if you divorce any game from 50% of itself, people will always have a wildly different opinion of it. Imagine taking out the side scrolling action parts of Actraiser (SNES suckas!) and you’ll have a fairly basic city building simulator, or vice versa, you just have a side scrolling action game with little to no story cohesion. You can’t cut a game in half and say “see, it doesn’t make sense!”

  8. Mr_Day says:

    Just a quickie on the resource scanning side of the game.

    First of all, on my subsequent playthroughs, even starting a new game, it gave me tons of the minerals that can be acquired. This drastically reduced the workload of upgrading your ship and equipment – I do not know if this is a bug or intended, but I find it welcome anyway.
    I found the resource gathering dull as fuck. I was thinking to myself “Oooh! Someone has been playing Star Control 2, obviously, this is all familiar!” which turned to “Yeah – this was dull in Star Control, too.” It also doesn’t help that on the pc, scanning with the mouse is laborious and knackers your wrist – the sensitivity of the mouse is turned right down for this bit (even with Miranda’s upgrade), and you have to hold the right mouse button as you move it. Knackers your arm, I can tell you that.

    I was not an early adopter to SC, coming to the game only when the sequel went open source and funky, but scouring resources in order to fnd upgrades to your ship (and fleet) was part of the appeal of the game – mainly because it was a secondary part of the exploration. You don’t go around the universe in SC2 just to act like an intergalactic Henry Hoover, you are searching for allies, clues and opportunites to complete your larger, over-riding mission. This might sound familiar to you. It is just annoying that Mass Effect 2 messed this part up – you aren’t scouring the galaxy for allies and clues, because you are told where to go at every step. The only reason you have to go to an unexplored planet that doesn’t say “Recruit so and so” or “Slap about baddies” above it is to fund your research projects – they took the dullest part of exploring in SC2 and ignored the better part.

    Of course, this does assume they had been playing Star Control 2 when they made it, but the way the galactic map and resource system works is far too familiar. I apologise if I sound like a whiney fanboy here, I do not mind if developers use other games as a reference and like I said, it is all just a tad too similar. If they had played it, why did they only take the dullest part?

    I did mean what I said earlier about the final boss, though.

    EDIT – Bah, it embedded the video, and I didn’t want it to. Rargh! There goes that joke.

  9. tmp says:

    Everyone’s favourite character has reach. Archangel is completely wonderful, and beautifully handled both in the writing and vocal performance.

    Suspect while Archangel *is* a wonderful character he isn’t the one meant as he could’ve been referenced by codename without spoiling anything.

    The pure spoiler would be the guy whose identity remains completely hidden until you actually run into them. And i use “them” deliberately here.

    • Paul S. says:

      Maybe. He’s a lot less interesting than he could have been, though. I can’t really picture him being anyone’s favourite character…

      John should clearly come back and sort this out. The internet demands it.

    • Eschatos says:

      Him(It?) was definitely my favorite character.

    • qrter says:

      I can’t believe Archangel would be anybody’s favourite character. I thought his loyalty mission was terrible.

    • Nalano says:

      Mordin was definitely the most fun to talk to, but Archangel and I had history – and without spoiling too much, that meant something to me.

      Other than that, I think he fit the stoic (cen)Turian archetype very well. In the universe, I tend to view the humans and Turians as basically brothers in arms – which would explain the contempt each has for the other; too familiar? :p

    • Dante says:

      Interestingly he does point out that he’s not the typical Turian. Turians value responsibility, chain of command, civic duty and devotion to rules, he’s a maverick cop who doesn’t play by the rules.

    • Nalano says:

      How Dirty Harry of him. ;)

      Tho, really, in a society that promotes civil service, certainly folks like him are an inevitable byproduct? He still has an unimpeachable desire to do serve society, after all. It’s not like he ever hints at doing something for selfish reasons.

      I’m sure there are a lot of his type in Turian space.

  10. Cooper says:

    It’s been a while since I’ve wanted to get a game so near release. I think I’ll save my beer money for a bit by having a second playthrough of ME1. I was very happy with where my Sheperd ended up (A good mix of renegade and paragon, maybe a tad towards renegade, council dead but the good guy human in the lead) except for a dead Wrex. I’ll reinstall it and go back tonight and save my favourite krogan.

    Also, I’m glad to hear you get to tailor your save game when you carry it across. I played an infiltrator first time, but want to play through ME1 as a Soldier for more boomstick this time – glad I get to go back to snipey snipey goodness if I carry her through.

    (Also also: Is it me or is, despite BioWare’s trailer, Shepard now female in pretty much everyone’s mind?)

    • mrmud says:

      Shepard is obviously female!

      Also you get to choose a third weapon specialization about halfway through so you get to use the assault rifles even if you arent a soldier.

    • Spork says:

      When you get the chance of picking a new weapon, I’d seriously suggest trying the Widow uber-sniper rifle. It’s now one of my all-time favourite weapons.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      yeah, I need a sex change for me3

    • Jeremy says:

      I play the male Shepard (I just can’t betray my gender for some reason), but he somehow deadpans the entire time. I would not be disappointed if they got a new voice actor for him, and wouldn’t feel that continuity was messed up. If I can change Shepards face, why not his voice? I sort of feel like I could do a better job at voice acting than what’s his bucket who voices the male Shepard. In fact, I feel like any other man in the entirety of mankind could do a better job. If they can get Martin Sheen for a secondary role, why can’t they get a real voice actor for the main character?!

      And seriously, who says things like “You are a valuable addition to our team,” to try and comfort a person? It’s not real, it’s not comforting, and a sentence like that would be better served as sarcasm for a Renegade interrupt.

    • Jesse says:

      Yes, I wish I could gender switch too. After a whole game playing as Male Shepard, you begin to feel that he’s being insincere about everything he says. He’s clearly faking his emotions. That might be an interesting effect if he was supposed to be faking his emotions…but he isn’t.

    • Nalano says:

      Arguably better voice actress.

  11. Johnny says:

    I played about a third or half of the first Mass Effect, and then I got too fed up with the combat and boring characters (seriously Joker, Garrus and Tali were the only three I sort of liked) and quit the game.
    I read up quickly on what happened between my quitting the first and the second game starts, and then played through Mass Effect 2 in TWO SITTINGS, 13 and 14 hours long.
    I don’t regret skipping the second half of ME1.

    • wyrmsine says:

      Same here – I liked ME1, but not enough to finish it. I cannot stop playing ME2 – it’s fantastically good. Jaw-droppingly charming, in places, and I’ve lost an entire weekend to it. Haven’t done that in a very long time…

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      You both missed out on the BEST half of the game. Go back and play it! Set the aiming to full auto if it makes combat easier, but Mass Effect 1 only becomes a good game for the last 3 hours.

  12. Dominic White says:

    Most of the complaints about ME2 – lack of decisions from the first game having massive repercussions, lack of huge changes in the universe over the course of the game, etc – can all be explained by one thing: This is the middle game in the trilogy. The first game was the setup, introducing the universe and the villains. This was the build-up, introducing the greater cast and filling in the blanks. ME3 is going to be where everything comes to a thunderous, crashing close if Bioware have learnt anything, and considering the massive, enormous improvements made between ME1 and ME2, they probably have.

    My only solid complaint is that the resource-hunting minigame is a little naff. I actually liked the Mako, at least as a pure combat vehicle – for exploration it was dull, but it was fun to drive and run people over with, or cannon-snipe Geth from 3km off. Bioware are going to be releasing a new tank as (probably free, if it’s part of their Cerberus Network stuff) DLC sometime in the near future, so hopefully that’ll become an alternate way of gathering resources – with violence!

    When all is said and done, ME2 would probably be worth the money if it were just a pure linear shooter. But it isn’t – it’s a 30-ish hour long sci-fi epic with enough classic RPG style to string it together, but never getting in the way of what is a really well paced action game. And that’s why everyone should buy it.

    • mrmud says:

      Only there are no “I am your father!” moments in ME2…

    • Dante says:

      You mean the collectors “We are your precursors!” moment doesn’t count?

    • mrmud says:

      It counts but it happens so early in the story that the ending lacks any kind of real impact.

    • Dominic White says:

      The entire game is a series of minor plot revelations and subversions of what you thought you knew. There’s no massive ‘I am your father’ bomb dropped, but a lot happens. It feels kinda like the second LOTR movie – transitional, rather than definitive.

      If ME3 can meet my (now rather lofty – ME2 was a genuine surprise) expectations, I will be very, very happy.

      Apologies for any typos above… Typing on iPhone. Heh.

  13. Dan (WR) says:

    I’m a little on the fence at the moment, but then I’m probably only about 1/3 of the way in. Everything feels a little too cramped at the moment. The story-missions I’ve done didn’t seem to take very long, and the few assignments I’ve done were really perfunctory. And there’s the Citadel size…

    I think a large part of that discontent stems from the rotten planet-scanning. It feels like I’m flying off to a system, spending an age scanning everything in sight and finding lots of boring minerals and one (tiny!) assignment once in a blue gibbous moon, then heading to do a story mission that lasts maybe an hour. Considering how many planets there are, it makes the game feel somehow light on content.

    The again I wasn’t all that keen on the Mako explorations in the ME1, and I can appreciate that this game is more focused in every way. And I am enjoying the fights, the writing and the most lovingly crafted ass in videogame history.

  14. Taillefer says:

    I was going to list the reasons why pretty much everything is badly implemented. I won’t, suffice to say my experience of combat and companion AI were significantly different from yours.

    However, the characters and dialogue, along with the acting, were enough to save it and make it all worthwhile. The relationships with some of the crew members are genuinely touching. The humour is superbly judged and actually funny. The opinions and stories from the crew members make you judge your actions differently (one in particular from Mordin about evolution and technology is why I didn’t keep the thing at the end). It probably is better to think of it as interactive movie, but that was enough for me.

    • tmp says:

      one in particular from Mordin about evolution and technology is why I didn’t keep the thing at the end

      That didn’t even occur to me when considering the final question. Mordin’s view is pretty idealistic (an easy stance to take when it’s applied to someone else’s fate) but rather suicidal when you’re in position of a caveman with stick againts the guys with assault rifles. You can hardly afford to evolve at your own pace in situation like that if you intend to be able to evolve at all.

    • Taillefer says:

      Not just evolving at your own pace, but your evolution is then on a path pre-determined by that technology. It’s a choice between a chance to fight for for your fate, or to have it set by something else anyway, and considering the origins of the technology, it’s probably not a good ending.

      Still not an easy choice, but I felt the universe had a chance without it. It’ll be interesting to see where Bioware go with it.

    • Lilliput King says:

      one in particular from Mordin about evolution and technology is why I didn’t keep the thing at the end

      Same. Mordin was very persuasive on a lot of topics.

      Also, remembering the conversation with the Reaper near the end of ME1. It wasn’t a moral choice, for me, but pure pragmatism. Game didn’t interpret it that way, though, which was annoying.

    • Jeremy says:

      Yeah, considering how the universe got into this mess in the first place, it made the decision at the end of the game quite easy to make… at least for me.

    • Nalano says:

      Mordin really humanized the whole enmity between Salarians and Krogan for me. After his loyalty quest, I really got the impression – through sheer force of dialogue! – that he a) had a heart, and b) consulted it regularly. There were questions I wish I could ask him that Shepard didn’t, but during our interactions, Shepard basically asked (and got a respectable answer to) about 80% of what I, the player, was wondering about.

      I liked him a lot for that reason. I also liked Archangel, Jack and the secret character for that reason too, for they approached life rationally, if in ever-complex shades of gray.

      Miranda, however, I wanted to throw out the airlock, and was rather frustrated with the lack of appropriate airlock commands available to Shepard. Of all the characters, it felt like she was the one who took the least consideration of other points of view. But I suppose disliking the character wasn’t so bad as not having the ability for Shepard to do so too.

  15. Nakki says:

    Mass Effect 2 was a great game but:

    - All characters thought of Shepard as god, which might be ok, as he kind of was a god, but the worst thing about characters was that there wasn’t any real schism between the characters either. Sure, there were two different character pairs who had something against each other, but it didn’t really affect anything at all. There weren’t any choices to be made regarding the characters really.

    - The Original Mass Effect gave me some sort of feeling of urgency and grave danger. Mass Effect 2 seemed like a round trip around the galaxy with no real hurry. Some cutscenes of colonies being annihilated would’ve actually made it feel like you maybe shouldn’t get all the companions and do their loyality quests, but no, it was a peaceful round trip around the galaxy to get all characters and expirience all content.

    - That said, the final mission didn’t even feel very dangerous or anything. Hell, I tried to get Shepard killed on my second playthrough, but I didn’t even manage to do that. Seriously, the game was marketed with a dangerous end mission where your whole team might die. Piles of them might die, but getting all dead is hard.

    - The weapons. Oh god. 2 weapons of each type, 5 heavy weapons and some special weapons. Atleast the special shotgun was rather crap too. There should’ve been piles of weapons and actual choices depending on playstyle instead of this “hey I got a new better weapon”.

    • Dominic White says:

      So, you’re complaining that it’s hard to get the ‘you completely fucked up and can’t even continue to the sequel’ super-bad ending, and that there’s no obnoxious ticking timer on everything you do (there’s one point near-ish the end where you can lose a LOT by dicking around, just FWI… unlike ME1, where you COULD tool around the universe for weeks, climbing mountains in your giant moon-buggy without consequence).

      It sounds like your problem is that you’re a masochist, and Bioware forgot the whips and chains today.

      As for the weapons, they actually all roughly average out to the same power – they DO have different styles and effects. And the special shotgun isn’t terrible – it’s brutal and will strip off an enemys entire shield and a chunk of their health in a single hit.

      It’s a helluva lot better than ME1, where after every fight you had about fifty identical guns to melt down or sell off, and they didn’t so much provide ‘variety’ as a ridiculous power-curve where the earliest guns are nigh-useless (shotgun overheating after three shots? fantastic!) and the endgame weapons can constantly fire a flesh-melting stream of nuclear death without ever having to cool down.

    • mrmud says:

      ME1 had a problem where there was a great sense of urgency in the story and none what so ever in the gameplay.

      ME2 has a problem in that there is no sense of urgency at all.
      Not entierly sure which is the preferable alternative

    • Nakki says:

      What I am saying is that the game doesn’t have any sort of an atmosphere of urgency. It’s just a round trip around the galaxy to get all the companions and do whatever they want while supposedly millions of human colonists are being vanished by the evil collectors. Characters themselves are generally ok (well, Miranda is boring), but they don’t really do much. I would’ve liked real schism between Miranda/Jack and the-other-pair-that-would-be-spoiling-to-announce, for example in a way that you can get only one of them loyal.

      The ending was utterly boring as it is so easy to finish the game with no casualities at all by just clearing all the major content in the game. It just didn’t feel like a dangerous end mission. I am not saying that it should be easy to get a bad ending, but hell, I tried to get Shepard dead on purpose and still couldn’t succeed, so something was seriously wrong. One thing ME1 did well was the Ashley/Kaidan choice on Virmire. I wish there had been more of such. You won’t get even a single casualty if you don’t really want to, which is very boring. There’s no sense of danger.

      Weapons were boring as hell in ME1 too, but ME2 should’ve seriously included a pile of weapons and armor to choose from. Currently the list of different weapons and armor is quite low. Borderlands had a ton of weapons. I’m not saying there should’ve been that many, but there sure should’ve been more, especially for when you replay the game with same character.

      But yeah, Mordin Solus’ singing scene makes up for a lot of ME2′s flaws, and anyway, even with all the flaws I listed I highly enjoyed the game. It was easily worth the money even with all it’s flaws.

    • Jeremy says:

      The inventory system of Mass Effect 1 was a slut. It just gave out an inordinate amount of awful weapons and armor, with my characters using only a meager fraction of what I picked up. I’m pretty sure by the end of the game that some of my characters were still using the beginning weapons for their off skills. Why upgrade Wrex’s pistol?

      The weapons in Mass Effect 2 actually have more uses than the junk offered in ME1. Take the pistols as an example. Pistol A packs a lighter punch, but a better rate of fire and a bigger clip. Pistol B is a slugger, but can’t hold much ammo at all and a weak rate of fire. If they added Pistols C – Z they would just be variations of the same pistols, but to different degrees, and would create an unnecessary amount of choice.

    • Nalano says:

      Each weapon archetype in ME2 had at least two (and up to three) choices of weapon type, and then five levels of weapon power plus two weapon specializations and five ammunition types. There are five weapon archetypes plus five heavy weapons. That’s 355 permutations.

      Multiply that by 11 characters and you see why there may be necessity for streamlining.

      Now, about the story: It’s entirely possible to lose people even WITH completing all loyalty quests. That doesn’t give you a free pass.

      As for the sense of urgency, I hate false senses of urgency. ME1 gave you a galaxy and told you implicitly to explore it, except for the butyoumustsavethegalaxythere’snotimeforsidemissions nonsense. It wasn’t true, tho. You had no real need to hasten your ministrations in ME1; you lost nothing. Funny enough, in ME2 it’s all about being prepared for the mission, for there is a point during your ambling about where time actually is of the essence. Funny enough, you have it backwards.

      ME2 really did bring consequences for dallying about – real consequences! – and I like it all the more for doing so.

  16. Marty Dodge says:

    MEII is a watered down game that smacks of “console port”. Its less involving and more annoying (ie the idiotic hacking games) while looking good. So far I am not very impressed with this game and find myself missing MEI. I seem to have found many of the bugs early on as well. Having to restart from a last save because the map is bugged it pretty damn annoying.

  17. origo says:

    … so how does this game compare to ME1?

    ME1 felt like a nicely polished, well thought out piece of crap. The kind of game experienced game maker would make to make some cash without taking a risk. Lack of invention+imagination, exploration made boring, fighting made boring. Yes, story seemed polished, but again, like an ordinary holywood movie. For me it felt like a worst game bioware made.
    So how does this game compare to ME1?

  18. phuzz says:

    Just a quick Well Done to EA:

    “Digital Rights Management (DRM) – The boxed/retail PC version of Mass Effect 2 will use only a basic disk check and it will not require online authentication. This is the same method as Dragon Age: Origins. Digital versions will use the retailers protection system.”

    Thanks EA,
    MOAR releases like this please.

    • Nalano says:

      They figure free DLC is a much more acceptable brand of anti-pirating.

      (They may be right.)

    • ascagnel says:

      I’d be pissed with their current form of DRM, the free day-one DLC, if I used a console. On PC, its a non-issue, since second-hand sales are typically pretty low (personally, I’ve never bought or sold a game).

      That said, I think this approach works well for PC. The focus isn’t to stop piracy (after all, it was released almost a week before it launched), but is instead to provide additional value to those who put money into the game. As I always explain to friends who occasionally pirate, if you like something, kick a few dollars towards the developers and publishers so they know to keep making the stuff.

      Then again, the DLC probably will get cracked & pirated too.

    • Dante says:

      I’ve never really understood that position. “Oh no they are not giving me the free DLC because I bought the game used!” Well of course fucking not, you didn’t give them any bloody money, why the hell should they care about you?

  19. SuperNashwan says:

    This is mostly the review I think I would’ve written aside from a few things not mentioned. Like Jennifer Hale’s incredible voice acting, the depth and range of emotion she conveys is right up there with the best voice acting to grace a videogame. If there was enough good game voice acting to merit some kind of annual awards she’d win for sure.
    The other thing I think really worth mentioning is not so much the direct impact of decisions made in ME1, as they’re fairly limited in scope in how they affect your game, but more how that knowledge that you’re really shaping your future in the third game affects how you approach decisions in ME2. It’s something almost entirely unparalleled in any other game I can think of, I’ve never sat for so long staring at dialogue options wondering if I’m doing the right thing in the long term. You have the emotional investment in your character from playing ME1, but also the threat of really dramatic consequences to come. Can anyone think of anything even close to that in another game series?

    • Cheezey says:

      Amen. I can only presume Mark Meer was asked to voice his Shepard in the manner of a Tranquil from Dragon Age, because that’s about as emotive as he gets. It’s a bit of a travesty that Jennifer Hale’s performance is almost hidden from view, as she certainly adds a significant amount to the game for me. I’m just playing through again now as a Male shepard and its rather dampened the enjoyment in some fashion.

  20. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    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.

    Wholeheartedly agree with this bit. As the nougaty centre of a wider trilogy it works brilliantly, as a standalone story, not so much. The Collectors feel a bit too obviously manufactured to pad out the trilogy between the threat of one Reaper and the inevitable threat of a metric shit-tonne of Reapers in Mass Effect 3. Oddly, that doesn’t seem to matter while playing the game though. It helps that, at times, it feels like that you’re not just building the suicide squad for this game, but also getting contacts and gathering allies for the coming Reaper shitstorm.

  21. ChampionHyena says:

    M-o-r-d-i, n, S-o-l-u-s.
    M-O-R-D-I, N, S-O-L-U-S.

    There are a lot of people griping (surprisingly few on RPS, though!) about how much RPG-ness got lopped off between ME1 and ME2 and I’m wondering… what the hell game were these people playing before, exactly? I replayed ME1 superfast to have a save file ready for ME2, and the game is just as much an unerring talkfight as ME2 is. Chat with the crew, fight some geth. Chat with Zhu’s Hopioids, fight some geth. Chat with the Noverians, fight some geth. They have improved the chatting and the fighting.

    So what’s missing? Squinting at inventory stats to make sure your Haliat Armory Shotgun Number Seven is nicer than your Hahne-Kedar Shotgun Number Seven and then repeating the process for everyone in your squad? Carrying nine billion ammo types and crawling through the menu screens to switch them out as your enemies change? Shoehorning “exploration” into driving the Mako up a 85 degree incline so you can get to the next copy-pasted underground tubular-module space dungeon? Admittedly the experience of actually screwing around on a bona-fide alien planet all by your lonesome is pretty neat, but it’s in aid of nearly nothing.

    Finally, I’m astonished by how many people are disillusioned with the combat, calling it a Gears of War knock-off. So what? What kinds of games handled the mechanic better than Gears of War? There were a lot of things wrong with that game, but popping up from cover and laying waste to all-comers like the world’s deadliest Whac-a-Mole was not one of them. Besides which, I don’t recall switching weapons to counter armor types or activating armor or weapons buffs or hurling psychic powers around the corners of cover to levitate enemies into firing range with my mind in Gears of War. Perhaps I didn’t play far enough into it.

    ME2′s not perfect. There are a few characters I’d like to just slug in the mouth (although that might be intentional characterization), some of the voice actors blow (Steven Jay Blum? In a BioWare game? For shame!), having intergalactic email seems vestigial, the reality of the story’s a little ludicrous (so was ME1′s), planet scanning/hacking/bypassing can get drool-usheringly insipid (where is ME1PC’s circular Frogger?), there are a few cases of inexplicable alignment point assignment, and while separate weapons seem like separate weapons now, there are just not an awful lot of them.

    It took me thirty hours to beat Mass Effect 2 once, and then I immediately started the game again. Unreal. I loved Mass Effect dearly, so understand what exactly I mean when I say how shoddy and awkward its sequel makes it look in hindsight.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I was hoping for Serious Sam with RPG elements.

    • ChampionHyena says:

      Oh, please, don’t be so absurd.

      That would…

      uh

      HHHHH WHY WOULD YOU SAY SUCH A THING

      NOW I CAN’T GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD

    • Zyrxil says:

      Dropping chattiness into a game doesn’t make it an RPG, it just makes it a {genre} with chattiness. GTA IV could’ve had dialogue trees instead of straightforward dialogue, and it wouldn’t have changed anything. It’s simply a storytelling mechanic.

      The core gameplay aspect of RPGs are about making your Character’s abstract “skills” be as important or more important than player skill. This differentiates it from purely action games in which your possible actions may be the same, but the outcome depends almost entirely on your skill with the controller. The gameplay is what defines the genre, not the storytelling, and the old RPG mechanics are present only in the form of the skills for the characters. Drop the pretenses, it’s a good game, but it’s a shooter.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I’m not sure ‘chattiness’ and gameplay can be so easily extricated. Considerable chunks of the story are altered by player choices. If we seperate theme from genre in that sense, our genre definitions become oversimplified, and significantly less useful.

      Examples – Dead Space, Condemned – shooters, or survival horror?

    • Jeremy says:

      I liked the emails, I had some good laughs at some of them, and also got some sense of closure from others, not to mention that there is no doubt that a few of those emails will either lead into some expansion mission or ME3 missions.

      I completely agree that ME2 didn’t cut off nearly as much of the RPG element that others are claiming, not because ME2 is necessarily the ultimate RPG, but because ME1 certainly was not.

    • ChampionHyena says:

      Branching dialogue is solely a storytelling element until it starts changing the reality of the game world. The definition of RPG is so warped that nobody can quite agree on what RPGs are and aren’t, but I’d hope that playing a role is a big part of that. If you add dialogue choices to GTAIV, it’s not an RPG, but that’s probably because you’re still stringing Niko along through a narrative over which he has the barest control.

      RPGs stick with me for the sake of freedom of choice. My favorite parts of World of Warcraft are wandering around and seeing what there is and making my own fun, not stressing over skill trees and stat weights and attack rotations. It’s why I shun the linearity of JRPGs and cling to relatively open worlds of (predominantly) Western RPGs. I’d hate to think that the hallmark of an entire genre is minutiae.

      As for skill development, you can’t act like it’s absent. Less granular, but there are decisions to be made about class choice, advanced training, additional weapons training, and final-tier skill evolutions. If ME2 is just a shooter, it’s a weird and marvelous one, but calling it just a shooter almost feels like underselling it.

    • archonsod says:

      If skill development was crucial to an RPG, how do you explain Amber Diceless Roleplaying, or LARP?

      Funnily enough, I’d think playing a role would be the defining factor of a roleplaying game. I can’t quite put my finger on where I got that idea from however.

    • Zyrxil says:

      Too late, you just invoked the word Role in a literal sense in trying to define RPG, and now you must be drawn and quartered since you could easily apply the literal sense of the word to the Doom Marine, or Serious Sam.

      LARPing- Its just playacting actions you would’ve done with miniatures or not at all, and often they’ll use the same rules as Pen and Paper anyway.
      Diceless- Diceless as in no randomization by dice rolls, not lack of stats. Player abilities are still determined by ratings.

      Chattiness changing the world – again, storytelling.
      Imagine this- you have a game where the whole point is to determine the story by your actions. No combat, no character dialogue skills (e.g Diplomacy, Intimidation, Sense Motive, Lying, Haggling). You know what you get? An adventure game. Farenheight/Indigo Prophecy.

      The stats are the core gameplay mechanic of RPGs, the storytelling aspects came from adventure games. Putting a lot of adventure storytelling in a shooter with a few RPG skill elements makes it a Action/Adventure Shooter. As I have become fond of saying, God of War II has more RPG elements.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Zyrxil: This may be one of those fun UK/US differences in RPG history, but British LARPing really does weigh heavily on your ability to twat someone with a rubber sword.

      Conversely, the most dominant forms of US LARP have tended towards what we used to call freeform back in the day. As in, totally no physical contact or acting out, turning to the rules whenever such things happened.

      At least that’s been my understanding as someone who’s never been deep in either culture.

      KG

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Strangely enough, I remember Doom being described as an RPG when it first came out, presumably because of the first person view of Ultima Underworld being one of the very few reference points for the new genre. I’m completely unable to offer any citations to back up that memory, of course, but it would probably have been in PC Review, as that was the magazine I read at the time.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      @KG

      Sadly that’s no longer the case (in my experience, at least). When I first LARPed about 15 years ago, latex swords were essential. The last time I LARPed (maybe 6-7 years ago), all conflicts were resolved by a game of rock, paper, scissors. Needless to say, I did not stick with that LARP game as long.

    • Zyrxil says:

      Zyrxil: This may be one of those fun UK/US differences in RPG history, but British LARPing really does weigh heavily on your ability to twat someone with a rubber sword.

      Well hell, I did that with sticks I was a kid, that’s not RP, that’s just beating up your friends for fun :P

    • archonsod says:

      “since you could easily apply the literal sense of the word to the Doom Marine, or Serious Sam.”

      I don’t see a problem with that.

      “Imagine this- you have a game where the whole point is to determine the story by your actions. No combat, no character dialogue skills (e.g Diplomacy, Intimidation, Sense Motive, Lying, Haggling). You know what you get? An adventure game. Farenheight/Indigo Prophecy.”

      Amber used that very system, and that spent a decade as one of the top pen and paper RPG’s. I’ve also played games where the characters were puppets with only one trait, actions being determined by the GM and the player in collaboration, others where any possible skill check was determined by a quick hand of poker without any statistics or rules being involved. There was even an RPG based off the Molesworth books, which naturally contained no combat whatsoever. I don’t consider them any less of an RPG than D&D, Traveller or any other rules heavy system

      “The stats are the core gameplay mechanic of RPGs,”
      You’re thinking of Monopoly.

    • Zyrxil says:

      Who said there had to be combat? There has to be a character with defined skills and the player relying on those skills. You could have an RPG where you’re ambassador to some foreign country, the game is debate / negotiation, and your stats are Formal Education, Intelligence Agency Resources, Word Play, Sophistry, Lying, and Respectability. The point is you’re playing the character, you’re not taking control of a puppet and replacing its skills with your own.

      All in all, if everything comes down to “what you consider” and you have no problem with Serious Sam as Roleplaying, then there’s just no viable avenue for discussion with you.

    • Lilliput King says:

      There never was. Arguing semantics while sitting behind a No True Scotsman never was going to get you anywhere, friend.

    • Zyrxil says:

      Wow, it must be hard work being so patronizing without ever mentioning anything salient.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I was being quite salient, while you’re attempting to hurt me with your bitter, cutting words.

      Seriously though you just add ‘friend’ to the end of everything, s’real easy.

    • Nalano says:

      Thank you, ChampionHyena!

      RPG isn’t inventory management and experience points. RPG is character decisions and relationships. ME2 took out a great deal of the former and gave you a much more distilled version of the latter. AND IT WORKS MAGNIFICENTLY.

    • Zyrxil says:

      “RPG is character decisions and relationships.” This isn’t at all true when you consider the entire history of RPGs. What you’re really saying is “I like Bioware games because of the character decisions and relationships.”

      By that standard, the only RPGs are Bioware RPGs. Fallouts weren’t RPGs, Wizardry’s weren’t RPGs, earlier Ultimas weren’t RPGs, Might & Magic weren’t RPGs. Hell, Baldur’s Gate I wouldn’t be an RPG.

      What would be RPGs? Japanese adventure games. You know the ones. They’re all about character decisions and relationships.

    • Nalano says:

      Black Isle Studios and Interplay never existed?

      Fallout didn’t have decisions?

      Tell me more. It’s funny you should mention JRPGs, tho, considering they very pointedly don’t allow you to make decisions.

    • Zyrxil says:

      No, none of those games had decisions with regards to character relationships, or the Bioware unlocking of extra lines after each location/mission. All the decisions were for quests, and the further you go back, the less you see of that. By your standard, Diablo, Icewind Dale, the excellent indie Exile/Avernum or Geneforge games, all not RPGs because they’re not character focused.

      Also, I didn’t say JRPG, I said Japanese adventure games- Visual Novels. Their only gameplay pertains to making key decisions, in between a few hundred lines of text, that determine character development and relationships and how the story turns out.

      Lastly, I hate this comment posting system.

    • Dante says:

      The real point here is, who really cares if it’s an RPG or a 3PS with RPG elements any more? It’s a good game it’s better than the last one. Whatever box you put it in doesn’t make it any less fantastic.

    • Will says:

      @Zrylix RPG’s = stats and numbers and stats and numbers?

      It turns out I actually don’t like RPGs tht much!.

      I like the bit where you take on a character wholeheartedly and make decisions that affect their world, playing to the strengths of those characters.

      I don’t like the bit where you just juggle items with various +X attributes and you fight the same things over and over again to overcome some kind of arbitary barrier between you and the ability to hit something a little harder.

      Possibly why I’m not a huge fan of JRPG’s usually. The epic overall narrative can be all well and good but you generally play the most boring blank character in the universe.

      In Mass Effect 2 you define that role in a much more fluid and natural way than any other game I’ve played, even Fallout. In most rpg’s all you are to other characters is your charisma skill and maybe the basic universal plotline. In Mass Effect 2 you have a history and the ability to define a character as you play, rather than according to some stat sheet you rolled a dice for at the start of the game. In a very basic comparison, it reminded me of the effect that dialogue and action could have on Deus Ex – but with much more depth and room for being spontaneous.

      You can say ‘it’s not an RPG’ as much as you like of course but I don’t think you should get all hissy when people disagree with your strict, AD&D definition. You *still* upgrade character abilities and to some extent your inventory, just because it’s not the absolute end-all be-all of the game…..

    • Zyrxil says:

      And that is exactly why I’m arguing- People diluting the meaning of RPGs so that anything with a skill point screen is an RPG, and redefining them out of existence. “I don’t like the bit where you just juggle items with various +X attributes and you fight the same things over and over again to overcome some kind of arbitary barrier between you and the ability to hit something a little harder.” You’re just taking things no one has mentioned and using them as a strawmen. You’re really going to say there was Grinding in Fallout or Deus Ex?

      Nothing you’ve cited as examples of what you like have to do with gameplay. You simply like having a game that’s character focused and allows you to define the character somewhat. That’s completely irrelevant to the genre of the game. Hell, you could have that in an RTS, if it allowed for branching plot lines where you’re an actual commander who, for example, has lengthy discussions with his colleagues and could decide who to attack or whether to rebel against his superiors.

      The point is, everything’s going towards more ACTION ACTION ACTION, and I’m arguing against the idea that it’s a good thing just because there are well written dialogues. You can have dialogues without it, and I don’t want people to pretend the death of slower tactical gameplay with actions actually depending on a character’s stats is somehow linked to better writing.

    • Dante says:

      First off, no-one is killing slower more tactical combat, the same guys made Dragon Age, remember?

      Second off, RPG combat is rarely tactical, in fact it’s usually just a numbers game, Mass Effect’s combat is fast and tactical, and this is no bad thing at all.

      Finally, who says ME2 is going to make all RPGs have shooter mechanics? Isn’t it just as likely (and wouldn’t it be far more interesting) if it forced all shooters to have an RPG’s narrative depth?

      After all it’s hard it must be hard to go back to the Gears of War drawing board when Mass Effect not merely beaten it at it’s own game, but also beaten it at several other games it never occurred to them to compete in.

    • Zyrxil says:

      Urgh, article off first page and now the threading system is even worse in the forums, which don’t present the posts in the same way.

      Dante said:
      First off, no-one is killing slower more tactical combat, the same guys made Dragon Age, remember?

      Dragon Age was started 7 years ago before the trend towards action really kicked off, and even then the end product is more actiony than NWN or Baldur’s Gate- the lack of autopause options, lack of command queueing, and the Tactics system encouraged leaving 3 party members on tactics autopilot while you controlled one character. The tactical options and character builds were also very lacking compared to the possibilities under D&D (though I suppose that’s more a reflecting of Bioware not being able to design something as complex, not a conscious decision to simplify). Compared to the design over time of their other games, Dragon Age is definitely an anachronism in Bioware’s lineup. Also, it felt like there was far more combat grind than any of the past Bioware games.

      Second off, RPG combat is rarely tactical, in fact it’s usually just a numbers game, Mass Effect’s combat is fast and tactical, and this is no bad thing at all.

      Battles that require tactical positioning and proper foresight with regards to power/spell usage are not tactical? And Mass Effect/Gears of War style “stay in cover/whack a mole shooting” is tactical?

      Finally, who says ME2 is going to make all RPGs have shooter mechanics? Isn’t it just as likely (and wouldn’t it be far more interesting) if it forced all shooters to have an RPG’s narrative depth?

      How are those two results different from each other? Both results are Shooters with dialogue trees, but in one sentence you worded it a little differently. And that’s the best case scenario. Neither preserves any semblance of gameplay based on Character skills.

    • Dante says:

      @ Zyrxil

      It doesn’t matter when Dragon Age was started, it was released a few months ago and they’re making an expansion pack right now. They’ve released a hardcore RPG and a shooter RPG hybrid, you’d think that would give each camp a game to call their own, but no, it’s just made them slag one off for not being the other.

      Second, proper positioning and foresight with regards to spells and powers? Well that sounds like ME2 to me. Choosing the power to match if your opponent is armoured, shielded or barriered? Drawing people out of cover by bending a biotic attack around a corner?

      Anyone who plays games with a cover system as ‘sit down and shoot when they pop up’ is usualy a) a very dull player and b) a very dead player once they get flanked. Cover shooters are about moving fluidly from one position to another in order to expose a flank.

      And lastly, yes there is a difference, in the first instance you get to wail and nash your teeth because your precious RPGs have felt the need to change into something less palatable to you, in the other instance a shooter that was inherently uninteresting has changed into something more palatable.

    • Zyrxil says:

      Dante said:
      @ Zyrxil

      It doesn’t matter when Dragon Age was started, it was released a few months ago and they’re making an expansion pack right now. They’ve released a hardcore RPG and a shooter RPG hybrid, you’d think that would give each camp a game to call their own, but no, it’s just made them slag one off for not being the other.

      Of course it matters. What are the game’s contemporaries? Oblivion. Fallout 3. Mass Effect. What “camp” of games is Dragon Age in?

      Second, proper positioning and foresight with regards to spells and powers? Well that sounds like ME2 to me. Choosing the power to match if your opponent is armoured, shielded or barriered? Drawing people out of cover by bending a biotic attack around a corner?

      You mean those things that aren’t at all necessary even on the highest difficulty? At most you have to deal with some charging Krograns on Tuchanka. They’re there for flavor. You’re still powers by them by spamming them just like any other weapon.

      Anyone who plays games with a cover system as ’sit down and shoot when they pop up’ is usualy a) a very dull player and b) a very dead player once they get flanked. Cover shooters are about moving fluidly from one position to another in order to expose a flank.

      As I said, you can exaggerate all you want, but the game wasn’t set up for it. Dead. Mindless. Easy.

      And lastly, yes there is a difference, in the first instance you get to wail and nash your teeth because your precious RPGs have felt the need to change into something less palatable to you, in the other instance a shooter that was inherently uninteresting has changed into something more palatable.

      So, no, you can’t rebut the idea that everything is turning into action action action, and your entire argument is “Too bad”?

    • Lilliput King says:

      Oh, I get it. This makes much more sense. You’ve shed the rather peculiar pretence of arguing genre roles and revealed your true colours – that you think things are changing, that you’re scared, and that, well, you say it best:

      “everything is turning into action action action”

      It’s not a trend I’ve seen, but I don’t think anyone can allay your fears. The PC is an open platform – if there is the demand for long-form, complex RPGs, they’ll be made, and released. If there isn’t, well, that’s unfortunate. But it isn’t a conscious decision on anyone’s part. There’s no-one to argue against, here.

    • Zyrxil says:

      Lilliput King said:
      Oh, I get it. This makes much more sense. You’ve shed the rather peculiar pretence of arguing genre roles and revealed your true colours – that you think things are changing, that you’re scared, and that, well, you say it best:

      “everything is turning into action action action”

      It’s not a trend I’ve seen, but I don’t think anyone can allay your fears. The PC is an open platform – if there is the demand for long-form, complex RPGs, they’ll be made, and released. If there isn’t, well, that’s unfortunate. But it isn’t a conscious decision on anyone’s part. There’s no-one to argue against, here.

      You seem to have lost the plot. This began with the assertion that ME2 is an RPG. The disagreement is that it’s not, it’s an action game with dialogue.

      Fear? What? There is only anger at people for redefining the genre to something so broad and meaningless. With these vague standards of Character Interaction and Development, I suppose GTA IV will be in the RPG hall of fame soon enough, with its “Gripping RPG decisions on the lives of characters – who lives, who dies, and the fate of Liberty City itself!!”

      When there’s nothing concrete about RPG definitions left, all gameplay will simply be designed to appeal to the widest swath of the market at the same time- action action action with chattiness. That’s how RPGs will disappear, death by dilution, piecemeal elements used elsewhere, but the idea of character based gameplay discarded.

      As for not noticing things turning to Action….really? Compare today’s market with that of 10 years ago. How many releases are Shooters, or God of War clones. How many genres have shrunk to tiny niches? Even Obsidian’s games are shooters now, with Alpha Protocol and the upcoming Fallout: New Vegas. Survival Horror is now simply shooters with zombies, as if that element defines everything.

      And, whatever, maybe it’s the inevitable voice of the market, but at the very least I want there to be recognition that it’s happening.

  22. Andrew Dunn says:

    Absolutely love this game, and I am glad to see that John shares these sentiments. I agree with that review pretty much whole-heartedly.

    An early contender for game of the year, for me. I can’t see anything unseating it, right now.

  23. autogunner says:

    3 things that annoyed me in ME2 – havent finished it yet:

    1) the hacking minigame when I had a perfectly good AI sitting around that SAID she was designed for hacking into ships, and at one point even took over a SPOILER cruiser through hacking

    2) The illusive man pouring all his resources into your project but making you do all the leg work to get upgrades, i would mind having the mining as an option, or having to do it get rare stuff for upgrades but having to spend 20mins mining a star system to get a 20% damage boost for a rifle…I would save more time by just shooting them more

    • Jesse says:

      “I would save more time by just shooting them more.”

      Ha! Excellent.

  24. Tam-Lin says:

    I enjoyed the game, and thought it was really done, but I thought the constant greyness of each person’s loyalty quest was a bit much. After the first couple, I started playing a guessing game, wondering which Freudian conflict was going to be expressed in bullets. It would have been nice to have one or two where you could actually make a positive difference, and not just kill someone’s father/mother/child, etc. Actually, I guess there was the one that could be solved with no violence, but even there, they might as well have chosen “Cat’s in the Cradle” as the accompanying music.

  25. nutterguy says:

    Just finished the game now actually so perfect timing with this wot i think!
    I would love to see an article where John could freely talk about all the things he didn’t want to spoil, like the excellent Mordin Solus character, really enjoyed the dialogue with him.
    Please John, pretty please?

    (Don’t worry I’ll not let my other half read it as she is loving Mass Effect 2 as well. Wish you could play this game in co-op mode, that would be amazing!)

  26. R. says:

    The trinity of Mordin, Archangel and the final character to join the squad are just wonderful, especially Mordin. I found Mordin’s revelations absolutely horrifying yet agonised for ages over what to do about it because if he was right and you were wrong, you could royally screw things up for the galaxy, nevermind the Reapers. Yet it’s just such an abhorrent thing to do…

    Ack, never have I been so conflicted playing a mere videogame. And despite the terrible things Mordin has done (he is the truest example of straddling the line between Paragon and Renegade), I genuinely liked him and was absolutely gutted when he proved to be the only casualty of our mission. Some of the others like Zaeed, Samara or Jacob buying it wouldn’t have bothered me but Mordin was just too high a price to pay.

    However, all that said, my absolute favourite moment in the game was during the Quarian’s loyalty mission. They ‘meet’ their father and an interrupt option came up, which I took. And it was the best and most touching scene in the entire game.

    Yeah, it’s got its flaws, the scanning sucks and the final section isn’t quite on a par with the gloriously epic finale to the first game but this really has been the most captivating and enjoyable gaming experience I’ve had in a long time and the real killer is having to wait another couple of years for the next installment.

    • Matt W says:

      Call me heartless if you like, but for me the genophage issue is, at the end of the day, cut and dried. Population pressure plus a generally combative outlook on life means the options were (and continue to be) ultimately genophage or genocide. That could be genocide of the Krogan initially, or genocide of the Krogan later if the Council manages to stop them, or genocide of the other races if the Council fails. The genophage is about the least-bad way you can stop entire races being wiped out, and while it’s natural to look back and agonize, there really was no other choice for those making the actual decision. It’s not (necessarily) racism or discrimination or us-vs-youism, it’s just a cold, pragmatic calculation based on the Krogan birth rate and average temperament.

      It’s a beautifully, magically constructed scenario, and Mordin’s reaction to it is utterly wonderful, but telling him he’s a monster for maintaining the status quo – ensuring genocide is avoided – is utterly indefensible IMO, and should give you like a million renegade points rather than being a paragon option. If you want to look for a villian, point your fingers at those responsible for uplifting the Krogan in the first place.

      (I feel quite strongly about this issue, which translates to a job well done by Bioware.)

    • Nalano says:

      I must disagree with you there. The genophage is an imperfect solution thrown at an immediate problem that smacks a great deal of racism (speciesism) and us-vs-you-ism. In any other world it’s a war crime and an atrocity.

      Do you remember Star Trek? Specifically, how they had rules never to introduce technology to an undeveloped civilization because it could totally destroy the cultural development of that civilization? I’m sure if you gave Marcus Aurelius carbine rifles and the internal combustion engine, his armies would have rode out and killed everybody they could get their hands on. That’s exactly what the Salarians did. And then, when the inevitable fuck-up happened, they did it even more; this time in the form of a galactic war with the Turians on the front line and an atrocity in the form of the genophage.

      In essence, they have stunted Krogan cultural development by two thousand years – and a civilization can change a great deal in that time; we’re not nailing people to trees anymore, and we have concepts like ‘due process’ and ‘universal human rights’ now, after all. So yes, the Krogan are bitter and rightfully so, because the Salarians have toyed with them for about half as long as our written history. So it’s not “genophage or genocide,” it’s a bit more complicated a moral quandary than that.

      (Consequently, this is why I like Sci Fi: It gives you a LOT in hypotheticals to work with.)

    • Dante says:

      I agree, I really liked that implication by Mordin, in only a brief exchange, it elevates the Krogan above simple ‘war loving aliens’.

      If anyone missed it, be basically says that the Salarians gave the Krogan space age tech when they were still in the tribal warfare stages, of course they only respect strength and violence, they basically gave Genghis Khan insterstellar travel did they think it would end well?

    • tmp says:

      Have to be kept on mind Krogans weren’t handed the nukes and interstellar travel for shits and giggles, but because arming them appeared to be the only short-term solution to stop the rachni from wiping out the galaxy from all the other races, not-lifted Krogans included. And there was no time for an all-nice long term solutions.

      Easy to condemn people who had to make the hard choices while one is reaping the benefits of these choices (by being still alive and safe from both rachni *and* the uplifted Krogans) but it feels more like case of the rose glasses than hindsight.

    • Matt W says:

      @ Nalano I agree completely that the uplift was questionable (although, as tmp points out there’s some justification there), but once you get to the point where the genophage was being considered, while an admittedly imperfect solution the genophage effectively saves the Krogan from being exterminated, because that’s the only other self-preserving option from the point of view of the rest of the galaxy.

      This is almost entirely down to simple biology: the Krogan population growth rate, when they’re not being killed by predators or each other, is so high that, without serious restrictions, it’s naturally going to cause a huge expansionist crusade because there just wouldn’t be enough room available for them otherwise.

      The “almost” bit is that, in principle, the Krogan could be left to regulate themselves (like China has), negating the problem. However, given their history and demeanour that seems very unlikely – but this is a judgement that allows a tiny sliver of racism to seep in. Pragmatically it’s obvious, but ideologically there’s a small taint here. But… honestly speaking, would you gamble the entire Alliance on the Krogans’ ability to be restrained? Bear in mind that the balanced situation is not ~25-50% fewer kids, as in China, it’s ~95% fewer kids. I doubt humanity – or any of the other races – could pull that off.

      It was morally wrong in isolation, and it was an atrocity, and Mordin absolutely should feel terrible about it, but it was also the right decision, and making Mordin feel worse because it’s easy to be judgemental in hindsight when you didn’t have to actually make the decision is a terrible thing to do, IMO.

      And yes, this is why Sci-Fi is such a goddamn compelling genre – you can create scenarios like this that are believable enough to really engage with. More of this please :)

    • Dante says:

      Oh I totally understand the justification for it, I just really like how it gives the Krogan a reason for being who they are, rather then them just being a warrior society for the sake of it.

      It also shows how hard a situation theirs is, we’re probably going to need them to fight the reapers, but who’s to say it won’t happen again if we reverse the genophage?

      Wrex’s new way really is their only hope, which must make you feel like an absolute bastard if you killed him in the first game.

    • Nalano says:

      It wasn’t just morally wrong in isolation, it was morally wrong in context, too. In effect, the Salarians are responsible for every colony drop on a Turian world because they armed the Krogan, and for all their contingency planning, they failed the Star Trek test.

      You could argue that they armed the Krogan to stop the Rachni (though the only benefits the Krogan had were hardiness to survive the Rachni homeworlds’ climate; something an environment suit can solve), resulting in the extinction of an entire intelligent species, and fucked their genes to stop the Krogan, but this doesn’t very much engender any trust for the long-term plans of the Salarians. It sounds like an endless succession of CIA assassinations to me. They created the Afghanistan solar system.

      It’s kinda funny, tho: We’re told of the might of the Turian military, and the abilities of Asari commandos and the Salarian Special Tasks Group, but I’ve yet to hear of a war they won – just a proxy war that bit them in the ass. They withdrew support for the Quarians (and kicked them out of the citadel), refused support for the Batarians (and kicked them out of the citadel), and seem to be directly responsible for not only every major war in the galaxy but also every minor skirmish in the galaxy through their inaction.

    • Dante says:

      I think the idea for recruiting the Krogan was that the council (which at the time was merely the Salarians and Asari) did not have a sufficient soldier core to deal with the Rachni.

      Asari are great biotic fighters, but lack numbers, and Salarians are far from ideal soldiers. The introduction of the Krogan have them a numerous, resilient and natural warlike warrior caste.

      Yeah, that’s right, the very thing that would later make the Krogan a problem (their birth rate) was what made them useful.

    • tmp says:

      The point with Krogan uplifting was, the Salarians didn’t have time to draw any long-term plans. I honestly don’t see how they can be lambasted as “morally wrong” when their alternative was to plain go extinct. And these Krogans they sooo screwed with their morally wrong decision, they’d all get eaten by the spacefaring bugs too. Which hardly seems like a better fate.

      Have Star Trek in all its wide-eyed idealism ever tackled this kind of dilemma? Where it’s a choice between breaking the precious Prime Directive and your own whole civilization going bye bye? Checking quickly in Wikipedia it’d appear they’re willing to break it in way less drastic cases, sometimes just to save a single ship and ironically despite supposed solemn oath to the contrary.

    • Nalano says:

      Star Trek had an all-consuming enemy. And who gave the Asari and Salarians control of the council if they couldn’t take keep control of it themselves? The Turians were still there as a spacefaring race and military power. Why didn’t they just say “screw this” and take over?

      Hell, Humanity’s on the scene for a few decades and that’s exactly what they do.

    • tmp says:

      Asari were the first race in this cycle to find the Citadel, Salarians was second. The Council was creation of the Asari because they have negotiator mindset, so it didn’t have to be “given” to them by anyone. Some races who discovered the Citadel later like Turians could be negotiated with and convinced cooperation was the best route, some like the Rachni and the Krogans apparently preferred exactly what you suggest, to try and take over.

      And yes, humans are expanding very aggresively which is a noted concern for the other Council races. Pretty much all of this is in the game Codex.

    • Matt W says:

      @Nalano I totally agree that uplifting the Krogan was ethically unsound (however “necessary” it may have seemed at the time). My big sticking point is that, once you’ve already done that, defeated the Rachni, had the Krogan Rebellion and are now deciding what to do, the genophage is the right choice out of the ones available at the time.

      The bigger question though, as tmp points to, is “what is it not OK to do to stop your entire species from being wiped out?” When you’re facing your own extinction, is anything off-limits?

    • Nalano says:

      @tmp

      What’s the point of cooperating with a race that can’t defend itself? What had the Turians to gain? Sure, the Asari got there first, but being there first and being able to hold onto it are two different things. After all, look how fast the humans completely rewrote the whole galaxy’s power structure in the blink of an eye – faster than the Krogan or the Rachni – by military might.

      @MattW

      I’m not arguing that the Salarians weren’t doing what they thought was best for their survival. I’m arguing that the Salarians are short-sighted and insufficiently contemplative of the outcomes of their actions – which is funny, considering that they pride themselves on their contingency planning. Like the CIA, they’re making many more enemies than they’re fending off.

      I don’t buy the whole “we needed to uplift this race to fend off another” schtick. How is that any easier than mobilizing one’s own race or making requisite alliances with established races – themselves also threatened?

    • tmp says:

      The point of cooperation is gain of each party rather than subjecting your own people to heavy losses which would occur in case of inter-species war. I’m puzzled you’d even ask that while trying to take the moral high ground in the Krogan issue. Am i to take it you believe trying to wipe out another species just because you believe they’re weak, in attempt to “take over”, is somehow more “morally right” than defending oneself from such attack by whatever means, or a simple cooperation?

      As for what Turians got out of such arrangement, it is also stated in the Codex — the Salarians focus on providing intelligence service while the Asari play role of mediators. Each of these three individually has considerable military strength, relatively greater than what other known races can muster. It’s just the breeding speed and numbers of both the Rachni and then the Krogan were more than they could handle, even if combined with the other weaker races. Hence the use of Krogans to counter the Rachni threat, and then development of genophage to limit what’d otherwise be another unstoppable wave.

      Finally regarding the humanity — it was able to alter the Council balance so fast precisely _because_ the older species are unwilling to go to war and eradicate yet another species in defense of their interests. (understandable since balance of power in galaxy can be viewed as less crucial issue than actual survival of one’s own species) Would you rather they bombed Earth back to stone age instead? Is it another “morally wrong” decision or sign of weakness they didn’t? Because that’s what the Turians were preparing to do after the initial conflict with the humans, it was only the Asari intervention that stopped it.

  27. subversus says:

    @John Walker

    No, I mean that I’ve had all 12 companions under my command before I went to Omega 4. And you’ve written that “I found eleven companions in total, but there’s suspicious space left on the selection screen for more”. If it is place for Zaeed try him, he’s cool and also have a cool loyalty mission.

    • subversus says:

      err, that was a reply

    • Dominic White says:

      At launch, there were 10 party members available. Launch-day DLC brought that up to 11 with Zaeed. There’s a slot for a12th, and people have found the art file for the character to be added – a human female with a dark, hooded outfit.

    • Snidely says:

      I thought that was a terrible bit of fan fabrication myself. Is there confirmation that it’s not?

    • Dominic White says:

      The guy who dug it up was Gibbed on the Something Awful forums. Dude is a hacking demigod – he’s the guy who made Red Faction: Guerilla moddable, dug up the debug mode for Bionic Commando: Rearmed, wrote the ME2 savegame editor, and is currently trying to find some way of ‘spoofing’ DLC files so that modders can import new content into ME2.

      I trust him. Never led me stray yet.

      http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3259234&userid=95254

      And a screenshot of the character in question, at least in the character selection screen:
      http://j883376.mirror.waffleimages.com/waffleimages/files/d0/d0b1d8c25cd168fd0032d470796d4a330abb039c.jpg

    • Snidely says:

      So it is legit and, after a bit of investigation, not horrible. That’s what I get for seeing a mysterious cloaked figure and jumping to conclusions. Thanks for the link by the way.

    • subversus says:

      Just got into the game and yes, there are eleven companions. My mistake.

  28. R. says:

    There’s also talk of a second DLC character to come, the thief-engineer Kasumi. Currently, she exists in the game files but the only actual mention of her in-game is on Citadel newsfeeds stealing stuff left, right and centre.

    Speaking of the newsfeeds and stuff, did anyone else see the advert for Citadel: The Movie? It was almost as glorious as the one for the Dirty Harry style Hanar Spectre (“This one does not have time for your bodily waste excretions”)

  29. 1nightstand says:

    “(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).”

    “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.”

    Can you “spolier” in comments? Cos I really wish to know what were those.

    • tmp says:

      The joke thing, i’m guessing it’ss a pair in one of shops trying to decide what enhancements (if any) they should get for their kid and eventually the man asks with irritation to the effect if they should just ask random strangers on street to make that decision as it’s apparently a custom.

      The beautifully written conversation, i’m curious about it myself. Archangel “romance” culmination kind of fits the description but i don’t think that many people got to see it.

  30. Bluebreaker says:

    A weak game in too many aspects, and suffers from being the boring midpoint.
    Two thirds of your choices are like “I hate you, I will do it” or “I love you, I will do it”, the other third are choices that you may see the repercussions on ME3.

    The combat is dull and predictable, you know always where you are going to fight. “Oh look this room has some boxes. Trow me your uninteresting enemies”.
    You assume that cover systems are good, but when you remove other combat options, like crouching to use cover naturaly and still move freely… well its boring and cumbersome.

    The game features alot of diferent locations, however they are tiny, uninteresting and lack continuity. Plus the zones are clearly dessigned in two styles: you talk here, you fight in these boxes.

    The main antagonist of the game is uninteresting (apart from a small obvious “discovery”) and lacks any charisma. They are there just to make a boring second game.

    Few ugly choices in armor or weapons, complete lack of customization for your companions (except for a stupid reeskin after loyalty mission).
    There are 5 types of weapons, for a total of 12, plus a bunch of typical and uninteresting “heavy weapons”.

    Trough the most disturbing fact, is that even if the game spirals mostly on obtaining companions and gaining their loyalty it lacks character development.

    • qrter says:

      This game has been completely underwhelming for me. I really don’t get why everybody’s so happy with it.

      The scope of the game seems really small and claustrofobic when compared to the first game. I loved the expanse of something like The Citadel in the first game, full of little tidbits and sidequests. All of that seems to have been neutered. The universe seems sort of lifeless, and like Bluebreaker says, areas are nice and clearly compartmentalised so nobody can get confused about what’s about to happen here.

      To me it feels like ME2 is the Starbucks of games – everything’s cleaned up and streamlined, everything runs like clockwork, but overall it lacks a sense of personality.

  31. Shalrath says:

    Sorry, I looked back on the linked-to article, and saw this gem of grammar:

    “And later still, their away on holiday. Come back just before the end and they’re she’s dying.”

    That’s just… that seems intentional, haha.

    On the subject of ‘ME2′ – I actually liked the mini-games. I found them oddly soothing, and gave a sense of minor accomplishment when done.

    I did not miss the 934921301 ammo types, 18732 identical guns, but I DID miss the planet exploration a bit. I remember parking my Mako and staring up at the biggest goddamn liquid planet I’d seen and just saying ‘wow.’

  32. archonsod says:

    “A 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.”

    One of the things I liked about ME 2 was the fact you can complete all the loyalty missions as either a Paragon or Renegade, and the outcome is not always the expected (Zaeed’s was a particularly interesting finish for a Paragon).
    Of course, that may just be because I came from Dragon Age’s “Morrigan will turn against you if you don’t drown puppies” system, which was more than a tad annoying.

    • Jeremy says:

      I agree, that was kinda annoying that Morrigan disagreed with every good thing, as if there is anyone that actually hates saving people’s lives. I can understand if it was a disagreement over wasted time or whatnot, but sometimes it was just a little obvious. Also, if you’re going to make a person complain about wasting time, don’t give the player Infinite Time to work with, as it makes her argument fall incredibly flat and pointless. So far, I think ME2 has handled the approach of Renegade vs. Paragon (morality) the best of any game I’ve played yet.

    • Vinraith says:

      @archonsod

      I never had much trouble with Morrigan, playing as a generally “good” but pragmatic character. In fact the only issue I recall having with her was that business at Redcliffe, which is one of the most vapid moral “dilemmas” in the history of games in that only one choice makes sense to anyone except perhaps Charles Manson. The rest of the time there was at least some reason to go either way, and even when I went the “good” path I rarely had any trouble from her. For the vast bulk of the game she was at relation 100 despite my playing largely “good,” and I didn’t have to do much more than talk to her, toss her the occasional found gift, and do her quests to get her there/keep her there.

  33. suibhne says:

    I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned the silly “small galaxy” syndrome at work in ME2. I find it consistently ridiculous (not exactly in a good way) that, out of the hundreds of billions of sentient person-type things in the ME galaxy, I keep running into people from my past. I understand encountering old teammates like Liara and Wrex – I had them on my team in the first place because they were extraordinary, right, and they became even more so during our time together in ME – but running into folks like Helena Blake, Fist, Verner, and so many others is just plain silly. It’s laughable; it really detracts from the serious tone of most of the game.

    Shiala has been the most agreeable so far, because her presence makes sense and because she presents an actual quest with an actual storyline. Come to think of it, same goes for Parasini, whom you (re-)meet in Ilium. Other folks who drop in for cameos to say “Hey, here’s what I’m doing now!” are just a waste of time – really no better than the silly “Oh haiz glad ur nnot ded” emails you keep getting.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Why do you hate fun? :(

    • Nalano says:

      You’re not a regular joe schmoe, tho. You’re the most famous human in the galaxy, and you brush shoulders with the leaders of the galaxy. Suffice it to say, it’s easy to pick you from a crowd.

  34. Rummy says:

    I am stunned that so many people seem to think Miranda is boring. She was the most fascinating character in ME2, always saying something interesting or funny. Plus she had the nicest bum I have seen in any game. Come to think of it, I don’t really remember her saying anything, but it really was a nice bum.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      Part of my issue with Miranda, apart from Boring Human Syndrome, was that she was the only character who BioWare had decided that gratuitous shots of her bum or unlikely bosom were acceptable during conversation.

      As for her bum, it might have been nice, but it was very poorly rigged and seemed to be attached to her thighs and not her pelvis, which really made her look horribly deformed while walking.

  35. cjlr says:

    I already posted a rant in the last Sunday Papers, but I could easily say a lot more. It can be simplified, however, into the statement that anything I didn’t specifically hate on (planet scanning and finite ammo) fell somewhere between good and very good.

    I had some arguments with the way the story played out… If I was really free to do what I wanted, my Shepard would’ve gone along with Cerberus juuust long enough to win over the crew, then blown the illusive man the fuck out of the sky and sailed back to Alliance space with the national anthem blaring.

    I also felt it was annoying how cursory some major characters from the first game were. I had a 30 second conversation with Ash and despite how close we’d been by the end of the last game she dismissed me out of hand and stormed off.

    The other thing is that you can only take 2 people with you. There are like 10 to choose from. As soon as Garrus was with us he pretty much never left my side – I really couldn’t justify leaving him behind, seeing as how he’d be the only one my Shepard should be trusting. Out of the rest of them, Jacob may have come off as boring and low-key to you, but he was the only one who seemed to be at least trying to do things right, and not just the easy way, and was, besides Garrus, pretty much the only one of that crew of misfits who I’d trust my back to. Thane and Samara seemed reliable too but I did Ilium pretty late into things, and picked up Tali even later. But Zaeed? Jack? Grunt? Miranda? I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them – throw without biotics, that is.

    @suibhne:
    Small universes are the scourge of sequels. It’s okay on one level to expect to find some familiar characters hanging around, but when everybody you so much as said ‘hi’ to shows up to say ‘hi’ to again, it feels a little cramped.

    I think my favourite thing was buying toy ships and fish for my cabin. I felt just like Picard. Also the funniest thing I saw so far was the three guys in Eternity having a bachelor party – a human, a turian, and a salarian. The poor turian who was ‘just friends’ with his quarian girl was funny too.

  36. Jesse says:

    John, how much did you really like the game if you were playing DS games during the conversations?

    • John Walker says:

      I explain in the text how much I like the game.

      However, when something is radio, why not play some puzzle games at the same time? I reviewed Scribblenauts and Dragon Age at the same time. And Dragon Age is a top 5 all time game of mine.

    • Dominic White says:

      The question here is whether playing Dragon Age affected how you played Scribblenauts. Were you more predisposed to find solutions involving Elves, Wizards, Swords and other such fantasy tropes?

    • Jesse says:

      Well I know you really like it… That’s an interesting detail! Secrets of the game reviewing trade!

  37. FunkyBadger says:

    It’s the character’s, stupid.

    Jack is really, really good – her loyalty mission is brilliant. Very nuanced. And she still pales in comparison with Solus – and a word of praise for Bloke-Shepperd’s voice acting in that loyalty mission, absolutely nailed the restrained righteous fury… “look at the woman, Solus”… shivers down my spine.

    I’m now torn between trying to decide if I prefer Alisdair to Solus…

    Also, you can buy a Space hamster!

    • suibhne says:

      I don’t think any of the loyalty missions is “great”. Several of them are written beautifully, including Jack’s, Mordin’s, and Archangel’s, but the actual gameplay is pretty dull – just more cover-based man-shoots punctuated by mech/merc mini-bosses. Archangel’s loyalty mission was especially disconcerting, in terms of the contrast between its frankly boring warehousing shootery section and the beautiful, tense finale. Did any of the loyalty missions offer genuinely different gameplay? (No spoilers, please. ;) ) I haven’t finished a few of the missions yet – maybe Tali’s does, for example – but they all seemed to me to be examples of very samey gameplay married to writing and characterization that was at times downright excellent.

    • Lilliput King says:

      It’s usually the writing that wins me over, and Mordin’s was beautiful in that regard, so is my favourite of the bunch.

      Tali’s is a bit different and rather enjoyable, Suib, though with a fairly large manshoot section attached.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Grrr: forum atre my post.

      I get you point re: mechanics, I was really talking about dialogue scripting rather than gameplay – although there’s some fun stuff there – finding Tali is great ferinstance. Also thought Samara’s loyaty mission was excellent, and very different.

      I ended up wanting to give Solus and Jack big hugs during their loyalty missions. I should get Wuss points,rather than paragon…

    • Nalano says:

      suibhne, how can you dismiss being written well so fast? How many games do you know are written well?

      As for repetitive gameplay, pretty much every RTS and FPS can be summed up in just such succint descriptions as you offered. I mean, after all, every RPG’s just dialogue trees placed between combat sequences that you can pause.

  38. Casimir's Blake says:

    Wot I Think, for what it’s worth.

    Best game I’ve played in years, even above Stalker, though they’re such different experiences they ultimately come close to gaming excellence for different reasons. It’s taken a while, but I think we can safely say – along with Call Of Pripyat, don’t forget about it damnit! – Mass Effect 2 is up there in the pantheon of PC classics next to System Shock 2, Doom, Thief and Ultima Underworld.

    Despite some noting that the game is “dark”, I’m very glad that they made the game – overall – rather more colourful than its muddy, depressing-looking predecessor. So rather than generically gritty in style, it comes across bright and vibrant. And this makes a fucking nice change from all the generic grizzled dark emo post-modern styles in so many games nowadays.

    I just wish they’d make the damn planet scanning a TOGGLE!

    • Deuteronomy says:

      Dude you’ve lost your mind. ME1 rates well in the grand scheme, but this one was wrapped in so much mediocre.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      No reason for the “wrapped in mediocre” other than… “it’s wrapped in mediocre”? Troll fail.

  39. Sprint says:

    Apparently if you’re creating a new character then the short memory test *will* determine what happened in the last game (although it’s still only a handful of the most major choices). On the other hand if you’re importing an old character then it just reminds you of what actually happened in that perticular save in case you’d forgotten.

  40. jonfitt says:

    I want to play this on PC, but I played ME1 on Xbox. I know of the database of save games, but I can’t remember exactly what I did in ME1 it was so long ago.

    But the thought of not being able to play as The One True Shepard puts me off getting this on PC, and the price puts me off Xbox.

    Sad emoticon.

  41. Orange says:

    The characters and standard of writing was nowhere near the level of Mask of the Betrayer. Oblivion are still the best rpg writers in the business.

    Overall it was a good game, I’d give it 8/10 even though it was mostly the same old duck and cover fights, too much dull scanning and security hacking and the characters were hit and miss.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Oblivion are still the best rpg writers in the business.

      You undermine yourself sir.

    • Jeremy says:

      In the future, Bioware should hire PopCap to create all the minigames necessary for things such as hacking, and the other type of hacking (bypass?) as well as a scanning game. It’s honestly a tough balance, I mean.. they could have had you just click on a planet to absorb all of its resources, but that would be a little bit ridiculous obviously, so what could they have done better? Or how could they have made it better? It’s essentially the “grind” aspect of the game, for those who want to upgrade beyond what is necessary, or see all the game. For me, as far as grinding goes, it was way better than other options.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      The hacking/unlocking minigames don’t bother me because they’re quick, and they let me get back to the action and story.

      I feel like I NEED to scan, because it unlocks the loot, but that also means I have to set aside about half-an-hour to an hour each night, performing an activity that’s about as fun as mouse calibration, when I’d much rather be spending time with Davin Shephard, Galactic Badass.

      The scanning should’ve been reduced to a sequence of skill-based minigames, which get more difficult to complete, as the planet’s resources dwindle. Each successful playthrough gets you a cartload of resources, and drops the resource rating of the planet by one (from ‘Rich’ to ‘Good’ for instance). The amount of resources in that cartload might also be determined by how well you played the minigame and/or how quickly you completed it.

      Anything’s better than what they gave us.

    • Orange says:

      Obsidian, my humble apologies.

    • Nalano says:

      Oh, thank god. You meant Obsidian. I was worried for a second.

  42. Howl says:

    Brilliant review. I completely agree with all of it. The planet probing, hacking and unlocking segments need to go. They are simply no fun and very time consuming.

    What to do with the virus was brilliant. I had that moral choice up on my screen for at least 15 minutes whilst I went and had a cup of tea. Neither choice was acceptable really. I felt like Captain Janeway and she is my idol of what a leader should be like, so thanks Bioware, you made my day.

  43. jsutcliffe says:

    Jeremy said:
    In the future, Bioware should hire PopCap to create all the minigames.

    I had that very same thought — I think it was the chime sound effect when you probe a particularly good spot on a planet that brought it to mind. Of course, there’s always the risk that it’d end up like the horrible mining games in PQ:Galactrix.

  44. Dav says:

    I can’t believe I read through the comments on this site and only found a single mention of the Baldur’s Gate references. The first time I went to look at my new “Space Hamster” and heard the terrible placeholder squeak from the original game I couldn’t stop smiling for several minutes. (Also: Go for the optics, Chikktika!)

  45. The Walker says:

    I didn’t like the Paragon/Renegade system in ME2. It’s a role playing game in a more literal sense than most (in the fact that you can actually pretend to be a character), but the mechanics do nothing to actually encourage role playing. In my play through I went with my gut on every decision, which gave me a fairly even Paragon/Renegade score, and because of this I missed out on a lot of conversation options. The writers love to put you in morally grey situations, and do it quite well, but the optimal style of play is still to reside on the extreme ends of the spectrum.

    Thing is, I have no idea how to fix this other than removing the system entirely. Does anyone have a better idea?

    • Dav says:

      Hm. Going with my gut (and grabbing the renegade/paragon boosting level-up options) on my first play-through I found myself with easily maxed Paragon but got to make some satisfying Renegade interrupts. Of course, it’s hard to know what I missed.

    • Nalano says:

      likewise, going with my gut also gave me max paragon but also halfway renegade. I missed out on a couple renegade choices, but I never felt that I was necessarily hamstrung in what I wanted to say.

  46. michaelfeb16 says:

    Did you REALLY say the cover system was good? I damn near stopped playing for how many times I got stuck on cover while running and died, or ran away from cover and died instead of hiding, or covering instead of using an object, or accidentally started (and failed) a hack while trying to cover.

    My number one cause of death was 1)hide behind cover, 2)use power/weapons, 3)take rocket to face, 4)jump over cover in effort to get back to cover.

    I am on a PC. Please, just because some people use inferior consoles with three and a half buttons doesn’t mean you need to force all of my controls onto one button.

    I enjoyed the game, but if feels like such a console port that I feel too dirty to ever play it again.

    • qrter says:

      I have to agree – making use, cover and jump all one button was a really stupid move.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      At the risk of sounding like a prick, I think the stupid move was failing to grasp how to use the simplified controls.

    • Lilliput King says:

      They weren’t particularly difficult to understand or use.

      I can see people arguing that it makes the gunplay pretty much a modified whack-a-mole, but not that it was awkward or difficult.

    • qrter says:

      At the risk of sounding like a prick, I think the stupid move was failing to grasp how to use the simplified controls.

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but that does make you sound a bit prickish.

      Say I have to jump over an obstacle (which happens more than a couple of times in the game) – and I mean the times you have to, because there is no other way around. So first I have to go into cover against the obstacle and only then can I jump over it. It’s cumbersome, it’s slow, it’s silly.

      This isn’t about those controls being hard to understand, just that they’re annoying to use, especially in what now is supposed to be a shooter.

    • michaelfeb16 says:

      It isn’t about difficulty, it is about being annoying. If the game wants to be a shooter on the PC, it has to stand up to the competition and standards of shooters on the PC. ME1 got away with its poor cover system because the game was much less a shooter than this time around.

    • Jeremy says:

      @qrtr

      That’s really the only time though that the controls get a little funky though, having to jump up to a higher ledge or whatever requiring you to get into cover first. Even then, I can only think of a few times where I actually needed to climb, and it was never at a point where my life was in danger. Outside of that, I can’t think of how having press Left Shift to pick up items, or start conversations, or enter cover is all that annoying. I kinda liked not having to map a bunch of different keys, and relying on that all purpose button.

      @michael

      I can’t think of even one situation where the button could be confused between interacting with an object, starting a conversation or getting into cover, or how accidentally going to cover could cause a death, unless you’re running away… at which point you deserved it, coward! That last part was a joke, but seriously, I’m having a hard time thinking of situations as you described above, and I’m not even trying to be vapid for the purpose of making my point.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      I thought the cover system was fine, my only gripe with it was that I had to use it occasionally to climb up to a higher level or something. Beyond that it worked nicely for me.

    • Nalano says:

      There was only one instance in the whole game where I could even remember there being a hackable object in the middle of a Designated Firefight Zone, and that was the only place I failed a hack (by being shot), but it wasn’t because I mistook Hack for Cover. It’s because I bee-lined to the hackable object like the easily-distracted person I am.

    • luminosity says:

      What classes did you play? I’m guessing if you had no problems with sprint/cover being the same button you weren’t vanguard. Playstyle: Charge, 2-3 shotgun blasts. Later on you recharge charge quickly enough that it’s not a big deal but early on in the game you’d then be left standing in the open with enemies often on multiple angles to you. You had to run back to where you could take cover from them all, until your shields / cooldown were back up. The thing is, you had to sprint away as fast as possible. The thing is the sprint key makes you stick to cover. The thing is you’d run and slip into cover on the wrong bloody side of cover and get shot to pieces.

    • Nalano says:

      I played soldier so charging was at a minimum and thus I never found myself on the wrong side of cover (and adrenaline coupled with an LMG helped those times cover wasn’t present). As a vanguard I could see why “sprint/vault low obstacles” and “stick to cover” would be useful as different keys.

      But then, the idea of charging some guy head-on before scrambling behind cover again just seems so schizophrenic to me.

    • Jeremy says:

      Still, regardless of your class, using your skills in a way that gets you killed all the time shouldn’t pin the blame on the designer.

  47. Vinraith says:

    A question for those that already have this:

    If I have a Shepard from ME1 that I’ve played through ME1 with more than once, and made different choices on each play through, how does the importer handle that?

  48. jsutcliffe says:

    Vinraith said:
    A question for those that already have this:

    If I have a Shepard from ME1 that I’ve played through ME1 with more than once, and made different choices on each play through, how does the importer handle that?

    Simple as can be — you’ll have two potential Shepards to import.

    • Vinraith says:

      @jsutcliffe

      That’s exactly what I wanted to hear, thank you. The concern was that ME1 considers those two play throughs to be a single profile, so I wanted to make sure ME2 could distinguish them.

      Cheers!

  49. Will says:

    You play your DS games during conversations in Mass Effect 2? you missed so many great opportunites to change the outcome of events. Focus next time!

  50. soundofsatellites says:

    Great read! I agree it’s a brillant gamey-thingy. It’s funny how I found myself thinking that Mass Effect 2 shares some similarities to a couple of JRPGs (and this isn’t meant to bash either ME2 or JRPGs!)

    A quick note on the difficulty: Dragon Age has that funky tatical combat that is a lot more manageable being difficult and it almost requires slow thinking and pausing. ME2 instead, being a shooter, favors quick thinking and reflexes; while the AI does a great job on normal difficulty, playing it on higher levels alters the dinamics in a major way, and soon started to feel how my party NPCs became more of a burden than a help. They often make some idiotic decisions about cover, they hardly ever change their guns, and severely misjudge threats. Couple that with their weird aiming of powers (if you use a party member power, doesn’t matter where they are, it aims at your crosshair, and many times it will fail miserably at your cover) and annoying autosave (facing an overpowered enemie after waves of something far less difficult) can become a little frustrating.

    On normal everything works perfect, but if anyone wants harder and sucks like me, you probably want to turn off the “auto use of powers” in the meny and make sure to micromanage your party as if you were they fcuking babysitter.

    And don’t, please no, don’t tell me grunt is okay because he will never be as cool as wrex. I miss you buddy, ya hear?

    • 1nightstand says:

      Yep… Wrex was so good, he made me wish they would go Oblivion on the Krogans, assigning that one actor to voice them all…

    • Wednesday says:

      Grunt’s no Wrex, but he’s much more interesting than those stupid “meet the” trailers made him out to be.

      All of the characters are really.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      And hopefully that DA:O going triple platinum thing will convince the EA overlords that there’s space in the market for both the tactical style and the shooter style RPG, and we won’t see Dragon Age 2 “consoled” down.

    • Dante says:

      I think there’s a clear divergence of strategy here, and I applaud it. I love both DA and ME2, and I hope they continue to provide the best of both worlds.

    • +--JAK--+ says:

      I think i have to say that Wrex was my favourite character in ME1, my favourite line of his simply being “Shepard”
      In ME2 my favourite character was Grunt and, if pushed, i would have to say that my favourite line of his was “Shepard”

      Both pull of the word amazingly but i’d say Wrex is the true champion of the “Shepard” delivery!

    • Jeremy says:

      @surfer

      I wouldn’t worry too much, Bioware has stated that they’re going for 2 very different styles in these games. Obviously, wielding a sword from cover wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense, neither would the ability to parry be all that useful with Assault Rifles.