The Games Of Christmas ’10: Day 23

By RPS on December 23rd, 2010 at 1:01 pm.

23 is a much more interesting number.
We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the Star Trek.

It’s…. Mass Effect 2!

Jim: There are times where traditional points of reference break down and clever men are forced to invent clever descriptions to decide what is going on. This is happening to the shooter and RPG genres. Neither is really relevant to Mass Effect 2 in their traditional form, and yet this game is still made up from elements of both of them. This realisation caused us to propose a new genre: Guns & Conversation. G&C! – you can see it catching on? Right? Oh. Well, we are not clever men. But anyway, if you are playing this kind of game there’s going to be some shooting, and there’s going to be some talking. And that’s about it. There might be a bit of time in menu screens, but most of the stat and inventory tinkering is gone. I’m okay with that, I think. The Guns & Conversation genre has been too long coming, frankly. Now that it’s here, it’s good to see Bioware leading the way in melding both hiding behind waist-high scenery and saying either nice or nasty things to people with heads made of plastic into a single game.

I am being flippant. Sometimes I think that’s what I am paid to do. But it’s really not, I am paid to make sure that John doesn’t get his head stuck behind his desk again, to ensure Alec gets rebooted occasionally, and that Quintin gets enough eggs. He can only eat eggs, you see. In my spare time I find myself loving things, too, and Mass Effect 2 was one of them. Yes, it was a kind of limited space opera that focused on the bits where the spaceship is taking off and landing a bit too hard, but it was also funky and fun. The exploration of the galaxy makes sense, and most of the missions and a decent dramatic beat to them. They’re also roughly the sort of length of time I often have spare of an evening, so that was welcome.

Not all the characters really seemed to work out, of course, but Mordin, Thane, and Legion made up for any of the chaps who seemed to have sauntered in from the bad bits of Babylon 5. Combat was better than the original, too, which I recall being fairly awful in the scheme of things, and it was entertaining enough to not feel like you had to rush through it get it out of the day. Best of all, though, was that Mass Effect 2 filled in a wide, empty area of gaming on which is written “Space Badass with non-linear mission parameters”. Part of The Future Of Games We Were Promised was that we could be Space Badassess all the time, and that we’d get to taste a thousand different imaginary worlds as we sampled the bad assery that was on offer. As it has turned out there’s actually an extremely limited amount of it going around, and it’s fortunate that what is here – mostly Bioware’s work – is of an extremely high standard, both technically and in writing and acting. Mass Effect 2 definitely fills what would have been an otherwise glaringly empty space in our selection of videogame entertainments, and for that I am grateful.

What hasn’t happened, for me, is the final piece of the experiential equation that would make me fall in love with Mass Effect as a fantasy. I’m struggling to either buy into or value Bioware’s vision of galactic sci-fi, and I think that’s what I want to underline about the Mass Effect 2 experience: it’s fantastic in lots of individual ways, but it’s somehow less than the sum of its parts. There are fantastic scenes, brilliant characters, amazing environmental designs, beautiful armour, weapons, aliens, and apocalypses. It’s an amazing piece of work, no doubt about it, but the overall wrapper lacks something. I don’t give a damn about the galactic peril, and I doubt that I ever will. A shame, then, but a kind of beautiful shame that I don’t regret. I very much look forward to Mass Effect 3.

John: When I went back to the original Mass Effect, in preparation for the release of Mass Effect 2, I realised that I’d completely forgotten how the game works. In my head I’d somehow streamlined it down to KOTOR with real-time fighting, and all that stuff about armour and gun upgrades and special abilities took me by surprise. So much so that I found I bounced right off the surface of it, not caring about such matters when I wanted to be involved in politics and social happenings of the new galaxy.

It’s interesting to realise that as I think back on Mass Effect 2, eleven months later, I’ve done the same thing again. I remember a game about meddling in the monarchy of the krogans, emotionally counselling tearaway thieves, negotiating with electric-fence-voiced assassins, and listening to comedy opera by a long-headed alien scientist.

I remember forming a relationship with an old friend, Garrus, that eventually led to awkward, scaly love making. I remember the conversation this led to with Mordin, in which he stifled giggles as he recommended lubricant. I remember being entirely dismissive of the bi-curious ship P.A. and not noticing when she died. And the same for my fish.

But I’m sure there was a lot of combat too. I just don’t remember it. I don’t remember any of the abilities my companions may have had. I just remember that we shot stuff, in order that we could get onto the next bit of the game as it was meant to be. Which is no criticism of the combat, it might have been brilliant, and I probably enjoyed it at the time. But for whatever reason, in my memory Mass Effect gets reduced down to the core component that interests me the most.

Which isn’t true of Dragon Age, or Alpha Protocol. I remember the combat then. So what is it about Mass Effect? I’m too drunk with flu to know. But what’s important for me is quite how potent those memories of characters, and those social moments are. The sense of humour, the depth of pathos, and the way that, as clunky as its final sequence definitely was, it really mattered who of your companions survived.

It’s strange to reflect on the marketing campaign, and remember all that stuff about how you could be dead, or something, and that you’d be making these giant decisions. I don’t know – did any of that happen? In the end, as significant as the consequences of your actions may have been, the story was still told on a personal, parochial scale, which makes it hard to scale up to the universe-wide impact that was promised. I enjoy that angle – that’s the level on which I’d prefer to experience a game. That’s where the game shines – the asides from your buddies, the nudged elbows and shed tears. That’s what I remember it for.

Also, this must be the only game that’s ever included a joke written just for me, with a lovely tongue-in-cheek reference to an article I’d written about the first game. And that makes me feel special.

Quinns: My lover got carried away by robot bees.

That’s both a fun sentence and a succinct summary of why the “suicide” mission that caps Mass Effect 2 is a beautiful piece of design. The bee thing isn’t a mechanical spoiler, by the way- anybody on your team can die on that mission in any number of ways, depending on your decisions and how prepared you are. I was prepared, but in the airless heat of the moment I made a bad call, and as a result my character’s love-interest was carried away by robot bees, never to be seen again.

It was such an amazing, ungodly scene because it happened so fast and with zero foreshadowing. In any other medium you wouldn’t be able to kill off such an important character in such a horrible way without last words or a death scene or at least without doing so in accordance to some kind of narrative rule- he was stubborn and couldn’t change! etc. But in my game of Mass Effect 2 this abrupt and purposeless death felt enormous and entirely deserved, because the game had warned me about the suicide mission the whole way through. My lover’s death wasn’t the game’s decision, it was my mistake.

Though my love for the suicide mission goes far beyond this one disaster. It’s just such a fireworks display of non-linearity; of what can only be done with videogames. You’re playing that mission with the knowledge that you’re holding the lives of your crew in your hand like so much cupped water. For once, a game is actually playing hardball with you, and it’s made sure that you know that you’re stood on the plate, spaceball bat in hand.

I could replay the mission and make sure I didn’t lose anybody the second time around, of course, as I gather that many other gamers did. But I never would.

First of all, that would be trying to shuck the story that I deserved. Second, a game that spends its entire plot building up to a dramatic suicide mission, only for you to use gamer’s prescience to make sure nobody dies? That’s the least heroic thing I’ve ever heard. Third, there are a couple of moments where I felt I was at a branching plot path, and it’d be a shame to discover that the mission’s more linear than I thought.

No, no, no thank you. I’ll keep my dead lover. At least this way, I’ll never forget him.

Alec: So I guess this is goodbye.

Baldur’s Gate.
Baldur’s Gate II.
Neverwinter Nights.
Knights of the Old Republic.
Mass Effect.
Dragon Age.

Bioware and the cRPG, sitting in a tree, D.E.F.I.N.I.N.G.G.A.M.I.N.G.H.I.S.T.O.R.Y.

It must have been love, but it’s over now.

And I don’t regret that one bit. After Bioware’s years of devoted service, the trad. roleplaying baton can and should be passed to someone else. Clearly, CD Projekt RED would very much like it to be them, but I suspect when the new king of stats’n’bashing emerges it will be an unexpected one, in the same way Baldur’s Gate was all those years ago.

Bioware have moved on to something new, something they hope can define the times rather than look only to their past success, and that’s why they took such an enormous risk with Mass Effect 2. ‘Guns and conversation’ isn’t anywhere near as flippant as it sounds, because Mass Effect 2 isn’t trying to fix RPGs – it’s trying to fix shooting games. “If only you could talk to the monsters,” to once again giggle at Edge’s infamous review of Doom. Mass Effect 2, finally, is the shooter where you can talk to the monsters. (Or, at least, the monsters’ bosses).

It’s a mechanically very simple game compared to its predecessors, an assured arrow aimed straight at one destination, but the option to glance frequently from side to side as it flies creates a gratifying veneer of complexity and depth. This is a game where most choices are made from something like gut instinct and personal preference, rather than studied calculation of efficacy and efficiency.

Stepping back from the statistics was absolute necessary to evoke the Dirty Dozen tone of the piece: a motley crew of ultimately heroic space-rogues there more for their charisma than their skill. Mass Effect 2 really, truly wants you to enjoy its characters more than its systems. And I did. Mordin was a party mainstay for me because of his bittersweet pinging between comedy and tragedy, while distractingly ugly hitman Zaeed Massani’s layman grumbling made all the mystic prophecy and cryptic riddling of the core plot seem that much less silly. What guns did they use? What specialisms did they have? I don’t bloody remember. It didn’t and doesn’t matter. I wanted them alongside me on my star trek for their commentary and their company, not for their character sheets.

There were only so many characters, so many planets and so many permutations squirreled away in there, but the bombast and the urgency masked that, made it seem so epic and branching. So Mass Effect 2 was, for everyone, a very personal adventure. It incredibly bravely threw out the loot’n’points compulsion RPGs and MMOs have long been built upon, determined to make its world, its people, its grand space opera and its sense of involvement the star of the show. To do this, Bioware needed a clean break with their past. The result was the best mainstream game of the year. I don’t know what happens next, whether Mass Effect 3 can successfully go further and especially whether Dragon Age 2 adopting similar streamling is suicidal, but that’s for next year. What matters right now is that ME2 saw our old sweetheart’s triumphant rebirth as someone surprising and new.

So I guess this is hello.

, .

123 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. The Hammer says:

    Woah, expected this to be the game of the year!

    I really, really, really loved Mass Effect 1 and 2, and played them both through the summer; I had a week’s break between the two, as I was off on my summer holiday, and by the time I bought ME2 my anticipation levels were skiiiii-hi.

    At first I didn’t get on with it; what with the pared-down RPG mechanics and its mission-like structure. But as I played more of it, I began to enjoy it even more than the first; it was better written, the action was weightier and that last suicide mission was just tremendous.

    I’ll never play it again, now that I know how to save all my squad and crew, and I wish it had kept the RPG mechanics of the first, but even so: it’s the best gaming experience I’ve had this year. It was just wonderful.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      “Woah, expected this to be the game of the year!”

      I will be very surprised if Minecraft is tomorrow’s game. Let me put it that way. ;)

    • Dhatz says:

      I wasnt surprised, because ME2 is not evolving games gameplay-wise, it only combines 2 elements of the predecesor in different ratio and has different structure of missions.

  2. Meat Circus says:

    The Vanguard’s Whoosh-BAM! is the best suicide-o-murder attack in gaming in 2010.

    GO FOR THE OPTICS, CHITIKA.

    • Premium User Badge

      Colthor says:

      Yeah, I didn’t like the combat at all until I fully upgraded Human Pinball Mode, after which it became a case of bouncing between the baddies fast enough to keep my shields recharged and shotgunning them in the face. And, once, punching a Geth Prime to death. I feel sorry for everyone who played as a soldier.

      It’s just a shame that the missions tended towards straight-up Gears-of-War-clone walk-down-the-corridors-and-shoot-the-baddies-while-hiding-behind-the-walls. There was very little exploration or anything more interesting. Without Human Pinball Mode I would probably have dialled it down to Easy just to slog through them as quickly as possible and get back to the good bits.
      (Which is better than Gears of War itself; I couldn’t be bothered to finish slogging through that on Easy as there were no good bits.)

    • Pijama says:

      And if you went Renegade, plus points of awesomeness.

      The Solemn Order of Renegade Vanguards is quite pleased.

    • Premium User Badge

      Man Raised by Puffins says:

      @ Colthor: Soldiers get some recompense by being able to use the Revenant machinegun, which chews through targets like nobodies business (especially when you put EXPLODING BULLETS in it).

  3. Feet says:

    Minecraft for game of the year tomorrow then, I presume.

    I am sad that Alpha Protocol didn’t make it into the 24. Flawed it was, certainly released unfinished, but it was also utterly brilliant.

    • kyrieee says:

      I don’t doubt it took a genius to make something so utterly terrible

  4. Muber says:

    “Also, this must be the only game that’s ever included a joke written just for me, with a lovely tongue-in-cheek reference to an article I’d written about the first game. And that makes me feel special.”

    Please would you let us know the joke?

    Is it funny?

    • Mman says:

      It’s something like some people you listen in on joking about asking random strangers for advice on whether to do a certain operation to their newborn child or not (which happened in the first game, and John wrote an article on the silliness of it).

    • westyfield says:

      It’s the same two people with the baby from the first game discussing something about the child’s treatment, or lack of, and eventually one of them says that they should just ask the next person to walk past.

    • westyfield says:

      It manages to be even funnier in the game than how I described it, if you can believe that!

  5. Premium User Badge

    sonofsanta says:

    I think ME2’s greatest achievement was in making the previously stunning ME1 look amateurish and uninspired.

    I, also, thoroughly approve of the bite-size chunks it was delivered in. I sat down for a week off with ME1 and played through, but now I have wife, family et al, 2-3 hour chunks of concentrated, purified action ‘n’ plot were perfect. It’s Halo’s 30-second-idea scaled up, varied, mixed with story and character, and so so perfect for it.

    (the shop conversation referencing that ME1 decision made me giggle as well, as did the computer games salesman in the Citadel)

  6. Wulf says:

    I quite liked this game, it’s better than the vast majority of Bioware’s offerings, that’s for sure. The height of it though for me was Legion, I wish they’d introduced him earlier on into the story and done more with him, I feel the game could’ve been much more interesting, then. Oh well, c’est la vie.

    It was also one of Bioware’s few moments where they weren’t cowards, usually they’ll do exactly what you expect them to do, and that bothers me. It doesn’t impress me at all, they tend to pull all their punches and keep to exactly what you expect, they won’t just go batshit insane and completely change the nature of something in a way that perhaps only a few peculiar eccentrics like myself would find appealing.

    Oh, remember that evil robot horde you’ve been fighting? Well, they’re the rebels of the real robot horde, you see. The real robot horde is a purely democratic entity almost akin to anarchism, where everyone in their society has an equal say, and ethics is upheld as one of their most worthwhile tenets. Because they’re cool like that. You could even say that they look to be better people than most of the biological entities in the game, even the humans, because they have a society built on equity and bereft of discrimination, and the only thing that caused a rift in them was some evil God-machines reprogramming a small bunch of them. Yeah, they’re pretty cool.

    That actually made me smile. Usually the representation is that humans are the shiniest, the most ethically correct, the best at everything, and I have to read books to get away from that. It’s actually fun to see humans as the underclass in a fictional work once in a while, because it shows a different side of us and one that’s less than perfect. Personally, I don’t need my ego constantly massaged as a human, so I find such works more interesting. I like seeing a fictional work giving humanity something to aspire to.

    But yeah, Legion and his people made me smile.

    Unfortunately, I tend to think that he’s a glitch, an unexpected side effect, an error, and that he’ll quickly be brushed under the mat in Mass Effect 3, and we’ll go back to forgetting that anyone can be as good or even better at anything than us human types.

    • Tyshalle says:

      Wow.

      Bioware has like, two games that’ve come out any time even remotely recently, and both portray Humans as complicated but oftentimes douchey people. I’m not really sure where you’re getting the Star Trek utopian-vision of the human race from. But I don’t think you’re playing the same Bioware games I’m playing.

    • Wulf says:

      I think you missed what I was saying. I’ll just say… read it again? Sigh, okay, I’ll throw you a bone: It tends to be that humans save the day in Bioware games, and even though humans are ‘douchey’, every other race seems to have that magnified a good 20x. It’s rare that you’ll actually see another race that’s stand-out less ‘douchey’ than humans in a Bioware game.

      Remember, everything is relative. Just because humans are ‘douchey’ doesn’t mean that they can’t make everything else lots more ‘douchey’, making the humans look less ‘douchey’ by comparison.

      And by this point, I hope I never have to write ‘douchey’ again.

      (It gets SO tiring though that people jump on you on comments threads with mad assumptions. I feel like a bloody school teacher. In a perfect world, people would ask to confirm their assumptions, rather than just running with assumption-fueled scissors.)

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      Hahaha, oh Wulf.

    • DiamondDog says:

      Ignoring your weird rant, you are so right about Legion. That was one of my favourite parts of the game and I found it so much more interesting than most of the main plot. It was great that they made the majority of the geth the nice ones, rather than the obvious root of making Legion’s group the outcasts because they didn’t want to destroy the galaxy.

    • Nick says:

      “It tends to be that humans save the day in Bioware games”

      Since when were ME 1 and 2 all Bioware games?

    • mlaskus says:

      It gets SO tiring though that people jump on you on comments threads with mad assumptions.

      Heh, true, funny to see it coming from you though.

    • Dozer says:

      @Wulf: Ahem! Young man, remember where you are.

      Assumption-fueled shotguns, Wulf. Assumption-fueled shotguns.

    • Tyshalle says:

      Sorry, Wulf. I guess I wildly misinterpreted you when you said that: “humans are the shiniest, the most ethically correct, the best at *everything*”, and then totally took things the wrong way when you said that humans are typically portrayed as “perfect”. It’s so obvious to me now that you really meant that they were flawed, complicated, full of depth, prone to deception and treachery, selfish, and mostly dishonorable, but all the other races/species were just so much worse. Normally when somebody says that “I don’t need my ego constantly massaged as a human,” in response to how we’re portrayed in science fiction/fantasy, I take it to mean that they feel like humanity is being portrayed as way better and more flawless than we actually are, but clearly you meant something completely different, so thank you for “throwing me a bone.”

      Also I must apologize for making you feel like a “school teacher.” It’s certainly understandable that somebody as reserved and measured as you would feel irritation when others overreact and use overly strong words to make an argument. From now on I’ll avoid words like “douchey” and “utopian” and I’ll take some moves from your playbook and refer to game companies as “Cowards” for telling stories that portray humans as anything other than completely baby-eating, dogshit insane eeeeeevil.

      Also, wasn’t it you who in response to RPS posting Dragon Age on their Games of Christmas list threaten to leave this site permanently if they didn’t also include Fallout: New Vegas? Seriously, please teach me how to avoid running with scissors. You clearly are the best qualified man for the job.

      /trolling

    • CMaster says:

      “It gets SO tiring though that people jump on you on comments threads with mad assumptions.”

      Wulf, man, do you ever read your own posts? You’re part of the furniture here and I’d hate to see your different angled posts go away. But coming into a thread with some crazy, anti-anthropmorphic comment, or insinuation that someone who doesn’t like your favourite game feels that way because they are to busy having sex with the colour brown is practically your trademark.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      I can’t wait for the Overgrowth review’s comment thread.

  7. Jonathan says:

    I got Mordin killed on my first go through the suicide mission, putting him up for one of the tasks because I wanted him to feel involved. He was definitely my favourite character, and though I did a second playthrough and saved everyone, that’s not the true story and so I will never again hear his lovely little singing voice. It made me sadder than any other event in any game this year.

    I think ME2 was, as has been noted above, rather anticlimactic. I greatly enjoyed the game, and I love the universe it’s set in, but as often seems to happen with games I love, the ending just felt weak and like it didn’t really belong (Xen, System Shock 2 infected ship, etc). I mean seriously, the best monster these people can come up with is a giant T-100? The character design for the harvesters was lovely — why not do something with that? The trex to the final battle was a pain too, all the floaty identikit hexagonal platform battles felt lazy, like they were just trying to prolong the ending. There were much more enjoyable combat sequences elsewhere in the game, so they’re clearly capable of better.

    Let’s see, what are my favourite moments from the game? The opening, of course, and encountering Legion, Mordin’s chatter in the lab, Tali’s mission and hearing…. The game is full of good _moments_, but I don’t think it really held together as well as it ought to have done.

    I also replayed it as a female Shepard, because everyone raves about the voice acting. I hated her. That’s not the One True Shepard!

    • mlaskus says:

      I couldn’t stand the she-Shepard for five minutes.

    • Haywire says:

      Thats funny, I played ME and ME2 with female shepherd and the male shepherd sounds like a nasally twerp by comparison to me. My Shepherd is the best Shepherd for sure

  8. JackShandy says:

    Mass Effect 2 was going to be my favourite game of all time.

    Then I replayed it.

    That second playthrough’s a killer. I’ve spoken to a few people, and it seems like it was the same for them- the game leaves you on such a high that you immediately boot it up again for a second playthrough, and then… indifference encompasses them.

    I think it’s the fact that the whole thing feels like a trick. All your choices and non-linearity, revealed as smoke and mirrors. The good bits don’t have the effect they did, and the bad bits become more obvious. I can’t find that article here about pretending to give players a choice, but I think that’s what happened here. It gets perfect 10’s in all the review sites, because games journalists don’t play games through again before writing the review. I don’t blame them- I would have given it every ten in the book before that second playthrough.

    Still- for that first playthrough alone, it deserves a place on this list.

    • Premium User Badge

      cybernomad says:

      I think you mean the Starcraft 2 Article about choices.
      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/08/11/the-prestige-starcraft-2-narrative-innovation/

    • Premium User Badge

      Man Raised by Puffins says:

      While in the grand scheme they don’t actually offer that much ‘true’ choice, I find Bioware games pretty robust in terms of offering something a bit different on replay. And for me this still holds for Mass Effect 2, otherwise I wouldn’t be playing through it again on Insanity. But I know the feeling, the very same thing happened to me with Fable 2.

    • Wulf says:

      This is where I think Obsidian excels, personally. For all the bad that anyone could say about New Vegas, it’s a game that prides itself on offering choice and real (rather than illusionary) consequences. You can play through that game ten times and have a surprisingly different experience every single time, it’s actually quite surprising. I’ve done a number of playthroughs myself and sometimes I wonder just how insane the developers (especially the coders) must’ve been to encompass this much branching.

      Any coder will tell you that in development, branching is a bad thing. It’s better to provide an illusionary branch like Bioware does rather than a real one, because every time you divigate, you’re opening the floodgates for more and more variables to pour in, these variables mix with variables from every single other branch. And New Vegas is a variable soup. This is, perhaps, why it’s buggy. But I simply adore it for its true ambition. Sure, New Vegas isn’t polished, but it’s bloody magnificent, so I don’t care.

      That’s why I like New Vegas better than Mass Effect 2, really. Though I did like ME2, it was obviously a very linear story. New Vegas however is insane, since you can have so many stories in that game. And what they did with the GECK allows for choice that… goes beyond reason. In fact, someone recently made a mod to illustrate how Obsidian changed the GECK: War House Warehouse. It deals with a hostage situation. It’s only 10 minutes long no matter how you play it, but the amount of variables that are involved, you could replay it 50 times and have a different outcome each time. It’s completely insane.

      And really, I love that insanity. I wish we had more of it.

    • Ravenger says:

      I agree, first playthrough was amazing, but the second playthrough makes the game’s flaws very apparent.

      Especially noticiable is the formulaic way the mission levels are laid out, and the mechanical spoiler that is waist high boxes/crates/rocks scattered around an open area, signalling that you’re about to go into combat. ME1’s levels (apart from the cookie cutter planetary side missions) are bigger, more epic, and don’t suffer from the template feel of ME2. It’s obvious that the game was structured to allow easy drop-in of stand-alone DLC missions.

      The story is nowhere near as epic, and there were no big reveals in the game to compare with the first. The end boss was laughable. Yes it’s a sci-fi game, but the boss just didn’t make any logical sense, and seemed out of place.

      As a PC conversion it was pretty good, except the menu system was obviously designed for gamepads with redundant buttons that did nothing, and no way to quit planetary scanning except for pressing Esc.

      I agree that the cookie cutter planetary missions of the first game were to repetitive – and obviously designed to use modular tunnel/base sections, but for some reason they always used the same layouts – but removing them reduced the feeling of a bigger universe. I liked the Mako too. The inventory system in the first was awful, but removing it entirely, and also simplifying the skillsets made the sequel much more of a shooter than an RPG.

      I still enjoyed the first playthrough, but I enjoy playing ME1 more.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      I have to agree with the above; I think ME2 suffers by being a good game above most, but it’s a sequel to a *much better game* who’s flaws they drastically over-corrected.

      ME1’s main excesses where long identical MAKO excursions and large inventory hassles but they trimmed way to much fat, then trimmed meat, said to hell with it, and kept going. It ended up being much too … plastic and console feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I like ME2, but it brought nothing *new* to the table to make up for what was lost, instead it seems like they just tried to change the game entirely.

      Planet scanning was stupid, and for the large part, pointless and far more repetitive then driving a MAKO. The upgrade system was basically “you get this upgrade if you do this mission” and the cover based combat as mentioned was horribly predictable and staged. No fucking crouch key? For real?

      Then they replaced the freedom and awesome idea of a sandbox planet exploring with an on-rails platformy jumpy shooty thing, when they could have just fixed the flaws of the MAKO segments by expanding on them, making each planet more unique (weather, terrain, buildings, etc) and fun to explore. I squarely blame the asset limitations on releasing for console here.

      Thermal clips instead of cooling… sigh.
      Removing the cosmetic and performance tweaks of gun companies and giving only 1 optional upgrade for each type by quest choice. Sigh.

      If Bioware is listening to it’s fans, then the next Mass Effect should be ME1.3

  9. idespair says:

    I was pretty upset that after Tali was cast out by her people she went on to die on the suicide mission. Not half as upset as I was to find, upon consoling myself with the (frankly easy) PA, the most ludicrously embarrasing ‘sexy ‘ dancing (in chaps, no less) that I’ve ever seen in a game.

    I was so upset I found myself discussing it with a random girl I met whilst out clubbing a few days later.

  10. Creeping Death says:

    I didn’t like it. And once again I find myself surrounded by people that feel otherwise and wonder what I’m missing….

    I had to drag myself through to the end of the first game, it took over a year. I had no intention of playing ME2, but the marketing hype got its nails in to me. I still cant bring myself to finish it.

    I love everything Bioware has done previously and often replay thier games, but I couldnt get in to ME. I found myself not caring about the characters at all or how the story played out, and I thought combat was… dreary.

    • qrter says:

      You are not completely alone. I thought ME2 was awfully mediocre. It all felt very sterilised to me – here’s the area where you talk to people, now move into the area with the boxes, which means there will be some shooting and bioticising. Rinse and repeat.

      Some of the loyalty missions were excellent, I do agree – some of the best work BioWare has done. But then there was the main plot.. which was dire, really ghastly (just to start us off with: Cerberus).

      I also think BioWare fumbled the connections to the first game, becoming almost hysterical. Former crewmates who suddenly act strangely standoffish or just inexplicably rude. Halfway through the game I started to laugh every time I would get another e-mail from some person I helped/hindered in the first game. Yes, there was a first game, and I did make a bunch of decisions there, I get it! I don’t have to be reminded of each and every one of them.

      And I thought the suicide mission was supenseless and vague – I still have no real idea why one of my characters got killed.

    • Wulf says:

      I didn’t think it was the greatest thing ever, so I do understand. It was incredibly linear, and it was also very, very moralistically black & white, something that Bioware games seem to suffer from a lot. This is why the whole Paragon versus Renegade system bugged the snot out of me. Because there were often choices which would be ‘Renegade’ that would’ve had a better outcome over the long-term, a better outcome for everyone, in every sense. Bioware was actually pretty short-sighted in that regard. So there were things about it that bugged me.

      It’s a stupid story really, that’s all there is to it. It’s Tron, it’s Lethal Weapon, and you have to turn your brain off for most of it to really enjoy it. Which is sad, but that’s how many polished things are. I didn’t think that it was bad though, and Mordin/Legion did at least bring some intelligence to the table, but overall, it was Sci-Fi pulp, it was very typical. And the Human Reaper (OHNOZ!) was a true facepalm moment. SOYLENT REAPER IS PEOPLE.

      But it was fun, it had charm, there were moments that really made me laugh, like the interactions and growth of character between Joker and whatever that computer’s name was. It was actually better character wise than a lot of Bioware games I’ve played, and it was leagues ahead of Dragon Age, where I absolutely couldn’t stand anyone in the party, since they all struck me as stereotypes of characters in past Bioware games. Such as that golem being a parody of HK-47 for one thing. So they did seem to get some better writers on board, at least.

      Though sometimes I wonder with Mass Effect 2 whether I’m just coming off how incredibly bad Bioware efforts were before Mass Effect 2, and we’re seeing a relativistic response here, where Mass Effect 2 not being quite as dire has actually lead me to think that it was really quite good. I think it was because perhaps unlike you, I had incredibly low expectations, and I was pleasantly surprised, whereas you were hyped and you were let down.

      Play Dragon Age then come back to Mass Effect 2, it won’t seem as bad, then.

    • Zwebbie says:

      Creeping Death: I imagine you’ve learned a valuable lesson on marketing hype :) .

      If it makes you feel better, I thought Mass Effect 1 was so mediocre that I didn’t even get 2.

    • kyrieee says:

      Mediocre? I don’t get that. You want mediocre? Go buy a random game on Steam.

      Even if you don’t like the game at least acknowledge how well made it is. I mean ffs, just the art in the game is better than what you see in 99% of all games. I wish people would get away from the “I don’t like it therefore it’s bad” mentality

    • Lilliput King says:

      “moralistically black & white”

      I can’t really think of a game that is less moralistically black and white, as you put it. The geth brainwashing/genocide moral quandary is probably the only real difficult decision a game has ever forced me to make, and I’ve played every game by Bioware, Obsidian and Troika. Here’s a hint – Renegade isn’t ‘bad.’ Usually it just means ‘utilitarian’ (which is why they tend to turn out better in the long run), while paragon means kantian. Trust me, Bioware know what they’re doing when it comes to ethics.

    • Wizlah says:

      If anything, you could make the argument that it was too obviously morally grey. Or rather a lot of the morally grey decisions were big decisions in big situations, so you kind of knew they were coming. I know it’s space opera and all, and you are playing a galactic badass, so I guess you can’t get away from it. But it would have been nice if they mixed it up with more subtle thing.

      And regarding the renegade/paragon thing. I don’t think you could argue that it was too obviously binary, because you had seperate renegade and a paragon meters – they weren’t at opposite ends of the same spectrum (like KotOR\). I made a rule in the first game to actually roleplay most of the stuff that I thought my character would chose, and ended up a bit more of a shining paragon, but I didn’t aim to be one.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Crimsoneer says:

    Weirdly enough, the excessively curious ship PA’s death was what struck me the most – maybe it’s because I’d played through once before, and wasn’t expecting her to die, but when I saw her get mushed into congealed goo, I was so utterly sure I could save her, it completely ruined my day. Felt more strongly for her than anybody else.

  12. Magrippinho says:

    I always find it a real shame when Mass Effect 2 is described as a shooter, because the combat sucks, at least when put up against actual shooters. It works as filler, but you just can’t compare it to Gears of War.

    It also makes me a bit sad when it’s said to be a “watered-down RPG” because, in my opinion, it is actually the closest we’ve come to capturing the Pen ‘n Paper, tabletop RPG experience.

    “What?”, you say, your monocles springing out of place. “How can this be, when it clearly lacks a rules system as profound as AD&D’s?”

    Well, it’s because it does a great job simulating the DM/GM. Sure, you can peak behind the curtain and realize that all decisions lead to the same climax, but it’s also pretty easy to suspend your disbelief. Even though it depends on the three-choices structure (evil/neutral/good) that is the standard in this generation, it’s pretty good in making it seem like you’re doing whatever you want, with the DM making it up as you go along.

    Bringing up characters you’ve encountered before, previous decisions coming back to bite you in the ass, always giving out the impression your actions will have a tangible impact, all these help at making Mass Effect 2 feel like, as Alec says, a very personal adventure. It even remembers things from your previous campaign!

    And that’s what I think makes it an excellent RPG, even though it doesn’t include rolling dice for character creation. It’s by no means the best DMing in the world, but it’s the best we got in a videogame. It might not have the best story, but it often feels like the most interactive one, by not being so keen on openly railroading you into it.

    It’s a storytelling/storybuilding technique that I believe other games should explore and what makes me end up liking Mass Effect 2, even though I dislike many of its features. Like the the combat, which sucks, or the mineral grinding, which seems to be created with the purpose to piss people off.

    • Premium User Badge

      Colthor says:

      @Magrippinho:
      “you just can’t compare it to Gears of War”

      Yes you can! They’re exactly the same! Down to the “Press A To Play Game” mentality and silly I-can’t-run-round-corners jog. There are hardly even any differences in the weapon selection.

      Except Shephard is generally more responsive and steers less like a galleon with a broken rudder. And ME2 adds spells, thankfully. Human Pinball, Ho!

      Oh, and Gears of War is rendered through a cataracts simulator.

    • Nick says:

      Gears of War was also a shit shooter.

  13. Eight Rooks says:

    Spoilers:

    Easily the best thing Bioware have ever done by miles, though still horribly flawed, with so many holes in the plotting and potentially fascinating plot threads snipped off or left unexplored. No option to talk with Jack about how she feels now she knows she’s been living a lie. No option with Mordin other than to denounce him as a monster or act bored. No option with Tali to tell the Quarians how stupid and childish they are and how they and the Geth are both the bad guys. No option to mock Legion for the frankly unbelievable idea a society of hyper-intelligent hive mind AIs would choose not to be aware of each other all the time (Why the hell is he shocked the rebels are spying on his faction? Why is it not taken for granted they’ve all been doing it?). Not to mention the standard videogame flaws that plague something like this the more detailed it gets (really not seeing why it was so much trouble to capture Jack, to be honest).

    It feels greedy and churlish to complain when there was so much good stuff in there – the first time Bioware have done something without stupid comic relief, without reductive morality, without ridiculously transparent dichotomies – the fact that Jack was actually a fascinating character and not the walking joke she first appeared to be, the fact the cast actually had personalities this time around – the fact the combat was actually fun for once, with all the pointless RPG fluff stripped away… but yeah, it definitely wasn’t the word of God it was heralded as.

    Oh, and please, Wulf, tone it down, eh? Every race in the game is demonstratably flawed in some way, and none is the perfect, shining utopian society meant to point out how bland, vanilla and soul-crushingly tedious humanity is. Your ‘I wish I had a tail/gills/fur/laser eyes/an environmental suit/delete as applicable’ schtick gets a little disturbing every now and then. >_<

    • Nick says:

      “Easily the best thing Bioware have ever done by miles”

      Nah.

  14. TheBlackBandit says:

    Okay RPS, who’s the Wilde fan? (No pun intended).

  15. CMaster says:

    The thing I found about ME1 (and I’d like to know how much it applies to ME2 as well, I’m guessing quite a lot) is that it might as well have been a corridor shooter. Yes, a corridor shooter with lots of talking and occasional “be good or evil” choices. But the choice of which order to tackle the corridors in was pretty worthless, the side quests well, most of them were better off ignored. There was never (that I can recall) any ways of solving a mission other than shooting your way through it (yes, a couple of times you could talk one or two people out fighting you, but that was it). Worst to me was that you carry around these supposed technical and magic experts, but you’re unable to use their (or your own) skills to do anything except kill stuff. Where’s the hacking security systems, mind tricking people, repairing useful machinery and telekinetically blowing out doors that the game should be full of?

    I still intend to play ME2 at some point, but what the series would need to do to get me loving it is showing interest in being something other than a string of conversations and combat.

    • Zenicetus says:

      ME2 still has that corridor shooter flavor, unfortunately. There are opportunities to do interesting things to get through certain combat sequences, but it’s all heavily scripted and linear.

      Flanking is pretty much non-existent, except where it’s already been pathed out for you, in a very obvious way. ME2 also has ME1’s flaw of telegraphing where the major combat will take place as you move forward, by showing lots of boxes and low barriers for cover. It’s not a great design when you can predict exactly when the enemies will pop out, just by looking at the layout of the scenery. “Lock and load, people, we got boxes!” I hope they can find a way to mask that a little better in ME3, because I’m sure the same basic corridor shooter approach will be used.

      That said, I still enjoyed ME2 very much, mostly for the character interaction and because it was just such a polished game. The initial DLC content forgettable, but that last DLC (Lair of the Shadow Broker) was very good. I’ll play ME3 unless the reviews are horrible, which seems unlikely.

    • Nick says:

      I’d say its even more coridoor shootery.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Nick

      Vastly more, actually. Any semblance of openness in the combat sequences is totally gone in 2.

  16. Premium User Badge

    DrPepper8 says:

    I guess you guys are following PC Gamer’s lead and going with Minecraft as your game of the year, then?

    I loved Mass Effect 2 – it was definitely my favourite game of the year. I’m not saying it’s perfect, and the plot is certainly a bit on the thin side if you think too hard about it; but that didn’t matter when I was actually playing it because it made me care about the NPC characters more than any other game has ever done and it was that level of emotional involvement that carried me through. It wasn’t just the members of my squad, either – my favourite crew members were the two engineers, and I’d have been very upset if anything had happened to them. Can’t wait for Mass Effect 3!

  17. Premium User Badge

    DarkNoghri says:

    Re: Robot Bees *spoilers*

    I lost Jack to the robot bees, and it pissed me off to no end. And I will be replaying it, whenever I get around to it. Not because I lost Jack, but because the way I lost Jack was ridiculously stupid. Partially my stupidity, but mostly because of the rigidity of the game.

    My party, at the time, consisted of myself (a high-level vanguard), Jack, and the Justicar. Duly note that the entire party right here is ultra-highpowered biotics. The biotic I used for that section was Thane (this is my stupidity, because there was no indication that they could fail).

    Thane starts collapsing at the end, and Jack gets carried off. When any one of the three of us could have taken over instantly, and done a better job.

    So, I will be replaying that, not because I lost Jack, but because Jack should have been saveable. The game, however, would not allow it.

  18. Navagon says:

    It’s not very often you get such a strong contender for game of the year right at the very start of the year but this is one such case.

    And yes, I agree that Bioware have been heading in a more action orientated direction for a long while now and should feel free to pursue that rather than wind up producing another genre-confused game like Neverwinter Nights was.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    Usually the representation is that humans are the shiniest, the most ethically correct, the best at everything, and I have to read books to get away from that

    Usually? You can have often, at best.

    • Wulf says:

      Controversial opinion makes people irritable because it challenges what they accept as true, news at 11!

      Sigh. I seem to get that a lot. Kind of getting used to it, though. C: But as I pointed out above, everything is relative. If you make humans ‘bastards’ but then you make the other races ‘monsters’, and humans are just unlikeable, compared to the races that commit actual atrocities, then everything I’ve said is correct. Everything is relative, and relativity is important. Besides, you can still be a shining knight that does all the right things whilst still being ‘douchey’ and/or a bastard. It’s called being an anti-hero.

      …Gods damn it, I had to write that word again.

      (Really, how often do we see humans in a populist fictional work doing clearly horribly unethical things. And how often has that happened in a Bioware game?)

    • Lorc says:

      This is not a sensible reaction to finding out that your “minority opinion” has a tvtropes page.

    • DiamondDog says:

      No, humans that are “the shiniest, the most ethically correct, the best at everything” and bastards that hang around with even worse bastards are not the same thing. A human that murders people sat next to an alien that commits genocide is still an unethical human.

    • Gundrea says:

      (Really, how often do we see humans in a populist fictional work doing clearly horribly unethical things.

      Avatar.

    • Dominic White says:

      The entire Aliens series, too. Weyland Yutani is one of the most comically evil forces in all of sci-fi.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Wulf: How about the two biggest sci fi films of last year, Avatar and District 9? How the fuck did you miss this?

    • JackShandy says:

      I’m sorry, Wulf, but humans are ALWAYS the bastards- to the point where I’m getting a bit sick of being preached to about the evils of my species, to be honest. That shit goes straight to tolkien – perfect eternal tree-loving elves verse wasteful, short-sighted humans. Hellboy 2 sums it up when it opens with: “Humans had a hole in their hearts that no amount of love, money or items could fill.”

      Not to mention, I don’t know if the humans were really that bastardly in mass effect. They end up being the only ones saving the day, after all.

    • bleeters says:

      Cerberus gets up to all kinds of wonderful happy-joy stuff too. The Overlord pack (which admitedly is downloadable content, but impressively high quality) is essentially one long Humans Are Dicks banner. The ending is horrific.

    • Tuor says:

      JackShandy,

      Tolkien’s elves were *not* perfect. In fact, they had a bout of kinslaying before Men ever showed up in Middle-earth. Some of them were complete jerks (Feanor, I’m looking at you).

      Plus, while some Men were bad, others were amazingly good.

      So, maybe there’s a perception that Tolkien’s elves were perfect, but it’s a view that can only be held by people who aren’t very familiar with his complete mythology.

  20. Lucas Says says:

    Jim has expressed completely how I feel about this game, after I’ve tried so hard for months to do it.

    It’s a game that feels like it should have been better. I mean, yes, it makes Mass Effect 1 seem kinda shit in comparison, but it’s…I think we’re going to get Mass Effect 3 and 2 will look awfully plain. It’s like drinking a mediocre bottle of wine: great taste, but no finish, as opposed to ME1, which tasted pretty bland but had an amazing finish. And by finish, I don’t mean ending. Yes, ME2 had an amazing ending. By finish, I mean nothing feels…as good as it could be, whereas ME1 always felt like it was being as good as it could be.

    I do respect ME2 in one way, though (besides the others): it is the smallest story told in a video game, and, assuming ME3 does something with it, I think it’s set the series up to be remembered as an all time great in storytelling. ME2 is so curious, and so differently focused than other video games, that I can’t help but love it. Even if it did settle on the “big horrible generic monster” as its final boss.

  21. The Dark One says:

    I appreciated the work they put into making the combat less meat-shield-y, but I also think they went too far. Taking away all the weapon customization made me feel removed from the combat. Even though you have to explicitly equip your team since they removed the inventory, the choice of weapons in each category felt meaningless. Combining a gazillion world actions into far fewer buttons also made me feel like I was less in control of my Shephard than before. It’s all annoying, because aside from all that I did have more fun playing ME2 than the first one.

  22. harmen says:

    Sounds like an excellent candidate for a steam Christmas sale. Let’s see if it shows up one of these days.

    • terry says:

      Amen. The Yanks get it for $14.99. No fair! :-(

    • Premium User Badge

      DarkNoghri says:

      It’s been on Gamersgate for 8$ for the last few days. Still is, I think.

    • ArthurBarnhouse says:

      If it makes you feel any better we have an unsustainable, rapidly collapsing economy that will soon turn America into a wasteland.

    • terry says:

      It shows as £29.95 to me. What a shame.

    • harmen says:

      Whahaha! There it is.

  23. drygear says:

    So for people who had characters die: how did it happen?
    I didn’t lose a single person, so I was under the impression that if you fully upgraded you were probably going to make it through with everyone alive. I did put a lot of thought into everything I did during the final mission though, and maybe I got lucky.

    What decisions lead to dead crewmembers?

    • Vinraith says:

      Picking someone that isn’t a strong biotic to do the biotic stuff, picking someone that isn’t a technical expert to do the bit with the door, picking someone without tactical experience to lead the fire team, etc. In other words, transparent stupidity in most cases. The only “legitimate” choice I recall that lead to some character deaths was holding off on the final mission to do a few last minute things around the galaxy, but I’d humbly submit that’s entirely worth it if you didn’t know to do them before that decision point.

      Oh, and the civvies die if you don’t send someone competent to escort them, I suppose.

    • ArthurBarnhouse says:

      My example would be the scene when the doors had to be hacked. I chose thane for it and he got killed. I should have probably chosen Tali, but I was afraid she’d get killed so I chose someone I was less worried about losing.

      SPOILERS!!
      http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Mass_Effect_2_Guide#Suicide_Mission

      This lists who will die and who won’t when choosing people to do things in the suicide mission.

    • DiamondDog says:

      I was cheated!

      I think it was some kind of hacker mission, the one where your team member had to travel through a pipe, anyway. They kept saying “this task is suicide” “remember, whoever goes in that pipe is on a suicide mission”. So I ended up picking Jacob because I thought, well if it’s likely he won’t make it he’s the one I can afford to lose.

      He dies.

      Cue me, looking on all the websites with people saying just send someone good with computers into the pipe and everything is rosey. Oh…. oh, yeah that makes more sense. Jacob is dead because I thought he was going to die.

    • Basilicus says:

      I lost Thane simply because I screwed up his loyalty mission. On my second playthrough, this just made me feel idiotic, since it’s so remarkably easy, but I’d not seen a door and had doubled back, losing the assassination target I was supposed to be tracking. Thane’s absolutely depressed line about entropy after his son gets away made it all worth it, though, and – like anyone you lose in a canon playthrough – his fleeting part in saving the universe becomes deeply bittersweet.

    • The Pink Ninja says:

      I lost Moridin, Thane and Zaeed. Appropriate since they were by turns old, dying and an old asshole with a deathwish.

      Then a week later I cracked and reloaded the save and did it again without losing anyone.

      I also did a deliberate fail attempt with a new Shepard and lost everyone but Zaeed and Samara, which was funny since now my crew consists of four people, five if you include EDI.

  24. gulag says:

    Selarian stag party. Thatisall

  25. afarrell says:

    I am beginning to be concerned about Cataclysm’s position in this rundown.

    • Fumarole says:

      Why? There’s only one day left and it sure as hell isn’t going to be anything other than Minecraft.

    • Flint says:

      Cataclysm never had a chance. Not only was it released early this month which makes judging a full MMO expansion in time for a December rundown a bit tricky, but the only review-esque articles about the game we’ve got here after its release haven’t even been done by any of the actual hivemind members so there’s lack of interest too.

      What a shame.

  26. Delusibeta says:

    Oh look, Steam’s gone and halved the price of both Mass Effect games. £5 for the first one, and £10 for the second (and another fiver for the Digital Deluxe). (Plus, yet another chance to try out Alpha Protocol for a fiver.)

    • cjlr says:

      But why would you buy on steam when it’s also on sale at Gamersgate?

    • ZIGS says:

      Because AMERICA!!

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      It’s pronounced “MURRIKA”.

      Do me a favor. Go to the fridge. Grab a burr. Maybe some cold, leftover pizza also. Sit down at your comp and boot up Steam. Doesn’t it feel good? That’s how we feel every day. GAH BLESS MURRIKA.

    • ArthurBarnhouse says:

      Yes, it’s because of those stupid Americans. It couldn’t possibly be because Steam is more convenient.

  27. cjlr says:

    I must have ranted about this game in comments threads before. How I ran the suicide mission drunk but left no soul behind. How there were some bits that provoked the most grinding irritation – the sheer lunacy of the main plotline, the mindcrushingly stupid idea of thermal clips, the shockingly poorly thought out Terminator, the painfully grindy scanning/mining, the lack of any real choice in equipment…. Ah, but sod that.

    The parts that worked really worked. The personal questlines, a lot of the sidequests, callbacks to the first game, that stuff was ace. Combat was really easy but I decided to play Vanguard Fisticuffs which made things not only a), admit of the possibility of failure, and b), really fun. I had a blast, overall. That’s what’s so annoying – so much is so good, the parts that aren’t stand out by dint of how they should have been.

    I’ve been reluctant to go back to it, in fact. I bought all the DLC (fucking DLC – put it in the game to begin with or don’t fucking bother, half-assed poorly integrated dribs and drabs with half the production values, erm, no thanks – not that ME2 DLC was actually to far like that, from what I’ve heard, but the halfway competent DLC is the enabler, damnit) but I don’t want to go back through it only to see the man behind the curtain, so to speak.

  28. kyrieee says:

    I loved the characters, but I actually loved the mechanics just as much. The feel of the guns, the powers, all the sound and visual effect, the depth of the combat, it really clicked with me. I enjoy killing guys more than I do in any shooter that’s just a shooter,

  29. Nevarion says:

    Least the game did succeed in the prime aspect: It did deliver to me emotionally and I enjoyed my time.

    That’s all I expect, all I want. All other is business and reserved for the times you get paid. I certainly make sure not mixing both. Although, I admit, that comes due to time constraints mostly.

    Best time with a game? Then I’m the newb.

  30. SuperNashwan says:

    To my mind ME2 is the first game to ever successfully be truly “cinematic” without compromising the core game experience in order to get there. For that alone it’s Bioware’s shining masterpiece, feeling like the logical conclusion of where they’ve been heading since KOTOR. Far and away game of the year, in spite of the main plot arc being a little ropey.

  31. Premium User Badge

    Big Murray says:

    The suicide mission disappointed me the first time I played ME2, which made me sad. And the reason it disappointed me is because nobody died. After all the foreshadowing, my meticulous desire to go through all the loyalty missions before heading through the relay resulted in getting through the final mission without losing anybody my first time. And in my mind, I was expecting something horrific to happen. Losing somebody was inevitable, in my head. When it didn’t happen, I felt somewhat underwhelmed.

    It was still great, but making it so that somebody had to die would’ve made it even better.

    • Wizlah says:

      what about all the normal crew getting mulched? that had to count for something . . .

    • Vinraith says:

      @Wizlah

      That’s preventable, too.

    • Wizlah says:

      Aye, I know. I was wondering whether this guy had saved the crew as well, or had he lost ‘em too.

    • JayTee says:

      Likewise my obsessive nature coupled with the constant reminders how ‘suicide’ the mission was, meant I did everything I could before hitting that final relay so I lost no-one, including the crew.

      In some ways this highlighted how good I felt the writing was and how connected I managed to get to the characters, I firmly wanted to make sure I got as many of them out as possible and once the crew got nabbed I dropped everything (i.e. the multitude of sidequests I had on the go) and raced in to save them. The pace and manic nature of the final ‘act’ after the relay was enough of a payoff for the effort I’d gone to that I didn’t feel cheated by walking (Or rather crawling, some of those fights were damned hard) through it without losing anyone.

    • Vinraith says:

      I lost Kelly, but didn’t really mind (creepy little Cerberus-bot). I lost no one else, though if I’d had free reign to role-play my Shep probably would have “arranged” a few unfortunate accidents for the other Cerberus loyalists in the group, and Legion as well.

  32. Wizlah says:

    I have to credit Bioware for pulling me in again, despite not being the biggest fan of their stuff, and despite it being just another space opera universe. I pretty much bared my teeth and hissed ‘yeah, motherfucker’, when that goddamn collector ship got blown up. I didn’t notice it whilst playing the game, but by the time I got to the finale, I was totally sucked in. Felt horrible about the fate of the crew of the normandy 2.

    As alec said, it’s a very specific form that bioware have come up with – linear, but intensely personalised. I can’t wait to see how they handle the final episode, and I will go and get the two bits of dlc, because I want to go back to that world.

    I’ve not played dragon age (still on the fence about it in the face of not very much time), but having played KotOR not long before Mass Effect, and then played Mass Effect 2 very shortly afterwards, and with an ongoing baldurs gate game, I do think the writing is the strongest they’ve managed. Their stuff has always been character driven, I guess in part because it’s nearly always been in other people’s universes, and this is the first set of their characters that I really rated.

    Ultimately I think Mass Effect 2 succeeds because I want to know how these decisions are all going to come to affect the final piece. I would hope that most of this isn’t just e-mail window dressings. And they have to tell a proper story to finish it up, as well. They can’t do their magnificent seven stunt again.

    Yeah, looking forward to it.

  33. The Pink Ninja says:

    My highlight?

    “Too many…tore me up. How’d you talk me into this? Heh…I wasn’t supposed to care.”

    ;___;

  34. Ricc says:

    Does anybody have a link to that Doom review, in case it’s oti? :3

  35. Premium User Badge

    Scandalon says:

    And today both ME’s are on sale on Steam. Coincidence? I think not!

  36. Premium User Badge

    Nathan says:

    I’m commander Shepard, and Mass Effect 2 was the best release of the year.

  37. theleif says:

    I think i would have loved this game if not for the prospecting minigames. They just killed it for me. I just got cramps in my arm, trying t move the cursor around with my mouse.
    It felt more soul crushingly boring than low-sec mining in eve. Or any other grinding in any MMO for that matter. I look past the mario kart buggy in ME 1, that was just immersion breaking, but this was too much.

  38. thebigJ_A says:

    I just got Stalker Call of Pripyat from the Steam sale. That kind of seems like a Guns & Conversation game, ya think? Even if the conversation is mostly in text. (I really wish the incidental Russian dialogue going on around me, like in the swamp ice-breaker, had English subtitles, btw.)

  39. Solid Snake on a Plane says:

    Currently in the middle of my second playthrough, and so far I think I’d have to say it’s bloody fantastic.
    Nearly all my gripes with Mass Effect 1 have been rectified (that horrid trouser-comparing system, the boring cookie-cutter Mako missions, and a lot of the skills available to my squad frankly seemed to be a waste), albeit replaced with the planet-scanning tedium (I ended up editing my save file at the beginning of my second playthrough to 1,000,000 resources each just because it was so goddamn boring) and I’m not certain that ditching the inventory system entirely in favour of every weapon you find being better than the last (and yes, there does only seem to be a single other weapon in each category) was the best course of action, but everything else is overall a vast improvement. Conversations seem to have more words feel and are better written. Actiony bits are much moreso, and the combat isn’t a complete bore even if the base mechanic is hide behind all these conveniently placed indestructible chest-high walls and poke out occasionally. As much fun as the human pinball was, I find that the Soldier/Infiltrator is much more practical especially on the higher difficulties (plus, that special assault rifle with Jack’s Warp Ammo absolutely decimates anything in a room).
    On my first playthrough I did what I always do, projecting myself onto Shepard not caring too much about the arbitrary point-system’s outcome, but I ended up leaning more towards the Renegade side, which I found odd. I wouldn’t shoot the defenceless in cold blood but I was opportunistic in making combat easier, or I shouted down the Admiralty board on Tali’s behalf, etc. But let’s face it, some of the point values are rather silly. I mean really, shooting a guy during a talky bit that I was about to shoot anyway in an actiony bit makes me a baby-eater? (Omega: knocking out the batarian mechanic with the monkey wrench is apparently more morally atrocious than shooting him in the face a dozen metres away, shooting the robot I was already looking at through a damn sniper scope…) Of course while I do think I’ll always prefer Obsidian’s offerings the moral choices seem to finally deviate a bit from “Poor thing, here’s 500 credit, an additional pylon, and Daddy will make the bad guys go away,” “I’LL FUCKING MURDER YOUR FACE AND FEAST ON YOUR WIFE AND CHILDREN’S FLESH,” and “I’ll be going now.” (Our little BioWare’s growing up…)
    Another vast improvement is most certainly the character development. In Mass Effect 1 the only party members I think I could stand were Liara, Garrus, and Tali (if I never clicked investigate, fell asleep, and woke up 3 hours later to find her dialogue longer than a Metal Gear Solid cutscene), but ME2’s party for the most part seems much more likeable. Choosing between Tali and Miranda became somewhat of a dilemma for me, until I flipped a coin, which landed on its side, prompting me to tell them both “Sorry ladies, but we’re working to save the goddamn galaxy here.” I even grew attached to Jack after her loyalty mission and breaking through her “tough childhood, badass biker chick” routine. Jacob was rather unremarkable but much less whiny than Carth Ona- I’m sorry, Kaidan; Solus brought a genuine smile to my face when be brought up his time in the opera, and asking me if I was making a pass at him; I was prepared to take Garrus under my arm to the nearest bar and have the manliest man-date men could possibly have, save Bruce Willis and Bruce Willis’s favourite gun; Grunt felt like a carbon copy of Urdnot Wrex, but more fleshed out with the finding a clan dilemma; and Thane is perhaps going down as one of my favourite video game characters. Samara had all the usefulness and soul of a paperweight, and I ended up unknowingly selling Legion to Cerberus. (I thought I would get him back at some point after they conducted their studies like the Quarian at the beginning of the game.) One minor disappointment is the distinct lack of Liara, sans shelling out another $10 for the DLC (which I did anyway, because hey, my little blue girlfriend isn’t about to find the Shadow Broker herself. She finds her way back into Spectre Shepard’s arms on the beacon of light playthrough and um… *ahem*). Even the peripheral characters seem more involved. It’s quite fun to see Joker and EDI bickering like an old married couple, though I’m a bit scared by how eager the secretary seems to be to let me into her pants.
    One thing I still can’t understand is the ending. All this build-up for a suicide mission, people will die (in my case Thane, Tali, and Mordin did die), and I find that THE REAPERS ARE A SERIES OF TUBES! I mean, really, for your giant autonomous death machine I truly cannot think of a design worse than a giant human. We can’t fly, have a gajillion and a half weak spots, are confined to four limbs, the list goes on. The giant Citadel-penis seems much more effecient.
    All-in-all I haven’t had this much fun with a cRPG since KotOR II, glancing at the clock and realizing I should’ve eaten dinner six hours ago. I thought about replaying the series as a female Shepard but if I have to listen to Jennifer Hale’s grating voice for 60 hours total I’d probably fracture my thumb on the mute button. (She was fine in KotOR, but here? Jesus Christ.) I also don’t think I can return to ME1’s trappings without gouging my eyes out with plastic forks, as fine a game as it was, ME2 improves on so many of the areas that its predecessor was lacking in that it’s a sheer winner. (Take notes, Eidos.) I think I’ll move on to The Witcher as soon as I’m doing picking space kittens out of space trees.

  40. Dhatz says:

    you had not played ME2 unless you did the shadow broker DLC. I have a plan to make the engine room into animated fullHD wallpaper, for that I set up flycam and showHUD bindings(the skillbar hides itself when holstering). now I need a software to record one cycle without decreasing FPS.

  41. Premium User Badge

    Rinox says:

    Mass Effect 2 : great game

    Huge disappointment: the way you handle NPC’s personal quests not being important, as long as you don’t fail them. And apart from one or two (like Thane, and Zaeed), you can’t fail or make the ‘wrong’ choices it as long as you finish it. Weak. I would have expected SOMEONE to stand up to me once and go “You know what Shepard, no I won’t shoot my X just because you tell me to and then be your friend forever after”.

    • mlaskus says:

      You can screw up with Tali. As in, cause the Migrant Fleet to disperse and make the Quarian hate you for it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Rinox says:

      Cool, didn’t know that. Sounds like you have to go through some lengths to get that to happen though!

      Either way, the vast majority is still unfailable. :-(

    • mlaskus says:

      Well, you can kill Samara. And romancing Morinth will backfire quite unpleasantly.

      I think it may be possible to fail with Grunt, but I never tried it myself.

    • The Pink Ninja says:

      If you tell the Admiralty board the truth about what Tali’s dad did the admirals start to argue over their policies and the fleet splits into factions.

      Obviously Tali is pretty pissed and becomes disloyal.

    • mlaskus says:

      It’s a bit late, but I just recalled that you can also screw up with Jack if you act like a complete asshole. She will stop talking to you and instead keep shouting “Fuck off!” when you try to talk to her.

  42. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    The paragon/renegade stuff is just annoying…

    why can’t I decide to act like a bastard to some people and nice to others? Although it wasn’t so clear cut as that it’s still ridiculous when you’re not allowed to do a renegade choice when you don’t have enough points!

    Games like these should just allow you to say/do whatever you like.

    In dragon age there were a couple of instances of this and it was great, I stabbed the stupid prisoner and stole his key because I didn’t want to do his quest, but then saved everybody with that possessed child quest.

    I played it the way I wanted to!

    • Lilliput King says:

      First decent comment addressing the game’s flaws! I really hated the way the paragon/renegade points were used to solve problems. You had to stack one of them or you’d fail loads of quests. And when you had them, you would solve said quests simply by having them and clicking on the response that gave you! Rubbish.

      Conversations should really be handled much better in a Guns & Conversations game. There are alternatives. Alpha Protocol was an awful game in a lot of ways. You name it, it was probably done poorly in Alpha Protocol. But what was great about the game was the way conversations were handled. There was no ‘talking skill’, so you read dossiers and such on the people you were trying to put your wiles on to work out how you were going to approach it. Then you had a limited time to choose your response in the conversation, so it was actually more cinematic than ME’s system. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines did have a talking skill (a series of them) but these would just give the player the opportunity to put your moves on people, and you had to work it out yourself from there. My favourite instance of this was the quest where you had to shift a Gargoyle from a theatre, but if you worked out how it was he had come to inhabit the theatre and what he wanted you could manipulate him into working for the local Baron by choosing your responses wisely.

      Funnily enough, both of those systems actually make better use of the interactive nature of our medium than Mass Effect’s.

    • Premium User Badge

      Rinox says:

      Another example in line with what heretic said: I played a human supremacist in my second game, acting like a saint when it came to saving and protecting humans and being a massive racist to anyone or anything non-human.

      Turns out that after a few saint-like interventions involving humans I couldn’t be a super dick to aliens anymore, or vice versa (the paragon/renegade options are greyed out). That seems like a pretty big oversight in a game where racism – or is it speciesm – plays such an important role…what with working together with Cerberus and all the anti-human sentiments following their inclusion into the council.

    • Dhatz says:

      speciesm is pretty usable word!

  43. malkav11 says:

    I don’t mind if Bioware wants to make a game that’s a shooter with talking. That’s a perfectly lovely sort of game if done right. Guns & Conversation is fine by me. But if it’s going to be that, it needs to be a much better shooter than ME2 was. And in preference, it would not come as a direct, character-importing sequel to a game that was, basically, a somewhat clumsy RPG with guns in. That sequel would, instead, be a less clumsy RPG with guns in.

    But no, we got ME2. C’est la vie, I suppose. I just hope that ME3 either is that less clumsy RPG or that better shooter.

  44. Ateius says:

    I’m with Jim on this one. While the game was built out of fantastic elements – characters, storylines, self-contained little vignettes, and yes, solid shooting mechanics (although there was never enough ammunition around) it just didn’t quite hang all together.

    I blame the main plot, actually, which started with the bloody climax, railroaded you into working with someone I personally never would have made my Shepard work with, contravened the plot of the previous game in several ways, and ended with the most flatly ridiculous final boss I have ever seen. And yet despite this litany of complaints it was still barely there, and most of the “main plot” was spent doing the completely separated, unconnected mini-plots to recruit each character (along with optional additional mini-plot for each) rather than actually advancing the story.

    I also hated the new hacking minigames, scanning, having to click-and-drag to navigate the system map, the fact that I couldn’t max out both charm and smarm so I could choose whichever response felt correct like I could in ME1, and did I mention there wasn’t enough ammo because there never was but damn it, I played it all through anyway and I still remember the moments where I loved the game.

    There is a lot to love in ME2, and it certainly deserves its place on this list. It’s just a shame that, in my experience, the joy is in the separate elements, and never to be found in the whole.

    • Dhatz says:

      yes it feels a lot like 2 separate games slapped together, but WTF? there always is crapload of ammo everywhere, just not the heavy one. I’m shocked you could buy fish, fuel and probes(probing Uranus) but couldn’t get ammo or sell the actual superrare resources, which you could obtain in massive quantities from shadow broker lair by hacking date on your PC.(change date, quicksave, take your dose, repeat).
      I like it when all DLCs are easily piratable(note that not all are available outside of DLC packs).

  45. Iskariot says:

    I am a big fan of Mass Effect, but I am not okay with ME‘s Guns and Conversation direction at all. I think it made the game much, much more boring and mediocre. As a gamer there is less for you to do. I love to scavenge my surroundings for nice loot and I love tinkering with inventories, if… inventories are done well and give the player good control. The ME approach was surprisingly mediocre and I was hoping for improvement in ME2, but instead they killed it completely. A very bad and lazy decision I think. I love to personalize and mod weapons and armor and gadgets etc. In ME2 I walked around in the same generally unmodified armor for 95% of the time, because there was no need, no incentive to do otherwise. I thought that was very disappointing. Also disappointing was the simplification of character development.
    I do not want ME to lose its RPG nature. Just talking and shooting won’t do at all as far as I am concerned. The classic RPG elements like inventories, modding, customizing, looting etc. give the game world necessary depth and immersion. ME2 has lost too much.

  46. dinorceeho says:

    Every year the world patiently (or not-so-patiently) counts down those 24 days to Christmas; there’s even calendars filled with little treats to help keep the young ones patient.Christmas is the best time of year, and so to do our bit in celebrating we’re doing our own advent calendar. Each day we’ll unveil another game that has touched us in some way over the year – whether because it’s a work of interactive art, laugh-out-loud funny or just so weird it blew our mind.