Bonus Wibble: Mass Effect 2

By Alec Meer on February 17th, 2010 at 1:26 am.


John’s already thoroughly Wot-I-Thunked Bioware’s rather splendid star-biffing RPG, which remains very much the RPS DEFIN-O-TAKE on the game, but I have these words about it lying around from something that’s not ever going to be published. So I might as well quietly leave them on this table here and walk away whistling, really. It’s also an indulgent excuse to do something with a meagre few of the 412 screenshots I’ve accrued whilst playing ME2. Pretty graphics are pretty! If you read this piece thinking “this doesn’t sound very much like RPS”, that’s because it isn’t. Basically. WE HAVE MANY VOICES. Some of which don’t involve repeatedly referring to ourselves in the first or third person and making jokes about bears. It does at least contain the word ‘nookie’ and a William Shatner reference, however.

Is it still a roleplaying game? That’s a question that may repeatedly trouble you as you sink yourself brain-deep into this long-awaited return to Mass Effect’s universe of space cowboys, genocidal AI and interstellar nookie. It has moral deliberation, it has shopping and it has experience points – but it does not have untold mountains of loot, the option to play dress-up with your party or screens full of statistics. Instead, it has an awful lot of fluid, thrilling shooting and the kind of visuals that make you want to overuse the word ‘cinematic’. A lot of treasured babies have been thrown out with the bathwater. It seems impossible that it could still be a roleplaying game when so much tradition has been removed. Yet you couldn’t possibly mistake it for anything else.

The decision to ditch the micro-management of your squad of spacefaring hardnuts could have been a costly one – it’s a break with tradition for both Bioware and Mass Effect, reaching far beyond their comfort zones. The first Mass Effect, splendid a tale of exploration and ethical dilemmas as it was, suggested gunplay wasn’t this developer’s forte. Mass Effect 2, though, is a top-notch action game. The balance of straight-up shooting and brutally effective Jedi-like powers finally makes Mass Effect into the breathlessly exciting sci-fi epic it’s always threatened to be. You pick your favourite team-mates and your favourite powers, and you lay utter, devastating waste to whatever you encounter. It’s easy to level a charge of being too easy at the combat, that there’s rarely much real challenge, and in turn some of the weapon and armour upgrades you hunger for are entirely unnecessary – but when it feels and looks this good, that doesn’t matter.

Mass Effect 2 is about forward motion. There’s no time to worry about the finer details, including choosing which hat each of your squad members should wear. Everything that could possibly get in the way of feeling like the game and its world is instantly responding to you is gone. Somehow, this is true even when you’re ignoring the universe-at-war panic of the main mission and idly exploring a backwater planet. ME2 creates a sense of urgency even when you’re doing nothing. There’s palpable grittiness at all times, music that swells in all the right places, characters who subtly push you onwards, to the next adventure, rather than becoming tediously over-chatty.

The really extreme moral judgements aren’t simply a matter of picking a play-it-safe or play-it-nasty conversation option (though there are plenty of those too), but of quickly hitting a trigger when you see a red or blue prompt to activate a cutscene in which your character makes a dramatic intervention. If you’re a Paragon, that might be talking a naive teenager out of signing up to a squad of brutal mercenaries. If you’re a Renegade, that might be jamming a space-screwdriver into the spine of unhelpful mechanic when he turns his back. In other words, it’s much more visceral than before – less chin-scratching-in-space, more whatever-it-takes (anti)heroism.

Think about it afterwards and perhaps you’ll feel like it was a whole lot of time spent pratting pointlessly about on distant planets in the name of levelling up and cash, before one final big, potentially suicidal push against a monstrous alien menace. Perhaps it is. Crucially, it never feels like that. Everything you do feels incredibly important, with the irksome exception of the planet-scanning minigame. Rare minerals are necessary to unlock most of the game’s upgrades, but to get ‘em you need to spend a lot of time starting at graphs and launching probes at static images of planets. It’s about as much fun as working in a photocopying shop, and if there’s any justice in the world Bioware will issue a public apology for it. Miraculously, it doesn’t drag the rest of the game down, because in every other respect ME2 seems to know exactly what it’s doing.

The smartest decision the game makes, outside of striving to make the action as meaty and responsive as any first-person shooter you care to name, is to make your team members a core party of the story rather than simply a bunch of guys you randomly bump into as you go. To fight the aforementioned monstrous alien menace, who are busily abducting half the humans in the universe, you need to recruit a team of bruisers, psychopaths, soldiers, genetically-modified superpeople and even the odd true-blue hero. No-one joins your gang just because they’ve got nothing better to do, or because you might be able to help them find a hat they left on the other side of the galaxy.

Again, this means that even when you’re light-years away from the main mission, chatting up returning characters like Tali and Garrus or trying to talk suspicious newcomers such as the Biotic nutjob Jack or sombre Krogan supersoldier Grunt into enlisting, you feel like you’re going somewhere. Sure, the nearly dozen-strong squad roster has a few duds – most of all with its initial members, the improbably-bodied but slightly drony Miranda (also the proud owner of Most Unconvincing, Terrifying Smile In Games, 2010) and the instantly forgettable conflicted soldier Jacob. It’s also a shame that they’re quite so silent during missions, saving their well-written, well-performed chatter for their own sub-plots.

Most of all, it’s almost heartbreaking that you can only take two of them with you at any one time. You get so fond of some of them that you want them all constantly by your side rather than having to select chums based on who’s abilities are best for the task at hand. Troubled Turian scientist Mordin, for instance, may sound like William Shatner on a caffeine bender and be prone to spontaneously breaking into song, but is such sublime comic relief much help when you’re up against an army of vicious robots?

With, again, the pretty tedious exception of Miranda and Jacob, everyone has a intriguing backstory, a typically Biowarian blend of tragedy, mystery and moral ambiguity. In Mass Effect 2′s predecessors – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and last year’s Dragon Age, as well as ME1 – such dark pasts were revealed and concluded by intermittent conversation options. Here, it’s done by Loyalty Missions. These vignette sub-plots play out as a mix of action and tricky conversational dilemmas.

Some are more successful than others – Miranda’s, for instance, isn’t much more than a shoot-out in warehouse followed by some hugging. Another character, whose identity is best kept under wraps for the sake of spoiler-avoidance, has a Loyalty Mission which involves essentially deciding the fate of an entire race. Mordin’s, meanwhile, results in you feeling, frankly, quite uncomfortable around him afterwards, discovering that he’s so much more, and so much darker, than the light relief he initially seems to be. Hit and miss the Loyalty Missions may be, but they’re a much convincing, memorable way of getting to know the guys who are helping you save the universe than standing around chatting to them in the mess hall ever was.

Underneath is this all is an admittedly slim but reliably thrilling sci-fi yarn with a palpable race-against-time atmosphere, an excellent finale, and some of the best in-engine visuals money can buy. That there’ll be a sequel is basically stated in mountain-sized neon lettering, but, going on how dramatic an improvement over the memorable but often plodding first game this is, Mass Effect 3 can’t come soon enough.

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199 Comments »

  1. Pace says:

    But man that final boss was blitheringly ridiculous.

    • Jeremy says:

      Perhaps, but at least it fit into the storyline. The final mission as a whole is really where the focus is at, not necessarily a “nemesis” of sorts. In fact, the final boss wasn’t even known to exist until you faced it, and it moved the story along as well as gave some new information about the Reaps. Overall, I was pretty satisfied by it.

    • Nick says:

      Final Boss reminded me of one of the bosses from Super Probotector/Contra 3

    • qrter says:

      It didn’t move the story along one bit – in fact, it makes very little sense.

      In Mass Effect 2 you end up pretty much exactly where you started. There were some lovely stories along the way involving your crewmembers, but that’s about it.

    • Heliosicle says:

      The whole point of ME2 was to find out what was happening to colonists and stopping it, along the way collecting your squad for the “Suicide Mission” and I presume for ME3.

    • Stromko says:

      I kind of liked the final battle, maybe partly because it was so out of left field. I was glad that there was the occasional power cell dropped during the fight, it allowed me to get one good shot with that huge nifty gun that I had to craft. The fight was already 95% over, but still, nice to go out with a bang.

    • Mr_Day says:

      The final boss is laughably inappropriate. Imagine. Just imagine if it had been finished, and it was part of the final Reaper attack on the Citadel.

      How ridiculous would that look? Flying through space, arms out in a superman pose, might as well have shouted “AMAH FIRIN’ MAH LASAH!” when it spewed mouth shots at you.

      And it played peek a boo. I mean, seriously. It peeked at you over the fucking platform. I didn’t stop laughing at it until 20 minutes after I beat it.

      And the reason it looks like a Probotector boss is because it is:

    • JohnH says:

      The final boss wasn’t the best I’ve seen. But at least you learn quite a bit of new lore along the way through the base.

    • Jeremy says:

      @qrtr

      I’m curious how a Reaper using the the humans captured by the Collectors (which you’ve been looking for the entire game), to create a new Reaper with the human imprint from said captured humans doesn’t fit into the storyline.

    • Lilliput King says:

      @Jeremy

      I don’t know if it makes a whole load of sense.

      Machines with a ‘human imprint’? I’d have expected the Reapers to have followed the same basic evolution as that of the Geth, personally, rather than somehow building themselves out of genetic material from an inferior form of life, in a manner that a) seems scientifically preposterous and b) whose results don’t seem to be particularly effective.

      Classic game though, obv.

    • Jeremy says:

      As much as we can try to apply logic to a machine race tens of thousands of years old, sure, maybe it doesn’t make sense, but my point the whole time has been that it fits the storyline.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Pace et. al.

      While I thought the design of the final boss was… flawed, the lore surrounding it DOES explain one of the central mysteries of the first game. Specifically, it explains the purpose of allowing organics to flourish and build up over and over again before wiping them out.

  2. Jugglenaut says:

    Mordin’s a Salarian. Just sayin’.

  3. Nalano says:

    The ensuing debate whether RPGs as a genre deal primarily with

    moral dilemmas, lateral thinking and personal choices

    and/or

    character statistics and combat abstraction

    seems to fall along the lines of how people like to play PnP games. It’s not unrelated to the amount of hate directed towards DnD 4e rules for “dumbing down” the game.

    In my opinion, anything that cuts that sort of abstraction down is good, because the abstraction itself leads to ridiculous events that make no sense in the real world: You’re no longer simulating how your character would act in a fantasy world, you’re looking for ways to exploit the abstract system you’ve set in place of your fantasy world.

    Not unlike how our potential for productivity remains the same yet we are plunged into an economic depression. How houses cannot be sold at the same time homelessness still exists.

    • Psychopomp says:

      The thing that gets me is that there’s no shitstorm over “rpgs” where there’s no roleplaying, hardly any plot, and you just wank over numbers. Take away peoples numbers and it’s the WORST RPG EVER.

    • rargphlam says:

      As a person who enjoys both the roleplay and the metagame, I mentally cringe every time someone says Mass Effect 2 isn’t an RPG. I mean, have we actually come so far that we’ve forgotten what roleplaying games are actually about? They aren’t called Spreadsheet Sims, the stats are merely there to fill out a character and allow them to act predictably within a game world. Granted, there is immense fun in breaking said game world, but most of the time I’d rather be playing out a character a certain way and seeing the world react.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Nalano

      Personally, as an old PnPer, I enjoy playing with the system at least as much as (if not more than) I enjoy the actual act of “role playing.” This is even more true in the case of PC RPG’s, where it’s functionally impossible to properly “role play” anyway, as the system simply can’t be adaptive enough to allow for it.

      A truly great RPG includes both, though, as far as I’m concerned. As an RPG with interesting-if-limited “role playing” but uninvolving and largely shallow RPG mechanics, Mass Effect 2 is merely “very good” IMO. It makes up for its lack of “thoughtful” mechanics with a combat system that (while clunky in many respects) produces memorable and intense firefights, as well. In all, I think it’s about the same as ME1, “just short of great.” It just has different flaws. Regardless, Dragon Age is somewhat closer to striking a balance between the two elements you mention, and consequently remains my favorite post-Black-Isle Bioware RPG to date.

    • Nalano says:

      PC RPGs, Vinraith, cannot by definition have live DMs, so they will never have true roleplaying and must rely entirely on pre-rendered abstract systems. That said, all abstraction is merely that: Abstraction. All systems are man-made and poor replacements for the real thing. We are creating a proxy world by looking at the real one through a glass, darkly.

      And in that what I look for in an RPG is a story, first and foremost, that allows me to make decisions based on social nuance without hitting me with arbitrary number systems. Dice are a poor substitute for life, but dialogue can be faked to a fair degree. So no, I don’t like DA:O more than ME2. I like ME2 more than DA:O because ME2 doesn’t bog me down in the abstract numbers of how big a dick my character can swing and gives me far more of a well-written story and dialogue to futz about in.

      After all, quite frankly, every other game in existence already cares about my dick and its capacity to swing – it’s predetermined that I’m going to win, after all, and everything prior is just a hurdle to that point – so what distinguishes RPGs to me is, y’know, the roleplay. It’s not a live session, but it can at least be an expertly-written choose-your-own-adventure book.

    • Vinraith says:

      @nalano

      No one’s trying to tell you what you like, I’m telling you what I like. Apparently you’re incapable of doing the same without resorting to crude ad hominem, so I think we’re done here.

    • Jeremy says:

      I actually felt that ME2 was more of an RPG than Dragon Age. Not in the traditional sense of course, because Dragon Age has all the things that we associate with a CRPG, plenty of skills to train, weapons, armor, and spells galore and so on. What really did it for me though, was the sense that I was in the role itself. I was the one making these choices and living with the consequences, rather than sort of viewing it from a 3rd party perspective. I never felt attached to my character in DA:O in the same way that I was attached to my Shepard. On top of that, I felt there were more important non-combat sequences in ME2 where as in Dragon Age, you sort of moved from combat sequence to combat sequence. I enjoyed both, but I think ME2 edges out for me simply because of the level of connection I had with my personal Shepard. However, Bioware has made me a happy man indeed with both games, and they’re only getting better as they go.

    • Lemon scented apocalypse says:

      This is why I believe AI is the most overlooked facet of videogames

    • Nalano says:

      Vinraith, I would like for you to point out to me where in my post I have made an ad hominem attack on you, for I do not believe you are using the term correctly.

    • Kadayi says:

      “The thing that gets me is that there’s no shitstorm over “rpgs” where there’s no roleplaying, hardly any plot, and you just wank over numbers. Take away peoples numbers and it’s the WORST RPG EVER.”

      Agreed. Despite coming from a PnP background, the dice and the statistics are merely the mechanism to conclude event resolution within the consensual game space that exists between the participants.It’s natural with any new medium that initially they will ape older ones before finding their feet (aka early TV shows tended to ape radio shows in that everyone would be on camera reading scripts around a microphone).

      However in computer game worlds where event resolution can be managed directly by player interaction, whether it’s you directing your character to push a block over a cliff, or shooting an enemy in the head, or by moving the conversation along in a certain direction the necessity to fall back to overt statistics becomes less and less. Personally I see this as a good thing as it means Computer RPG games are becoming their own medium.

      The argument against from rules lawyers tends to be that “|if you play yourself, then your not really role playing”, but the honest truth is I’ve never yet met a smart player whose ever successfully managed to play a dumb character. You always play yourself, the character is merely the prism through which you see everything.

    • Vinraith says:

      However in computer game worlds where event resolution can be managed directly by player interaction, whether it’s you directing your character to push a block over a cliff, or shooting an enemy in the head, or by moving the conversation along in a certain direction the necessity to fall back to overt statistics becomes less and less.

      Fundamentally it’s a conflict between people that want to directly resolve things through twitch action skills and people that want a system that allows forethought, preparation, and manipulation of an abstract system to determine those outcomes. In other words, it’s “twitch” vs. “think.” Since “twitch” is fundamentally more accessible, it’s becoming more and more common. Those of us that really enjoy “think” are consequently getting more and more concerned, and thus more and more defensive (or in some cases hostile) about the whole thing. Personally I enjoy RPGs that use either resolution system to some degree, but I prefer “think” and certainly don’t want to see it die off. Manipulating a complex system is always going to be more fun for me than quickly moving and clicking a mouse and watching cool shit happen. It’s a matter of personal taste, I just hope there continues to be room for both camps within the genre.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Mass Effect 1′s stat aspects were thinky? You took the equipment with the largest numbers, then decided where you wanted your 2% extra damage.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Psychopomp

      Which is why ME1′s stat aspects were weak. There were two choices: improve them or remove them. They took the easy way out and the result is a game that works better, but is shallower for it.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Twitch doesn’t equal shallow. My copy of STALKER/TF2/ArmA 2/DMC would like a word with you.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Psychopomp

      I guess it all depends on how you think about the term. I like my share of shooters, but I can’t think of any pure shooter that I’d consider “deep.” Depth in games, to me, really is correlated to how much thought and (meaningful) complexity underlies that game’s mechanics. YMMV

    • qrter says:

      STALKER does something interesting in this regard – on the surface its gameplay is ‘twitch-based’ but when combined with a world that isn’t surgically locked down into zones where shooting happens and where it can’t, it becomes ‘think-based’.

      (Although ofcourse I wouldn’t say STALKER is an RPG, not by many miles, but its world is more alien and disturbing than anything ME2 threw at me.)

    • DMcCool says:

      Yay, its my pet subject (pretty much the only thing I’ve managed to succcessfully discuss in my blog).

      I’m with the “this discussion makes me cringe” group. RPGs where never, ever about number crunching, inventories and min/maxing. Those were means to an end. In the past Bioware have been guilty more than any other western RPG developer of completely neglecting the roleplaying side in favour of these PnP tropes, since Mass Effect 1 (and more notably Dragon Age) Bioware have suddendly stepped up the roleplaying elements. Right now they are pushing the genre foward futher than any developer on the planet.

      As far as I’m concerned picking what colour trousers to wear is a sidshow of little importance compared to the actual juicey buisness of roleplaying. Bioware are finally letting us meaningfully tell stories with being who we want our character to be and here we are complaining there aren’t enough numbers on the screen while it happens!

    • Vinraith says:

      @qrter

      Which is part of the reason I quite like STALKER (frustrating problems aside), and the reason I prefaced “shooter” with “pure” in my previous statement.

    • Drew says:

      I agree with Vinraith, the system is an import part of any RPG. Why? Because the system is the mechanism for simulating the world. It also gives the world flavor and forces the world to make at least one kind of sense, because it must obey a (hopefully) consistent series of internal laws.

      I find it especially important in a crpg, because in a crpg there is no flexible DM allowing you to interact with the world in an infinite amount of ways, there is only the prescripted path. However, a well built system, whether it is D&D, Fallout, a game based on Das Schwarze Auge, or a game that invents its own like WoW, the Witcher, Wizardry, Gotchic, and yes even Oblivion (which I’m not a big fan of, due to bethesda’s reliance on randomly generated content), provides a much richer experience than a simple “choose your own adventure”.

      ME2′s system was very weak, its entire upgrade system was overly simplified metagaming nonsense, and its character building system left all characters essentially equivalent, which I’ve mentioned before. Ultimately though, what I was unsatisfied with is that their system allows for almost no real interaction in the world beyond dialog and shooting at things (probing for resources was a sad joke). Starcraft 2 did similar things, but with more interaction (and more fun in many ways), many years ago and is still remembered fondly today. It also cost 1/100th of the price.

      And yet, Stalker felt like more of an RPG. Why? Because you could *interact* with that world, you gathered your gear, made your plans and explored a truly weird and wonderful world. In ME2, you mostly just “Turn To Page 79 if you want to punch Xorbo in the mouth or Page 120 if you want to send his kids to college”.

      Fair enough for a playthrough or two, but it took a horde of top quality voice talent to give me even the veneer that this was a real world. Which honestly, the story itself did not bear out, given how nonsensical it was (human reaper??), how segemented the little quest sandboxes were. At the end of the day, ME2 to me is Adventure/FPS, not a CRPG. Which is fine, but I do tire of it being held up as the ultimate RPG. Have you all forgotten the games of the past?

      Finally, in a small way, I think for better or worse, a mainline staple of the RPG genre is the drive to accumulate power. The best systems allow you to develop rich and varied power in interesting ways. This represents the classic path from Servant Boy With A Destiny to Conquering Hero Saving the World. I feel that games that either do not allow you to significantly increase your power, or have poor feedback mechanisms for doing so, end up feeling less like RPGs than games like Stalker which ostensibly are not RPGs, and yet capture that experience perfectly. ME2 lets you develop power through character levels and recruiting party members, but the character system is poor and samey, the gear system essentially simplified to the point of absurdity, and the party members not nearly as amazing as their descriptions would suggest. It all culminates in a final episode which is supposed to make you feel the importance of your team, but honestly, I felt like I could have had any group of random monkeys with me.

      Games that autoscale, or only allow smoothly increasing series of challenges, strip the player of the sensation of power. You can not come back to some group of baddies that chased you off in the past, and crush them beneath your boot. You simply slog through an endless series of guys who are EXACTLY as hard as the difficulty slider makes them.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Am I alone in thinking that the hyper-scaling of a standard RPG renders the whole world ludicrous?

      KG

    • Kester says:

      @Vinraith: I’m not sure “think” is enough on it’s own. It has to be good “think”. I like playing with stats, trying out new tactics, and whatnot, so I play a lot of games in that mould: your X-Coms, Jagged Alliances, Freedom Forces and so forth. Gameplay in traditional RPGs fits into this “squad tactics” genre, but sadly is often mediocre to bad compared to “pure” tactics games (Fallouts 1&2 being the worst offenders). It’s similar to the way the shooting in Mass Effect 1 was mediocre compared to “pure” shooters. While I’ve usually been happy to tolerate the slightly rubbish gameplay for good story and characters, the great achievement of Mass Effect 2 is that it manages to do both well by including a good story and a well-realised shooter. More of this, please.

    • mrmud says:

      Say what you will about ME2 being an RPG or not.
      The one thing that stands out in my mind is that ME1 and ME2 are the only games I have played where my attachment to my character (its important to distinguish that it does feel like my character instead of “the” character) rivals that of my attachment to my most treasured PnP character.

    • Taillefer says:

      I love ME2, but it wasn’t a good shooter. The weapons and powers aren’t well-balanced, the cover system (which doesn’t really simulate cover) can be unreliable, you can get stuck on scenery, companion AI can have them running miles away from the battle as they try to find cover then return after you’ve killed everybody (thanks, guys), the enemy AI is poor, the boss fights are all pretty much the same… I’m not sure how those add up to a good shooter. But as I say, despite all that, I still managed to like the game.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      @ Kieron: You are not, sir. You are not.

    • Chris D says:

      The term RPG has always covered a multitude of sins. Even with paper RPGs you have map based dungeon crawling at one side and freeform ruleless storytelling sessions at the other. Most RPGS exists somewhere between the two. For some people it has always been about working the rules and the min maxing and for others it’s all about the story. Neither group is wrong. Most games try to find a balance somewhere between the two.

      I think everyone is entitled to say what they enjoy more or where they think the perfect balance lies but I don’t think it’s helpful to say one is right and the other is wrong, or that a game which doesn’t fit your personal preference isn’t a true RPG.

      - Kieron I find the best way of dealing with hyper levelling silliness is not to pay too much attention to the numbers. or treat them as some kind of metaphor, you’re a bit stronger than you were when you began but not literally ten times stronger. I think you need to work quite hard at your suspension of disbelief sometimes.

      I was thinking about the whole levelling mechanic post-Borderlands and came to the conclusion that nowadays it’s mostly an excuse to keep you looking for more loot. Otherwise it doesn’t take too long before your character is just a porter for the magic sword of awesome slayiness.

      - Vinraith I’m with you the whole “thinking is fun” thing but I think depth is independent of whether a game is number based or action based. Just blasting enemies can be shallow and repetitive but so is the whole tank-healer-dps thing. Ideally a game would force you to adopt different tactics each time depending on the mix of enemies and the terrain. I’m not sure anything has achieved that quite yet but we can always dream.

    • archonsod says:

      @ Drew “I agree with Vinraith, the system is an import part of any RPG. Why? Because the system is the mechanism for simulating the world. It also gives the world flavor and forces the world to make at least one kind of sense, because it must obey a (hopefully) consistent series of internal laws.”

      But it’s not. The rules are necessary to simulate the world in a P&P game, because running a fellow player through with a longsword leads to some really bad real world consequences (even if he was a munchkin). In a virtual world, you can run through as many orcs, fellow players and innocent NPC’s as you like without anyone so much as mentioning psychotherapy.
      Which is really where the strength of the computer as a medium for the RPG is. It cannot compete with the flexibility or imagination of a human GM, but it can provide a much better simulation of a world than a rule system. PnP RPG’s had mechanics for things because asking a human to perform the necessary calculations to accurately model what happens when a sharp piece of metal with a given mass collides with a soft fleshy part of given density would turn a single combat round into a three year physics course. Why retain it when you’ve now got something capable of performing those calculations in milliseconds?

      Of course the real irony about system vs roleplay is pretty much every PnP system always began with a preface of “if you don’t like these rules, feel free to use your own”. I can’t think of any group I ever played with who didn’t.

    • JohnH says:

      The instant you stamp RPG on something I expect to find role-playing, system/statistics and quite a bit of gear to tinker with.

      Which leads me to the conclusion that ME2 is a space adventure game and not a role-playing game. In adventure games you play a role, but there’s little gear and stats to worry about. Does that sound familiar?

    • Drew says:

      @archonsod:

      “Which is really where the strength of the computer as a medium for the RPG is. It cannot compete with the flexibility or imagination of a human GM, but it can provide a much better simulation of a world than a rule system.”

      I think you may be missing the fact that computer games ARE in their nature sims following rulesets. When you hit a guy with a lance in mount and blade, or shoot someone in the face in MW2 there are many many very real calculations going on behind the scenes to determine the effects. The only difference with pnp games is that vastly more calculations can be done per second, theoretically leading towards a more accurate simulation. However, don’t kid yourself, its still a sytem. If a headshot insta kills, or not, or if a a bleeding mechanic is implemented, or whether their are hitpoints/life bar, wehtehr health auto regens, etc, in all games there is a system. The more expansive and intricate the system the more ways you can interact with the game (although this doesn’t necessarily make it more fun). Simple games have simple systems, highly focused games like MW2 have complex systems focused on a very specific set of actions (shooting). RPGs generally have medium level complex systems that incorprated a larger number of actions.

      Your argument may well be on whether the stats & mechanics are visible to the player or not, that is an interesting topic but a separate one.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Drew, I think you missed the point he was making as I understand it.

      Summarised, to my understanding – Yes, games are still governed by a set of rules. But because of a) the speed of the simulation and b) the nature of player interaction as opposed to a PnP environment, the abstraction required in those games is replaced by a new, different abstraction, all of our own. The PnP mechanics used by older RPGs were simply a hangover from, fittingly, the PnP days, and never catered to the CRPG medium well, because those systems overcomplicated the act of interaction with the world, something a computer can handle with less fuss. It isn’t about whether we are governed by rules, but rather that the nature of the old rules aren’t optimal for the platform.

    • Nalano says:

      I never understood this whole “twitch” vs “think” nonsense.

      Anybody who thinks that FPS games are just “twitch” games with a lack of tactical forethought or planning has never played FPS games and would probably die a lot if they did. Anybody who played 2D or 3D fighting games without tactical forethought and relied solely on their reflexes would get their asses handed to them repeatedly.

      It’s a baseless denigration of a great swath of gaming born of condescension and crystallized on ignorance. Sure, RTS games are easier on people with greater clicks-per-minute but nobody would ever imagine claiming that RTS games are devoid of strategy. It’s as if no game exists worthy of the name besides TBSs and RPGs that allow one to pause combat and issue orders (which ME2, consequently, lets you do, like every other RPG).

      All games make you think. That’s why they’re games. “Thinking” and “doing” are not mutually exclusive. You may prefer slower-paced games, but do not for a second presume that because a game has action elements, that it is less “smart” of a game. As pointed out by many people on this thread, computers solve the problem of combat abstraction much faster than humans and are capable of much more complicated and complex scenarios in real time. Partake in ‘em, because nowhere else do you have the opportunity for such a fluid gameplay.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Vinraith

      “it’s “twitch” vs. “think.” Since “twitch” is fundamentally more accessible, it’s becoming more and more common.”

      Did you ‘twitch’ your responses in Mass Effect 2 or The Witcher, or did you ‘think’ about them? Personally I thought about them quite a lot before I came to my decision on the route I was going to take.

    • Nalano says:

      The question you should be asking yourself, Kadayi, is whether Vinraith believes himself smarter than the average bear simply because he juggles inventories and chooses the right stat points like a pro, when it’s just a dumb a metric as everything else.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Kadayi

      I think you’re talking about the conversations, but that’s only 10% of the game. As I said below, no one’s saying the conversation system isn’t fairly thoughtful (though I do wish the consequences amounted to more than a different bit of dialogue here and there in most cases). The issue is with the other 90% of the game. The combat, the exploration, the upgrade and collection stuff.

      ME2 combat is very lightly tactical but mostly twitch, Witcher combat is very purely twitch but your preparation beforehand is very important (especially on higher difficulty levels). ME2 preparation for combat, however, is very shallow. The biggest decision you really have is who to bring, which is done better than in most games as the diversity of options there is superb. On the other hand, there are minimal skill decisions for individual characters, virtually no inventory decisions, the upgrade system is so shallow that you just end up with everything upgraded, there are really no interesting choices in mechanical character development. I miss these things. If you don’t, that’s fine, it’s a matter of taste after all. I think it’s interesting how vehement (and in Nalano’s case personal) the attacks become if one has the nerve to enjoy standard RPG mechanics, though.

    • Psychopomp says:

      @Drew

      By your definition, Diablo is more of an role-playing game than the one where you role play

    • Kadayi says:

      @Vinraith

      “I think you’re talking about the conversations, but that’s only 10% of the game”

      10%? Did you play some kind of alternative reality version of ME2? The conversations, and the personalities behind them were an enormous part of the game.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Kadayi

      Interesting, I got the version they’re selling under the name “Mass Effect 2.” In my version you spend about 50% of your time in combat, 40% flying around, mining, and managing the minimal RPG mechanics, and about 10% talking to people. I’d like to get a copy of the version you have, it sounds better than the one I got. In your version, do people actually have more than one conversation after their loyalty missions? In your version do all those empty star systems actually contain neat quests with their own dialogue? In your version is the dialogue system “sophisticated” enough to prompt, say, a conversation with Tali when you pick up Legion? You’d think she’d have something to say about that…

      Anyway, sounds like you got the better game. Mine’s fun, but it’s mostly combat and mining, with just barely enough conversation to serve as a carrot to keep you playing through the less interesting bits. Even that seems to peter out towards the end of the game when everyone either stops talking to you or just keeps saying the same thing.

    • Lilliput King says:

      @Vinraith, Kayadi

      There wasn’t quite enough dialogue to keep me satisfied either. A single sentence is all that would have been required from Tali to recognise the Geth’s presence on board, and its absence is notable. There are quite a few similar situations.

      I’m not sure if there wasn’t more dialogue because Bioware thought people were going to be more interested in the shooting, and hence held back a bit, or because writing + fully voicing dialogue is dead expensive. There was actually less companion dialogue than in the original ME, and that was shorter.

      Regardless, 40% flying around and mining? Joking aside, I actually must be playing a different game to you Vinraith. I spent maybe half an hour mining, another half hour flying about. The rest was walking, dialogue and shooting. So, about 36 hours dialogue + shooting (I estimate, probably inaccurately, about a 30:70 split), about an hour ‘exploring’. I couldn’t really see why people were so bothered by the mining, but if I had to do as much as you indicate it really would’ve ruined the game for me.

    • Dworgi says:

      I finished it in 2 missions and came out with a mancrush on Thane. One of the coolest characters I’ve seen in games, bar none.

    • Dworgi says:

      That was meant to say sittings. I realized it doesn’t make much sense the way it is.

  4. Smee says:

    I want to punch everyone at BioWare for not having the final mission being a gigantic battle standing shoulder to shoulder with all of the Dirty Dozen, Shepard in the middle commanding the fray.

    I’m still waiting for that moment in these sorts of games. Dragon Age had that bit near the end where you fight the Darkspawn with your whole team, but that doesn’t count because it’s not what my brain dreams of. Those silly game developers and their inability to read my mind precisely.

    Also: the music is incredigood.

    • Jeremy says:

      You’re totally right, that would have been amazing.

    • Nick says:

      I think it worked quite well, but I would have liked *more* missions that made you choose secondary parties/roles so as to make use of your entire crew more often.

    • Jesse says:

      Yes, Nick, that bit seemed like a great last-minute realization by the developers, or something that they thought they could only pull off at the end because only then can they be sure you have enough characters to make choices between them… But it was awesome and exciting, and really dramatic in that you had to finally entrust your party members with important solo roles. When they’re flanking you for the whole of the game, going through skirmish after skirmish, of course you don’t worry that they’ll survive – of course they will, they’re with you, the main character – but when you send your tech person into that heating tube thing alone to enter the base and open the doors, and it’s the end of the game, dang! What if they don’t come back? I knew Tali would be able to handle it, but I sent Legion because Tali’s fragile and Legion, although I liked him, was more expendable. I was a little bit on the edge of my seat, there. It was cool.

      And I actually think Bioware’s smart enough to be talking about just this element in preparation for the next game. The next one won’t be a huge party-gathering opus – it just takes too much time – and that’s a shame, because, as Alec pointed out, the loyalty missions are a very clever upgrade over the old ‘resolve all issues slowly through conversation’ method, and there just isn’t time to have them in a game with a party this size unless they ARE the whole game. But hopefully they will take some of those elements. And they’ll use this task-assignment method to do something about the ever-more-ridiculous issue of having ten guys on your ship, but only two available at a time for questing. The stakes don’t have to be life-or-death, either. They can be success vs. failure, too. And they can build on each other over time.

      I glimpsed something really interesting in the moment when, before the crew leaves the Normandy to enter the Collector base, Miranda says something about leading the second part of the crew, and Jack interjects to say she doesn’t want any orders from Miranda. So I put Garrus in charge. What if this situation kept coming up? What if crew personality clashes prevent me from ever putting Miranda in charge? She wouldn’t like that. And so on.

      Anyway. Bioware, run with it! They did so much to improve the first game. I wouldn’t have believed they could pull it off if I hadn’t seen the results myself. Don’t stop fixing things here! It’s time to overhaul this damn RPG genre for good. Square Enix, in my opinion, has clearly gone out of its mind from the stress of updating Final Fantasy. It’s up to the western developers, Bioware, Bethesda, and Obsidian, to make something new and viable.

  5. Stabby says:

    Is it just me, or is the female Shepard ridiculously more awesome than the male shepard..

    • jsutcliffe says:

      @stabby

      It’s not just you, but you’re all wrong! Male Shepard is obviously the correct Shepard.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      More awesome she may be, but (SPOILERS) she doesn’t get to have weird alien sex with Tali, so she loses.

    • Tusque d'Ivoire says:

      she gets to with Thane and Garrus, though. And seriously, who wants to have sex with Jack?

      Also, female Shepard was tenaciously ignored in all the trailer footage and stuff.

    • archonsod says:

      I’d tap Jack.

    • Pace says:

      Seemed to me like Shepard was clearly designed to be male. The dialogue, body language. Body language especially. Just seemed really wrong at times as a female.

    • Taillefer says:

      I haven’t seen both sides, but I’m pretty sure head-butting a Krogan as a female Shephard is more awesome.

    • Klaus says:

      The way I saw it:

      No matter what background you pick for Shepard, she has had an ‘unfeminine’ life. She was either a farmer, a gang member, or spent a life aboard military vessels. I can’t see where she would have picked up ‘proper feminine habits.’

      If there was some sort of normal background where Shepard hung out with friends, like say Miranda who I think was a ‘girly girl’ before she became all secret operative, then I would find some of Shep’s mannerisms weird.

      tl;dr – I don’t think lady Shep had much time to learn to be a lady.

    • Klaus says:

      My post was eaten!

      :O

      Shorthand version; I don’t think lady Shepard had much of a chance to learn how to be feminine. She was either a farmer, in a gang or being shuffled aboard military vessels before enlisting at 18/19.

  6. jarvoll says:

    It seems you wanted “whose abilities”, not “who’s abilities”. Definitely not an RPS piece, but definitely not a problem: fine read. :)

  7. GetOutOfHereStalker says:

    Thane’s eyes freak me out.

  8. Crusoe says:

    Female Shepard ftw

  9. Crusoe says:

    Jennifer Hale ftw

  10. the dirk says:

    The second picture… contains something that the article deliberately skirted. Just saying.

  11. Wolfox says:

    Indeed, Mass Effect 2 is all about the characters in your team. The overall story itself serves more as a background to the great stories brought by the team members – which is perfectly acceptable, seeing as this is the middle chapter in a trilogy.

    In many ways, Mass Effect reminds me of the original Star Wars trilogy. You have the self-contained, epic intro, then the second chapter, with better writing, better direction, and focus on character development. I just hope Mass Effect 3 won’t introduce Ewoks. ;-)

    • Jesse says:

      I just hope they don’t dump all these great characters for the third game. I can’t imagine how they could avoid it, though…

  12. Purple0limar says:

    Ahh, Tali.
    Can’t really express it better than <3.

  13. cjlr says:

    So my latest take on this game:
    Biotics are hilariously and brokenly overpowered. This when I wasn’t even playing adept, I was only a vanguard. Seriously, the cooldown’s like 2 seconds and some of the powers are damage vs everything. Almost makes up for the heavy pistol and shotgun having such ridiculously low ammo counts.

    On the whole I agree that streamlining is far from a bad thing, but I missed some of the customization bits. Having any party member able to switch between prioritizing shields, armour, regen, anti-armour, anti-personnel, anti-shields, low rate of fire, high rate of fire, high damage single shot, low damage high rate of fire, etc… at any time was nice. But then, the second game is easy enough, I breezed through Hardcore first time through. Better than the first one, though, which was even easier.

    The finale was a bit odd. The giant terminator (err, reaper, natch) was just silly. Also: without even trying, I managed to get everybody out alive, so so much for that hype about suicide missions and all. I mean, I figured there had to be a way to save everyone, but I didn’t think it’d be more or less the default outcome.

    • Wraggles says:

      “Biotics are hilariously and brokenly overpowered.”
      On normal or less for sure, anything harder and they’re amazingly broken and underpowered (increasingly so through the difficulties). While tech remains at a relative power level.

    • Chiller says:

      Much less so than in ME1, as I recall.

    • Stromko says:

      I assumed that there was no way to save everyone, so I agonized over who to pick for every role and who would go on my team. Ultimately I picked Mordin and Tali for my team, so I had to make sure my team would make it out alive. Lost Thane and Grunt. Seemed like minimized losses, Thane, well, don’t want to spoil, and obviously Grunt just went out like a Krogan should.

      I didn’t find combat in Mass Effect or ME2 to be easy, even less so in the sequel. There were some fights that killed me a half dozen times before I got the rhythm down. This may have had something to do with playing a Vanguard, they have a power that charges straight at an enemy (the only time the shotgun’s really very useful), and I didn’t use the SMG much until the 2nd half of the game. Starting out a second playthrough with a soldier, I found assault and sniper rifles were much more conducive to effective use of cover and stand-off distance, not to mention the AR is just a great all-round weapon.

  14. Shalrath says:

    “but of quickly hitting a trigger when you see a red or blue prompt”

    :O

  15. Wulf says:

    Grunt? Sombre? I hadn’t quite taken him that way. Perhaps it’s just an insight you get from talking to him as much as I did (and I talked to him a lot because I like Grunt) but he didn’t strike me as being so. Wrex? Yes. Grunt? Nnnnot so much.

    Half the time Grunt actually seemed… cheerful. In rather entertaining ways, almost like a child figuring out puzzles and exclaiming their satisfaction. A violent, Klingon child, but a child nonetheless. And once he reaches a semblance of adulthood he becomes happy in a different way, he’s content, almost to the point of being serene.

    “Battlemaster, I have everything. Clan, kin, and enemies to fight.”

    I suppose he might have turned out less happy if you turned down his request for help and made him disloyal, though. Kieron… did you make Grunt disloyal? Bad Kieron!

    Anyway, the party choices for me were quite simple: Garrus and Grunt. Garrus being the romance option for my Lady Shepard, too. I couldn’t resist his charms, and his metal-raptor-bird looks. And finding out that he’s incredibly shy is just the icing on the cake. Shyness is not quite what I expected of Garrus.

    Of course… Garrus has the best line in the game:

    “You know me, I always love to savour the last shot before I pop the heatsink.

    [Long, awkward pause.]

    “Wait. That metaphor just went somewhere… horrible.”

    Grunt, Garrus, and Mordin seemed to be the most fleshed out and interesting characters to me, having the most interesting loyalty missions, too. Overall they just seem to be the best written characters. Tali’s wasn’t bad but those were my favourite. The rest were pretty good but nowhere near as good as the writing of those. Perhaps the most boring for me was Jacob’s.

    Also, speaking of Grunt’s loyalty mission, that also had one of the funnier moments of the game.

    EDI: Furthermore, there have been three mating requests for Grunt, and one for Shepard.
    Grunt: HA!

    • invisiblejesus says:

      “Perhaps the most boring for me was Jacob’s.”

      O_O

      We are officially not the same species. Granted, everything else about Jacob was pretty boring, but I thought his loyalty mission was second only to Mordin’s.

    • Scypher says:

      @invisiblejesus

      What I didn’t like about Jacob’s mission is that there wasn’t much of a choice involved. Jacob went in there having a poor opinion of his dad and professing that the man is dead to him, and he leaves much the same. The other loyalty missions have Shepard influencing the character’s actions or perspective in a major way, but unless I missed some trigger, Jacob never wanted my opinion on the matter.

      The scenario itself was interesting, definitely, but I don’t think it did anything to elevate Jacob as a character – which is ultimately the point of loyalty missions, right?

    • Nalano says:

      Funny thing about Jacob was not so much any possible insight into his relationship with his father (as there really was none), but his relationship with Miranda, which just got a little frostier.

      That wasn’t hashed out as much, though it should have been. I know there was this other game with them, but c’mon.

    • Rinox says:

      Re: Jacob not being elevated as a character.

      Depends how you look at it, I suppose. For me, it said as much about him that he was so determined to follow through on his bad opinion of his father than the other NPC’s willingness to change their lifelong attitudes after 5 minutes with Shepard. :-) To be fair though, the evolution of some of the more ‘broken’ characters -Jack, Mordin,even Garrus- is done really well.

      I would, however, would have liked to see it possible to fail more of the loyalty quests of your squad mates. As it is, you cannot really ‘fail’ most of the quests (unless you die while doing them) and if you get at the end you can pretty much go either way on the renegade/paragon path, usually in a ‘yes kill him/no it’s not worth it’ dichotomy.

      But there are exceptions like Thane’s mission, of course. I actually did mess that up and figured it would put a taint on my game to reload it. :-) Perhaps Zaeed’s mission fails too if you rescue the people trapped in the building instead of helping him go after his target? Anyone know? All in all tho, as long as you took the effort of actually doing most loyalty quests, you’d get their loyalty regardless of the outcome. Which doesn’t strike me as ideal. (just hit me that you could probably fail the justicar’s quest as well by being dumb in the bar)

    • Nick says:

      Regarding Zaeed: His mission doesn’t fail if you help the people (well, the loyalty aspect doesn’t) at least if you have some paragon options available anyway, I’m not sure if it fails without them.

    • Klaus says:

      If you don’t have the Paragon choice available I don’t believe you will earn Zaeed’s loyalty.

    • Wulf says:

      @invisiblejesus

      I’m going to say something controversial, here: I like choices.

      One of the main things that irritated me about Dragon Age and really turned me off in regards to it was that aside from the short origin and the tiny bit at the end, there weren’t any choices that changed things. I’ve talked about this before and it seems to bug the snot out of some people that I like choices. But I do. I also like to see the outcome of my choices, I like to know that on another playthrough I might see something completely different because of choices.

      Mass Effect 2 in generally is almost diametrically opposed to Dragon Age. Choices matter in Mass Effect 2 as much as they didn’t seem to matter (to me, at least) in Dragon Age. And to stress it again, I love choices! Woo choices! Yay consequences! Hurrah for accountability! That’s the stuff of RPG dreams.

      Now why didn’t I like Jacob’s mission? As others have pointed out, it’s because the bloody game didn’t actually change anything. It reminded me of Dragon Age. Jacob went in, Jacob came out being exactly the same Jacob. Things were said, things happened, no real choices were made, and it was like a bizarre dream sequence because Jacob pretty much forgot about it after. This was so… out of place.

      ALL the other loyalty missions had the characters thinking on what choices were made in the mission and it seemed to effect them, and that’s what makes Mass Effect 2 special to me (like other RPGs I’ve loved). That you make a choice and it effects the people and the environment around you. It’s a choice that you might even have to be accountable for, later. I was amazed how much changed due to choices when choosing whether or not to import a savegame, and that really astounded me, I dug it.

      So bash me if you like, but I do have a valid reason for not liking Jacob’s mission and actually finding it to be the worst loyalty mission of the lot. It was the worst because it didn’t matter. All the other loyalty missions mattered in some way or another… except Jacob’s.

  16. Latterman says:

    (Spoilers)

    Regarding Miranda’s Personal Mission:
    Jack’s witty yet dry comment near the mission’s “boss” basically made up for your everyday shoot-out.

    Unfortunately i discovered quite early that the combo of thane with booby-alien basically breaks the game mechanics: She mass pulls, he chain reacts, BOOM, enemy gone. Altough i could restrain myself from using this most of the time, it made the tedious bits towards end acceptable.

    Regarding Booby-Alien and her personal-mission:
    I didn’t really like the attitude of booby-alien-with-a-nasty-habit and stayed with the holier than thou original. Did I miss something special (except death by sexual intercourse)?

    • fearghaill says:

      Latterman – for you or anyone else finding the game too easy, I recommend trying Hardcore or Insanity. Bioware’s done a good job of scaling the various difficulty settings to be more than “enemies have more health and do more damage”

      Instead more of them have armor and/or shields, and laugh at your puny mass pull.

      Though Husks with shields can go right to hell.

    • Pattom says:

      Agree completely. There’s a surprisingly large jump between Veteran and Hardcore modes. Every enemy now carries at least one form of defense, and they’re more likely to open fire if any part of you is sticking out of cover. As for armored Husks: bringing people with higher-level Warp/Incinerate and cryo attacks make them manageable. It’s the multiple Scions covering each other that are truly infuriating.

    • Nick says:

      I hated husks even without armor ’till I had incinerate single target maxed.. bwahahaha.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Push field just one shotted them on normal.

    • Nick says:

      Yeah, I didn’t play on normal.

    • Latterman says:

      I switched to HC mid-way through and still found pull + warp to be too effective. It’s not that is was too easy, but compared to other strategies and usage of power, this one just seems odd.

      But maybe I’ll give insanity a try, I just don’t really feal like playing it again yet.

  17. nutterguy says:

    The more fine RPS words on this amazing game the better IMO.
    That is all…

  18. malkav11 says:

    Mass Effect 2 is less of an RPG than the previous game or, well, any of Bioware’s earlier games that were RPGs at all (so, not MDK2 or Shattered Steel). If it makes you feel better, don’t call the genre RPG. You’re unlikely to get anything close to true roleplaying in a solo CRPG context anyway, because ultimately, the limitations of the tech don’t allow much more than a series of decision trees. It would be like calling Lone Wolf an RPG.

    But whatever you call the genre, it’s a defined genre that ME2 is clearly and to its detriment (for me, at least) stepping away from in terms of gameplay. The shallowness of ME2′s gameplay systems means I’m just so much less invested in the game as a whole. Some people think the improvement in quality of the shooting makes up for that. I’m not convinced, because although I certainly won’t deny that the combat is improved, I also feel that it’s still a bland and repetitive exercise in stacking up behind cover and playing whack-a-mole. The obvious comparison is Gears of War. And I think that’s reasonably accurate. Specifically, the original Gears of War, before they figured out how to spice things up in the second game, except with far less variety in your opposition and arguably less meaningful variety in your arsenal.

    That said, I stopped playing Gears of War (1, anyway – 2′s keeping me busy, in coop) within a few levels as it simply wasn’t doing anything for me, and I’m very near the end of Mass Effect 2, or so I believe. The difference is that Gears of War has hilariously macho manslabs, and Mass Effect 2 has characters and an exciting and well told story with a lot of lovely smaller touches, like the ads on the Citadel. I also think their work at tying the game to the previous one is an excellent one – where previous import-character-to-next-game series have settled for importing character stats or giving minor bonuses up front, importing all that -story- is quite impressive and really helps sell the illusion that your choices make a difference.

    Oh, and while I think that the red/blue actions are very different than the promised ability to interrupt conversations that they apparently are meant to substitute for, I do enjoy them. My favorite so far, I think, was hurling an obstinate merc out a skyscraper window.

    • Vinraith says:

      @malkav11

      I pretty much agree across the board. I appreciate the big, narrative decisions, and ME2 seems to do them reasonably well. The problem is, though, that ME2 has removed so many of the small, significant decisions that traditionally make up an RPG. The skill choices are terribly limited, the upgrades system involves no choices at all as it’s trivially easy to acquire all of them. The weapons selection if quite limited as well. Arguably the best “small choice” of the lot is what team you take with you on a mission, THAT aspect of things is one of the best I’ve ever seen in the genre, but it’s a pity to lose so many of the others.

      Also, I suspect (and I’ve only played the game once, so tell me if I’m wrong) that many of these big narrative choices don’t really have any impact on game play, they just give us a different cinematic, a changed snippet of dialogue, or something similar.

      I think one of the most frustrating things about Bioware is that they put so much effort into creating narration, cinematics, and other elements for choices no one would really ever take. Is someone REALLY going to take the Normandy through the Omega 4 relay WITHOUT all the Normandy upgrades? I mean, really? I’m all for choice, but I’d like to see more choices someone might reasonably make and fewer choices that I can’t believe anyone would make. Require those upgrades to progress, then put the resources spent on that non-choice into some real choices. Numerous other examples abound (and there’s a rash of them in Dragon Age too).

      Anyway, I’ve swung wildly off topic. Yes, more RPG mechanics in RPG’s is a good thing. Bioware has the well developed characters, intriguing narrative thing down. ME2 is a lot of fun, but I can’t help but think it could have been so much more than it it. If they’d give me better big choices with more substantial consequences, and give me more little choices that affect game play on the ground, they’d have something spectacular IMO.

      P.S. As someone that really enjoys exploring RPG worlds, I find it really strange that ME2 has a very large galaxy with almost nothing in it. What’s the point of that, exactly? I didn’t visit even half the systems on the map, but those I did visit seemed to have almost no random quests to find. They were all just balls of minerals, which is particularly silly since in order to research every upgrade in the game you don’t need even a quarter of all the minable resources apparently present in the game. Not that I want to do more mining, mind you, I just want there to be more stuff to find out in that vast galaxy they’ve made.

    • Klaus says:

      @ Vinraith
      Is someone REALLY going to take the Normandy through the Omega 4 relay WITHOUT all the Normandy upgrades? I mean, really? I’m all for choice, but I’d like to see more choices someone might reasonably make and fewer choices that I can’t believe anyone would make.

      According to the youtube comments I’ve read and from what I’ve seen on the Mass Effect Wikia, yes. Yes, there are people who didn’t bother with the upgrades. Some didn’t like scanning for material, and others didn’t like certain characters so they never spoke to them and thus didn’t see the ‘Got any UPGRADES!!’ choice. And I’m sure there are more reasons than that. There are also those who made inefficient (ludicrous imo) choices during the Suicide Mission.

      In my first playthrough, I lost no one because Joker and Jacob pretty much inform you if you’re ready. and the Suicide Mission choices are somewhat straightforward.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      @Vinraith
      Bioware…put so much effort into creating narration, cinematics, and other elements

      I’m glad someone is. Misgivings about the gameplay aside (don’t play ME2′s hardest difficulty – I enjoy the shooting a lot, but all enemies having shields/armour gets very tedious very quickly), this is the best “interactive cinematic” experience I’ve had since Wing Commander 4. I can understand the argument that it feels “less like a game, and more like shooting a few things in between watching a film”, but Bioware have done so damn well at making a diverse and effective decision tree, that it isn’t just watching a movie: it feels like a proper “interactive movie”. Not the mere impression of one. (I’ve been through the mid-90s!)

      Tried playing a Bethesda game recently? Oh sure, it might have some satisfying gameplay, but they cannot write compelling narrative or characters to save their lives. And in fact, few game devs can. Now, to be fair, Bethesda tend to want to provide a playground in which you can do pretty much what you want. I can understand and will defend this choice (I feel Stalker fares better at it though), but Bioware aren’t interested in doing this. They want to tell a story, but allow you some choice as to how that story plays out. A different ethic, and equally valid.

      Some of us want a cinematic experience. Hell, I do. And if Bioware can keep it as “interactive” as this, then they’re getting my cash for Mass Effect 3.

      But bloody hell I wish they’d make planet scanning A TOGGLE!

  19. Easydog says:

    The most enjoyable thing i found in the game surprised me. It was playing as a female shepard and deciding what the hell, I’ll get it on with Thane and being surprisingly drawn into the romance. It was the most effective romance choice I’ve seen in a Bioware game and surprisingly thoughtful and emotional. It had a whiff of cheese to it here and then but it was the best decision I made. Plus discovering you could invite him up to the cabin for hugs afterward too :)

  20. dadioflex says:

    “Is it still a roleplaying game? That’s a question that may repeatedly trouble you as you sink yourself brain-deep into this long-awaited return to Mass Effect’s universe of space cowboys, genocidal AI and interstellar nookie. It has moral deliberation, it has shopping and it has experience points – but it does not have untold mountains of loot, the option to play dress-up with your party or screens full of statistics.

    Oh. It’s not an RPG then.

    All that waffle above about forgetting roots and “story”… meh. cRPGs have screens of statistics and infinite fiddling in the inventory screen. Story? I haven’t played ME2 and I probably wont until it’s for cheap, after the first one under-whelmed me so badly, but I’m willing to predict that the story is a bunch of trite nonsense and nothing you do in the game will fundamentally affect how you have to play it or make much of a difference to the ending. Oh, but it’s a comput-, you’ll attempt to say but I’ll interject and explain that’s exactly my point.

    Streamlined? Dumbed-down? Pick one.

    NB Have not played the game, will not for some time. RTFG? Puhlease. And hold up my opinions? pfft.

  21. Morningoil says:

    Wow, Vinraith, methinks you overreacted just a wee bit there. You both make good points, and are expressing what you think clearly and interestingly, and neither of you seems to be telling the other what to think.

  22. Morningoil says:

    Oh noes, replybuttonfail. ME2 was bloody brilliant, btw. fwiw. :)

  23. Deuteronomy says:

    If Mass Effect 2 was an RPG then the term has lost all meaning. It’s absurd that the groupthink calls a game without any meaningful choices, only the most threadbare level of customization and an essentially flat and lifeless world an RPG. Call of Pripyat is approximately three to four thousand times as much of an RPG as ME2 and I still refuse to call it an RPG.

    From now on you must all call ME2 a CTPS (Cinematic Third Person Shooter).

  24. Chiller says:

    Miranda’s characterization is not poor at all, but some people seem to be put off by the fact she is one of the starting companions. She’s no Mordin, but I found her pretty interesting by the end of the game.
    Jacob, on the other hand, is pretty bland.

  25. BLUSoldier says:

    SPOILER perhaps, I dunno.

    Interestingly, you mention being uncomfortable around Mordin. I, on the other hand, made some feeble attempts at trying to convince him he was wrong, mostly for the sake of… well… morality. But when it comes down to it, cards on the table, I think the salarians did the right thing based on the circumstances, although what Mordin and his team did I find somewhat less acceptable.

    Which is why I made him keep the data in case we ever need it.

    • Nalano says:

      Gotta love dem shades o’ grey.

    • NickS says:

      [Spoilers ho!]
      I kept the data, because it’s pretty obvious that in ME3 you’re going to need an army, and well, Krogan when trained up are killing machines on the battlefield.

      And kudos for Bioware for filling in details on the genophage that actually made it not feel so ad hoc, but also made me agree with the choice to use it in the first place and yet still sympathise with the Krogan.

  26. Ryuga says:

    Ah, the poor woman on the left in the last picture.. she’s only got one normal arm! Her right arm is small and fliddy.. =(

  27. The Dark One says:

    Don’t blame Miranda for her smile, she’s just self-conscious about her incisors. :(

  28. nabeel says:

    Great review Alec, I’m glad you posted it instead of leaving it lying around. I can’t fricking wait for ME3. I’m going to prepare by making two perfect endsaves, one pure Paragon and the other pure Renegade continuing the corresponding saves from ME1.

    • Vinraith says:

      @nabeel

      Am I the only one who hates trying to play pure Paragon/Renegade? I find Bioware’s definitions of “Paragon” actions and “Renegade” actions frustratingly out of synch with my own, and have found I have a lot more fun when I just play a character with clearly set motivations and goals and let the P/R points fall where they may.

    • mrmud says:

      Im with you on that Vinraith. I ended up about 55% paragon 45% renegade in both my ME1 and ME2 run and I think that my appreciation for my character is greater for being able to do that. It just makes the character feel more like a real person instead of an abstraction of an ideal.

    • Kester says:

      @Vinraith: I’m with you there, which is why the decision to remove the speech skills in ME2 and just base persuasion on the Paragon/Renegade meter is frustratingly short-sighted. It’s utterly schizophrenic that Bioware put so many genuinely hard moral decisions in the game, and then punish people for not choosing the same way every single time according to their predetermined answer sheet. If I hadn’t had a lot of starting paragon and renagade points from importing my Shepard, I suspect it would’ve caused me some proper rage.

    • Rinox says:

      Yes, I agree. Take my current (second) character, who’s something of a Humanity Space Nazi: she’s a complete and utter bitch against all other races and doesn’t care if the live or die, but a ‘hero’ when it comes to saving humans/humanity. This makes her overwhelmingly renegade, with a paragon streak. Unfortunately, because she hates aliens she apparently can’t be nice to humans*. Weird.

      P.S. I in no way condone nazism or racism in real life. I am however interested to see how the ME universe with its xenophobia and racial tensions reacts to my character.

      *In real life, most racists are just dicks all over the board, it’s true.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      @ Kester

      Well, I disagree there actually. I think I prefer it this way by FAR. Although I actually don’t think they made enough use of the system.

      In this new system, your choices through game actually result directly in the development of your character’s personality. I played exactly the same way as Vin – I never aimed to max out P or R. I just acted as I thought my Shepherd would act. Sometimes this involved using the Paragon/Renegade options, sometimes not. As it happened, I naturally ended up with about 100% Paragon and 30% Renegade or there abouts.

      I think this system is a lot more organic than deciding to go the points in a skill route which results in a bit of a sudden change in character.

    • nabeel says:

      @Vinraith
      I get what you’re saying, BioWare has kind of settled into what a Paragon is and what a Renegade is, and they don’t necessarily line up neatly with good/bad or whatever. When it comes down to it, just like SanguineAngel my preferred decisions tend to line up with Paragon anyway so it’s not like I’m not roleplaying. I guess I was lying a little regarding them being ‘pure’ runs, since my Paragon run in ME1 and now 2 are going to be my ‘canon’ saves, ‘my’ Shepard, and I still sometimes choose a Renegade choice simply because that’s the decision I want to carry forward. And then my Renegade run has all the polar opposite choices. So yeah, not so pure after all ;)

  29. kithkill says:

    As far as I’m concerned, the fact that you can play different roles as disparate as holier-than-thou hero and ultra-space-badass, plus anything inbetween (thanks to the excellent shades of grey missions/decisions) makes this a role-playing game.

    But I can see why people are having a hard time. For what it’s worth, whilst I’d call this an RPG, it’s also the first “proper” RPG I’ve ever completed (choosing not to call WoW, Diablo, Torchlight etc. proper ones). I’m sure that for the antagonisticc crowd that will immediately invalidate my opinion :) But it’s not for lack of trying – I’ve played Baldur’s Gate, Planescape, Fallout, Oblivion… I wanted to enjoy them, I’m open to the conept of RPGs – but every one I’ve tried has ended up being too slow and too fiddly. The mechanics got in the way of what I found enticing about RPGs – the epic storylines, the moral choices, the characters, and the ability to choose my approach to all the above.

    ME2 was the first game to give this to me. The gameplay side of things was familiar, accessible, fun. When I started playing it I did think that perhaps the skillpoints/abilities system had been dumbed down a little too much, but before long I realised that I genuinely didn’t care.

    And why does ME2 succeed? For me, it was Mordin’s loyalty mission. Being a gamer, and predisposed to gaming any given system, I went in having decided to maximise my Paragon score no matter what. And it was this mission, where the Paragon option was to call him a monster, where I realised that I actually didn’t want to do that. I liked this guy, this funny little character. And from a narrative perspective, I agreed with what he’d done. So having pushed the conversation forward through lots of Paragon speech options, in the end I bottled it. I couldn’t do it.

    From that point on I started going with my gut a lot more, as opposed to what I thought would get me the best score. Hence my belief that this remains a role-playing game.

  30. Meat Circus says:

    The great thing about RPGs is that two groups of people can call each other idiots for not knowing what an RPG is, without either side bothering to define their terms.

    It’s perfect flamebait.

    I’m with Vince D. Weller on this point. The essence of the RPG isn’t the stats spreadsheet, anally retentive inventory micromanagement or playing dress-up with oversized pauldrons. The essence of the RPG is Choice and Consequence.

    Viewed in those terms, Mass Effect 2 is one of the purest RPGs ever created. That it’s also amazing is a nice plus.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Meat Circus

      I think everyone pretty much agrees that the 10% of the game that involves choices and consequences is quite good (though I wish “consequences” amounted to more than “snippets of dialogue” in most cases). The source of disagreement is how the other 90% of the game (ie the combat, squad management, collection, and exploration) is handled.

    • Bloodloss says:

      @ Meat Circus, I was agreeing with you until the last bit. Have a talk with VDweller and you’d most likely see how he would viciously deny Mass Effect 2 being an RPG, because it doesn’t have proper consequences (the vast majority of the time). It’s littered with Bioware’s trademark ‘fake choices,’ as he calls them.

      I really like Mass Effect 2 despite this. I just don’t consider it an RPG.

    • Meat Circus says:

      What are these “false choices” of which you speak? Mass Effect/2 has had some of the most meaningful C&C I’ve yet experienced in an RPG. This is what leads me to view it as one of the finest RPGs I’ve played.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      @ Meat Circus

      I’m with you here! I’ve not felt that my choices have had such meaning in a very long time. What has also greatly impressed me in retrospect is that a lot of choices that felt like “false choices” in the first game have come back to me in ME2.

      I don’t think Bioware should rest on their Laurels at all though. There is tons of room for improvement. For example:

      *SPOILER*

      After saving my ex-squadmate from cerberus’ experiements in the first game which a) I didn’t have to do and b) had more impact because of my background choice he contacted me in ME2 to accuse me of betraying him. I would very much have liked some sort of side mission or even a forced encounter where he tried to confront or kill me. Possibly even see some repercussions from my executing the cerberus scientist who had performed the experiments.

      */SPOILER*

    • Nick says:

      I look forward to the consequences in ME3 where half the universe emails me to say thanks.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      @ Nick

      Yeh, fair point. However, it did make me feel a bit more connected to my choices in the previous game, as trite and afterthoughty as it may have been. The emails were a way of telling a bit more of those stories. As I say, there was a whole hell of a lot more potential. But it’s a step in the right direction.

    • Nick says:

      Oh, no, I agree – it just got a bit amusing the sheer amount of randoms I had helped who then found out my email address and sent one my way. The worst part was I hadn’t played Mass Effect for quite a while and could only remember who half of them were.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      @ Nick: Haha yeh I suppose I’d only just finished my playthrough of ME1 so they were a lot fresher in my mind.

      What I quite liked was that I didn’t do all the side quests in ME1, so the emails I DID get through just felt that much more relevant to me.

      Thinking about the topic a little more though, I would deffinitely like to see a lot more of choices being a case of opening one door and closing another. It was far too easy to get everything you want in this game. I liked the one choice in ME1 where there was no happy outcome. That was pretty consequential.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Bloodloss

      Fake choices? All story driven RPGs operate within a a degree of confinement (even Fallout), so naturally they have to corral you to a point of resolution. Whether every action you perform has a lasting consequences in the game world or not, is rather moot.

  31. Pardoz says:

    If ME2 is what passes for a “top notch action game” then the genre is even worse off than I’d previously thought, as I found the combat minigame only slightly less boring than the planet scanning one (but more boring than the hacking/bypassing minigames).. As a game, it fails on pretty much every level, but the characters and story are strong enough to make it worth putting up with the dismal mechanical aspects.

  32. Tom Armitage says:

    Seriously, though, it’s about the voice acting! Mark Meer is fine and all as Dude Shepard (and I don’t want to do him down – he’s very good, and much better than most games ever get in terms of lead voice actors doing that amount of dialogue). But! Jennifer Hale’s Lady Shepard is just wonderful; there’s so much nuance, so much variety, and the way her relationships with the crew play out are hinted at from the beginning in her voice alone. The point where Shepard discovers the identity of Archangel is a case in point: Male Shepard is surprised to see that character return, but Lady Shepard is this bundle of surprised/delight/enthusiasm; it’s like she’s seeing her best mate again.

    Which, of course, in the way I play her, she is.

  33. Tom Armitage says:

    doh, that was meant to be a reply to Stabby

  34. Wichtel says:

    “I have a lot more fun when I just play a character with clearly set motivations and goals and let the P/R points fall where they may.”

    This would be MY definition of an RPG. Playing a role, setting goals, motivations, taboos for my role. I can do this in Dragon Age too, but in Mass Effect you are not playing a character but Commander Shepard. Because of that you can make nuanced decisions and I think it’s a strength of the Paragon/Renegade-system that we end up with having both.
    Everything that keeps me in this role/world makes my role-playing experience better. So getting rid of my magical bag of holding with hundred of guns, and replacing it with an armory is good. Being able to hit stuff with my pistol if I am an N7 Super-Soldier is good too. That’s why I love the Gothic apwoch to skill upgrades: You go to someone and they tell you how to use your footing in a sword fight. Even ME2 awesome auto-save system (saving after every battlefield) is great (I don’t wanna know hoe many hours I have lost because ME1 lacked it and I did not got out of character to save) I like an in-character approach to RPGs.
    This is why for me ME2 is a better Role-Playing-Game than ME1 and even a better RPG than Baldur’s Gate 1+2. Baldur’s Gate was a great game and I still love the “save -> try -> die -> think -> try again” gameplay but it was very distant from my character. ME2 is using everything that a PC can do better than a game master in P&P (realistic combat, great voice acting, great facial animations, body language, pretty graphics, etc) and combines it with great writing and fun gameplay. (Gothic 1+2 did a lot of stuff right too but the gameplay was boring – I seem to hate sword fighting in real time)

    “Viewed in those terms, Mass Effect 2 is one of the purest RPGs ever created.” + The Witcher (they are better with consequences)

    • Martin Coxall says:

      I adored Mass Effect 2. I adored it to Walkeresque levels of gush. Many of the choices the game invites you to make are heartbreaking. I’m not looking forward to discovering the consequences of my actions in Mass Effect 3. Sure, Renegade has all the best lulz, but at what cost?

      I’ve still never played The Witcher. I have the enhanced edition sitting there staring installed at me from my Steam window. I really must *run* it at some point.

  35. Vayl says:

    How can people say Mass Effect is not a RPG or is a less RPG experience? I’m a veteran of Computer RPG, having my nameless, my vault dwellers, my children of Bhaal, but no game come even close to have the same attachment to my character has Mass Effect 2 (with a character coming from ME1).

    Is a amazing Roleplaying experience where you build your Shepard, you choices matter, there is consequences to your actions, my Shepard (the one true Shepard, of course) can be completly different of the next guy Shepard. No you don’t have spreadsheets, tons of loot, never ending stats or loot, what you have a is a incredible character building experience that no other game comes close, how can people say is not A Roleplaying game? (probably they are the same peoepl that tell Diablo is a RGP).

    On a another note, the marketing for ME2 is completly crazy, where one of the strongest points of the game, the ability to build your own Shepard is completly missing to give focus on random bald guy nº12313. Not having any mention of female Shepards and especially with the excellent work Jennifer Hale does bringing her to live is incredible strange.

    • Alex Bakke says:

      Yes.

    • Rinox says:

      From a marketing pov it makes total sense. The market for games like ME2 is overwhelmingly male, and for continuity reasons they can’t go around switching male and female Shepard around in their ads or people who aren’t familiar with the game would become confused.

    • Vayl says:

      I’m sorry it does not make any sense. Is not only about being male or female is about ignoring one of the main aspects of the game, the possibility to make your own character, even if you went with all male characters, you can make a huge amount of different Shepards.

      If you know nothing about the game and go by its marketing, you would have no idea of the amount of variance you can have on your character both physically and mentally, so yes i think is strange that they are reducing their own game to a figurehead that the huge majority of the players wont ever see in game, no matter playing a male of female Shepard.

    • Rinox says:

      If you know nothing about the game and go by its marketing, you would have no idea of the amount of variance you can have on your character both physically and mentally (…)

      Exactly. Which is why they use the Shepard of the ads a male, crewcut soldier Shepard in the ads. He speaks to the majority of the potential buyers the most. More than any long-haired hippie paragon Shepard or my ugly-as-sin Shepard, or any female Shepard (because she isn’t sexified).

      Once they’re in they can discover the options. But as a hard sell, male canon Shepard covers the most bases. Women aren’t the main target group for a Sci-fi action RPG that is being marketed by people yelling “die BITCH!!” and giant lizards ramming head-first into a bunch of droids.

    • mrmud says:

      Lots of men playing female characters (Im one of them).
      And the fact that Shepard isnt sexified is part of what makes her so attractive.

    • Vayl says:

      They making it like that does not mean is the best way.

      There are plenty of ways to talk to a male teen demographic (is that even the biggest target of mass effect 2), without limiting and hiding their own game. There is no reference to customization, no reference to playing anything other then the advertized Shepard. It seems wrong.

      Fallout 3 for example, has no standard Vault Dweller, Dragon Age made a point of communicating all the variety you could do and has no canon Grey Warden, and yet they speak to the same people.

      I find it hard tob eleive that not advertizing a big part of your game is a good move.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      @ Vayl:

      I can see what you’re saying but I think EA/bioware made the right call on this one.

      The difference between Dragon Age/Fallout and ME is that, whilst a MASSIVE part of those tow game is the customisation, the very biggest elements of Mass Effect are the story, atmosphere and characters. If you flit around with all the different Shepherds and make a point of showing off that versatility, you’re losing focus from Shepherd the Character.

      Now, I know that when you play the game, it’s your choices and the individuality of YOUR shepherd that makes his or her character special. However, before you’ve bought into the game – before you’ve made those choices or defined your own character – you need to be sold an image. That’s what advert Shepherd does so well. He’s got the hero thing down pat and he’s based on a fashion model and he has unique identifying marks like the scar on his hairline. He’s a consistant character that a casual viewer – someone who’s not invested in their own playthrough of the game – can relate to.

    • Rinox says:

      @ mrmud

      Oh, I know. But ‘lots’ isn’t the majority, and that’s what they’re aiming for with a marketing campaign. As for you digging her not being sexified, yeah, me too, but such a presentation isn’t exactly a trend in media is it? :-) If there’s one thing a major publisher wants to avoid in producing and selling (as in, figuratively, to people) a game it’s risk. Presenting ME2 in the ads with a female Shepard who’s not omgwtfbbq hot is risky, or at least it’s perceived to be. Much easier to just go with all-American-square-jawed hero Shepard. And, if that needed to be said, especially when you’re aiming at a cross-platform crowd with a majority of console gamers.

      In case it wasn’t clear: I’m not arguing for this manner of marketing. I’m just trying to explain why they do it.

  36. shadeheart says:

    @Wulf I defy you sir. As much as I hated Jacob, he takes credit for having the best line in the game.

    “A good deed’s like pissing yourself in dark pants; warm feeling but no one notices”
    (The Garrus one comes damn close though.)

    • SanguineAngel says:

      @ Shadeheart

      I believe you may be forgetting the real best line:

      ‘Shepard? But…you’re dead!’
      ‘I got better.’

  37. westyfield says:

    I disagree with both of you – the best line was clearly EDI’s.
    “I enjoy the sight of humans on their knees.”
    *Joker looks terrified*
    “That was a joke.”

    • Mungrul says:

      And Westyfield:
      I’m in almost complete agreement, although I interpreted Joker’s look more as blatant disgust / incomprehension.
      Also, Joker’s line just before that scene is diamond too: “What the shit?!?”
      It’s just something about the way he says it that creases me up every time :D

    • Meat Circus says:

      “This one doesn’t have time for your solid waste excretions.”

    • Rinox says:

      “Joker, what a tool he was! Now I have to spend all day computing Pi because he plugged in the Overlord!”

      I lurved Joker in ME2. Also mad props for his rendittion of ‘the robot’

    • Harper says:

      The first bridge conversation with joker is the best one though.

      Joker: “It is going to be better than the old days”
      Shephard: “I hope so, I DIED”

    • Klaus says:

      Also mad props for his rendittion of ‘the robot’

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI478oOWHes

      One of my favorite parts in the game. SPOILERS! (I suppose)

  38. Mungrul says:

    I would pay money for Bioware to release an ME1 character editor so I don’t have to play it all the way through again just to see some of the differences. I know there’s that repository of ME1 saves, but I played both on the 360.
    I really want a pure paragon from ME1 and a pure renegade, but I can’t be arsed to put in the approximately 60 hours needed to do it properly, especially when I’ve already replayed ME1 4 times.

  39. Toivoton says:

    Agree with the fake choices. Also what I hate about choice in games in general is that you are almost never punished for doing the good thing. Devs don’t seem to understand that if the choice is only between doing a good or a bad thing, it doesn’t resonate as well. There is no good in the absence of evil. The same way there are no good choices if the evil isn’t tempting. You only have the “neutral” and the “a real selfdestructive asshole” – choices.

    What I mean is for example the bioshock little sisters. The way it is now is that you have a choice between saving the kids and getting almost as much adam and some nifty plasmids or kill the kids and get slightly more adam. I mean sorry, but I’m just not going to feel heroic from choosing to not kill the kids for fun.

    How it should work is that you would get some (1/4 or something) adam from certain things such as the big sisters. You would not get any from saving a sister. Saving the sisters should be actively harmful to your own characters power. You should also be able to avoid fighting and/or lose, but doing that would affect the ending.

    That way you would seriously have to think how many sisters you could afford to save while still having enough power to take on the big bad. It would go a long way in making it feel like you actually went out of your way to truly save the kids.

    Allies should be the same way. I find the ME2 way to handle teammates stupid. I mean you go trough all the trouble to collect the scariest bunch of experts and then have them all sit around in your spaceship all day? I mean wth? Every time you arrive to a planet, you should have a little meeting with your team that lets you to assign people to tasks. Garrus might offer to say hi to his contacts on the citadel and track down some leads. It might be a bit dangerous so you give him Grunt to watch his back. Later on he calls to let you know that he hasn’t had much luck, but tells you that he found a smuggler who might have some nice guns for the Normandy. Or perhaps you get a call from the mob boss thats holding your team hostage and wants his record clear and some cash until he lets them go….

    Perhaps the worst example of “can’t do anything when I’m in your team” is still the dragon age vote in the end. You have to influence the vote by talking to the nobles. Now I’ve been playing a good meaning, but ruthless and “end justifies the means” hero. I have a very good trained assassin who is a very good friend of mine. The nobles don’t seem to protected that well. Why can’t I have the assassin friend of mine go arrange an accident or two?

    Whats most infuriating is that something like that wouldn’t really take that much effort. Just having the occasional quest that had the option to make it easier/more profitable by sending a team to do something meanwhile and some triggers to have a partymember come offer to do something would go a long way.

    And now that I started ranting…: I also hate that you only seem to get “party” teammembers. I mean why doesn’t Liara give me a hand? I mean just having her send you some info and offer some sidequests for some more info would tie you into the world a lot better. Perhaps helping the quarian faction crucify tali (and get them in power) would get you a couple of ships to do some scouting and run errands for you.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      @Toivoton

      I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. Actually I think you’ve got some top notch ideas and I would love to see bioware implement something like the system you describe above making use of all team members. That would be particularly interesting because then it would make a difference who you’ve recruited and in what order. The potential for ramifications are great. You could even get people killed before the end game.

      There is certainly a lot more potential for the game. However, I can’t help but think that you’re not appreciating what you’ve got, so much as what you wish you had, or the way you would have done it.

      As far as generally speaking – I totally agree with you. There is very rarely enough weight given to choices. but I do think ME2 does a good job and is deffinitely heading in the right direction at the very least.

      My biggest gripes are that the companion loyalty thing is all handled very obviously piecmeal so to speak, and that it was way way way too easy to have everyone survive.

      By biggest hope is that ME3 really reflects the decisions you made in ME1/2 even more (lending more weight to you decisions) and offers up a lot of variety. I can’t imagine why they’d let you kill off virtually the entire team if they’re not going to do something with that though.

    • Jesse says:

      “Every time you arrive to a planet, you should have a little meeting with your team that lets you to assign people to tasks. Garrus might offer to say hi to his contacts on the citadel and track down some leads. It might be a bit dangerous so you give him Grunt to watch his back. Later on he calls to let you know that he hasn’t had much luck, but tells you that he found a smuggler who might have some nice guns for the Normandy. Or perhaps you get a call from the mob boss thats holding your team hostage and wants his record clear and some cash until he lets them go….”

      I would love this. This is just what these games need.

  40. Pew says:

    Offtopic, but did everyone here play their Renegade run with a redhead female?

    Because pretty much everyone I know did the same thing in ME1 without being aware of each other’s Shepard choice.

    • Vayl says:

      Would be interesting to see the ratio of male to female Shepards.

  41. Coal says:

    Female Shepard is non-canon.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      @ Coal

      I just read the Redemption part 2 comic and I’m pretty sure it shows Shepherd as a female. Although they are otherwise careful not to mention any real specifics about Shepherd so i was a little confused

  42. JohnH says:

    I loved the main story and most of the party members in ME2, it’s so epic when Mordin starts to sing! And the fragile side of Jack when you romance her was quite unexpected to me.

    But on the other hand I miss the multitude of gear, and the customizing that comes with that, from ME1 as well as more random missions.

    And please get rid of the really, really annoying mining “minigame” for ME3, just give me more credits and let me buy stuff. Add more random missions to the planets instead! Any minigame that gives me carpal tunnel syndrome is BAAAAD!

  43. ripclaw says:

    @Deuteronomy *rubeyes*…. “without any meaningful choices”…. seriously? If anything that IS what the whole game is about. It’s about in-character-choices that do have a lasting effect on how the game plays out (and even follow up games to a certain degree). I take it by choices you just mean class skills etc., but that has always been the most annoying part about RPGs (Computer as well as PnP) for me. My character should be definded by the characters choices, not by the result of some statistical calculation. Especially in times of realtime combat I find it utterly annoying to target an enemy square between the eyes, only to miss because some statistic says so.

  44. Anon says:

    “Turian Scientist”? I think you mean Salarian.
    /nerd nipicking

  45. N Cowan says:

    I am of the mindset that ME2 is one of the most brilliant games ever made. My prior favorite game was the entire Baldur’s Gate trilogy. I’ve always loved big huge RPGs with stat tweaking and cool character development. That being said, the Mass Effect games are, to me, the new high-water mark of RPGs. I get to explore a vast galaxy, make meaningfull choices, fall in love with great characters including my own (now voiced) PC and save the day. In the end, RPGs for me are about 3 things: choices, consequences, and escapism. ME2 nails all three better than any other game i’ve played, bar none. Playing ME2 has made going back to more stat based “traditional” RPGs a tedious and boring experience, including Dragon Age.

  46. cjlr says:

    Maybe it’s a good thing it’s so easy. I don’t know if I would have had such a ridiculously awesome-filled funtime extravaganza if it hadn’t been.

    I played the finale with a steady alcohol intake – not enough to be really drunk, but my reaction time was way off peak. Nonetheless I got through half the firefights using melee.
    On hardcore.
    I had no idea I was so hardcore.

    Yahtzee’s review is up within the last couple hours, if anyone is interested. Other than the usual complaints (the shooty bits aren’t as great as a pure shooter, in-conversation animations are often crap, and Fuck. Planet. Scanning.) he seemed to be fairly fond of it.

    For my money, sex ed with Mordin was hands-down one of the funniest bits of dialogue.

  47. tita says:

    Best single player game I have ever played.

    Yes, there are some valid critiques. Like the main storyline being very rigid/predictable. Or there not being a lot of variation in the gameplay And I’m sure most of us could come up with more points, but in the end it doesn’t really matter.

    Because what it does achieve (quite brilliantly) is something far more important. It emotionally involved me in a way that I have never experienced in any game before. Once the team is recruited and the loyalty missions kick off, the game just picks up in a amazing way. Learning the back stories of your team members and being with them during though times forms a bond. I started caring about what happened to them as much as what happened to me. And knowing that my actions could have major consequences, even ranging beyond mass effect 2 , put real weight behind every decision.

    I remember the dread I felt during one mission, knowing I was going to be forced into making a choice that would have no winners. Or the horror of the finale where you agonize over how to save your crew. And the sadness when a slight misunderstanding lead to two of my crew members getting killed. And then to top it all off having my most favorite crew member, which I purposefully kept at my side to protect at all coast, die in my arms at the very final moment of the game. At that point I just cried…, Yes this game made me cry, something I have never done in any game before.

    It was just a amazing gaming experience. A experience which could not have been created in any other type of media. So a big salute to bioware and the entire team that put this together. On a final note here is a brilliant fan made trailer (featuring the real Shepard, the female one of course), which makes me watery eyed every time I watch it. Better stop now before I come off as a total sissy… oh well.

    • cjlr says:

      @tita
      “… Or the horror of the finale where you agonize over how to save your crew. And the sadness when a slight misunderstanding lead to two of my crew members getting killed. And then to top it all off having my most favorite crew member, which I purposefully kept at my side to protect at all coast, die in my arms at the very final moment of the game…”

      I hate to prompt spoilers, but I’d kill to know what happened in your take (and what happened to prompt it).

    • tita says:

      -spoilers-

      Basically I picked the wrong person for the first task. I didn’t fully understand “tech expert” and
      my mind associated crawling trough a tunnel with Thane. Probably because the mention of the duckt rats during his loyalty mission and him being the stealthy assassin type. So he died failing to
      close the first door fast enough.

      Second person to die was Garrus, I made him lead the second squad both times, figuring he was smart enough to lead them to trough safely. He died coming at the second door. I’m not sure why, maybe being one man down made the second team weaker.

      Third one to die (and my favorite, which I can’t disclose due to the peer pressure here ;) was the
      only non loyal person on my team. The reason being that during the bust up between her and another crew member, I picked the opposite side not knowing It would result in a loss of loyalty. As it turns out you can regain loyalty by persuasion ONLY if your either 100% paragon or 100% renegade. Since I was a mixture of paragon and renegaded, I literally flew across the entire universe looking for every little side quest to get my paragon rating up to 100%. In the end I got to something like 98% paragon when I simply ran out of things to do. So I started the suicide mission crossing my fingers hoping for the best, sadly it wasn’t enough.

  48. R. says:

    I honestly don’t care if it doesn’t fit into some beard-stroker’s little category of what an RPG actually is or not, all I know is the game was gosh darn fun (mind numbing planet scanning aside – bring back Big Trak!) and I had a hell of a good time with it. *My* Shepard is my favourite character in any game, she’s funny, she’s good-hearted, she’s utterly ruthless when she needs to be and she’s got a whole ship full of great people backing her up.

    Mordin, Archangel, Tali’Zorah, Thane, Samara and *final companion* and their dilemmas were all wonderful but it’s not just about them. It’s about Gianna, it’s about the Matriarch Bartender, it’s about playing good cop/bad cop, it’s about shouting “OBJECTION!” at the screen in true Phoenix Wright stylee, it’s about discriminating against the poor, it’s about bringing a vendor a Geth’s head to use as a desklamp, it’s about feeling good about saving the Council only to have that Turian bastard AIRQUOTE me, it’s about saving goddamn yoomanity and telling Martin Sheen exactly where he can stick it.

    Absolutely loved it. Can’t wait for the next part.