Have You Played… Mass Effect 2?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I know you’re supposed to say the first one’s best, but Mass Effect 2 is definitely my favourite in the series.

For many, ME2 is a harbinger of doom, marking the point where Bioware most dramatically shifted from making what we deemed to be RPGs to the combat’n’conversation structure that, to a greater or lesser extent, characterises the studio’s output now. ME2 is far more action heavy, and setpiece-heavy too, moving even further away from stats towards pick’n’mixing destructive powers and talking-based dilemmas that were more about an on-the-spot moral choice than using guile and skillpoints to tease your way to the optimum result.

And then, in its final act, everything culminated in a glorious final stand movie whose potentially lethal consequences might have felt a little arbitrary, but were closely related to how well you’d treated your memorable gaggle of companions throughout. Few big-budget games have managed to feel truly climactic in this way. Mass Effect 2 has a fair bit of series-typical cruft, but at heart it’s the Dirty Dozen in space, and I love it for that.

It also introduced an air of sinister mystique that I hadn’t felt the first game quite achieved, in your new boss thee Illusive Man and his unclear intent for your team and, indeed, the galaxy.

Mass Effect 2 is the point that the Mass Effect series truly became the Mass Effect series. I would agree that it’s been diminishing returns to a greater or lesser degree since, but for me that absolutely makes ME2 the high point, not the point at which it all went wrong.

From this site

124 Comments

  1. zulnam says:

    You’re not supposed to say ME1 was better.
    You do it because you are a human or moal integrity.

    #fakeNews

    • LearningToSmile says:

      I’m currently trying to finally finish the first Mass Effect, and if THIS is the best the series has to offer, I don’t think I will bother exploring it further.

      • Cvnk says:

        Ha. Same here. I recently started my second attempt at ME1 (prompted I guess by the release of ME2 for free) and think I got about as far before losing interest again. I might see if I can plow through it without talking to any of my boring-ass crewmates since that seems to be the worst part. Actually anytime I’m forced into a conversation with anyone in the game I have to stifle a sigh since I know I’m about to be subjected to some drivel.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        ME1 is an acquired taste. I bounced off it initially (got as far as the Citadel) and only came to appreciate the game on a second attempt, playing as Femshep this time. Finished it and was convinced there was something there, then played ME2 and was fully hooked. Many of the characters don’t really come into their own until the second game.

        • Shinard says:

          OK, that’s tempting. I’ve tried Mass Effect twice now, and bounced off hard each time around the Citadel. I just find it really hard to care about anyone. Everyone just seems to be waiting to give you an exposition dump, and, OK, beginning of the game, I guess it’s to be expected. But it really doesn’t make me want to continue.

          Plus, the negative speech options are so damn whiny. Second time I tried Mass Effect, I decided I wanted to go Renegade, live the fantasy of the hero dedicated to the mission at the cost of everything else. So, if I’m min-maxing, it looks like I have to choose the negative speech options to get Renegade points (which seems like a bad system, but whatever). But these speech options don’t exactly play into the idea of the aloof badass, to put it lightly.

          All that said, there are cool bits. The combat’s fairly solid, even if the companions are useless, and I’m a big fan of the Elcor. If it really does get better, I’ll give it another shot. Third time lucky?

          • Premium User Badge

            Swordfishtrombone says:

            My advice: make a butt-ugly male Shep, go full renegade every time – no matter the situation – and sit back and let the hilarity unfold. Some of the renegade options are just so… unnecessary, and bitchy, that they just killed me. Male Shep’s voice actor definitely adds to the comedy value. I am speaking from experience: many genuine laugh-out-loud moments when my brother and I played through ME1.

          • Coming Second says:

            Both VAs have their own kind of charm. If you want to play srs, I’d recommend male Shep for a paragon run-through and completely the opposite for fem Shep.

            Mark Meer sounds like a cartoon baddie doing the renegade lines, which is hilarious but difficult to take seriously. Jennifer Hale meanwhile deadpans them and sounds fucking cold as ice. On the flip side Meer does a great job sounding like the awesomest dude in the galaxy, whilst Hale tends to overbake paragon and sounds like a girl scout as a result.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          @Shinard: Definitely give it another chance. I was super skeptical… like “why is this interesting?”, finding it all very cold and sterile at first glance, but it really grew on me the second time.

          Some tips & thoughts:

          – Femshep > Broshep (badass lady space marine, what’s not to like)

          – Personally I found I preferred leaning Paragon with occasional Renegade for sarcasm or aggression when the situation *really* calls for it. Mostly, especially early in the series, Renegade tends to be pretty evil. Later in ME2 and 3 it gets a little more ambiguous.

          About your squad:

          My favourite characters in ME1 are Wrex and Tali. Tali’s conversations are a little exposition-heavy but her incidental dialogue has a lot of character and she’s amazing in ME2. Wrex is great from pretty much the moment you meet him.

          Garrus, the CSEC officer in ME1 is very dry, but grows to be one of the best characters in the series.

          Liara… Don’t get me wrong, I love Liara, but Liara in ME1 is fan-service lady. I personally found her whole “let me tell you about my people’s mating rituals”-spiel very hard to believe. Not in a “this character is insincere”-way but in the “no one would talk like this” way… She has her moments, but she really only comes into her own in Shadowbroker (the DLC for ME2) and more in ME3. So my experience with her in ME1 was a sort of bemused going along with it.

          (all this to say that’s you’re not crazy if the characters don’t immediately convince you… they get better)

          – Tip, the next: Make *absolutely sure* you have enough Paragon or Renegade Persuasion points before you go to planet Virmire (also try to help Wrex with his family issues first). There is an important decision and you will sorely regret failing to persuade your crew during this mission.

          – Try some of the side missions (there’s a couple interesting ones) but be aware that nearly all the building layouts for these are identical so only do them if you want more combat or xp and a bit of backstory. The meat is in the story missions.

          – Always bring Tali on any mission that involves the Geth and make good use of her hacking ability. Super useful.

          – Use the pause option and take control of your squad’s abilities… don’t wait for the AI to use them.

          – Customize your Shepard to something you like, because you will be staring at that face a lot.

          • Von Uber says:

            I actually think it plays better if you can’t resolve that situation on Virmire. Makes decisions in the 3rd one more interesting.

            Oh yes, and femshep is bestshep.

          • Premium User Badge

            subdog says:

            I would also add that playing a class that has Electronics and Decryption allows you to hack and open everything in the game without worrying about who you’re taking on any given mission. They’re very useful skills in combat, so you’re no nerfing yourself by investing in them. It also cuts down on how tedium of the minigame.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            @Von Uber: More dark, anyway? Really not sure I’d recommend that. You miss out on one of the best characters.

            Though, somewhat similarly (some spoilers), if you fail to save general Kirahee in ME1 AND lose a certain Drell assassin in ME2 it creates a more interesting dramatic arc in a certain part of ME3, because no one is there to save the day for you and bad things happen, lending a bit more weight to a certain villain when he is first introduced. The difference between my 1st and 2nd playthrough of ME3 was interesting in that respect.

  2. Treners says:

    ME2 is the best of the 2 I’ve played. No idea about 3. I was going to try Andromeda but not anymore.

  3. Gothnak says:

    I only finished 3 last week. The ending wasn’t as overwhelming awful as i expected it to be after the furore from 2013.. Then again, i think they patched it or something.

    ME2 was definitely the best even if my Thane died at the end because i got bored doing his follow quest in the middle of the game.

  4. Viral Frog says:

    I haven’t played 3 or Andromeda yet, but I do feel that ME2 was far superior to the first. To me, the RPG elements were the weakest part of ME. The combat was clunky, and frustrating. I actually started playing ME probably 7 different times from start to about halfway, and kept losing interest. Finally something with it clicked, and I was able to finish the game.

    If it wasn’t for the story, I may have not ever tried the second one because I thought they would carry over the same mechanics. I’m glad they did away with most of that and made it more action oriented. It felt, to me, like a better fit for the game’s universe.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    Yeah, I stopped at 2, but played it to death. Never did play 3.
    It gets a lot of flak amongst purists, but I think it’s Bioware’s last great game.

    • brucethemoose says:

      You mean RPG purists?

      I’m a huge ME fan, and I loved post-DLC 3 almost as much as I loved 2.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    ME2 was the game that convinced me the Mass Effect series was amazing and also made me appreciate ME1 more going back to it. It’s certainly the most consistent though for me ME3 still has some of the highest high points of the series, and remains my favourite, ending and all.

    ME2: Shadowbroker, like most of the ME3 story DLC, is mandatory here by the way. It’s a crying shame they still haven’t released a complete-with-all-dlc trilogy special edition…

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      The fact that you have to buy the ME DLC’s with Bioware points is one major reason which keeps me from buying and playing ME2 (detest having to buy fake currency to be able to buy something). The other reason is backlog.

      One or the other will eventually give way, but I’m a stubborn SOB and my huge backlog is filled with great games, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        Yeah, I mean even aside from the ridiculousness of having to spend more money on DLC than you do on the main game it’s just super impractical and obnoxious.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          Having said that I eventually ended up buying all the story DLC, all of which were worth it for the amount of enjoyment I got out of them. Though the only ones I would consider essential are ME1: Bring Down the Sky (which is free if you can find a working installer), ME2: Shadowbroker, ME3: From Ashes, Leviathan and Citadel (and the Extended Cut, but that’s included automatically).

      • ViennaBlood says:

        You can download all the DLC for the first two games for FREE from EA directly. Either through Origin, or from this page @EA: link to help.ea.com
        (the link says dragon age, but the page contains all the DLC for the classic Bioware games).
        ME3 DLC still has to be bought using Bioware points afaik.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          Huh, I knew that was the case for ME1 but did not know it was also true for ME2 now. Thanks for the link!

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          Hm. Odd though, I just loaded up Origin and that still says “Buy with Bioware Points” for all the ME2 DLC I didn’t have. Guess I’ll just stick to the Steam version.

        • Darth Gangrel says:

          That’s very helpful, thanks! Never knew about that. Would be great if it works, but I’ll have to download Origin to test that and that’s a few years away (or something), because backlog and reluctance to increase backlog by adding another Steam-alike.

  7. ulix says:

    Ahhh, I have good memories of this, the third best Mass Effect game, after Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 3, which was the best of the bunch.

    Now bear with me: it really was… until the last half of that last mission. So for 99% of it’s playtime, it was quite amazing. ME2 was also pretty great, just not as good as the first or third.

  8. FriendlyFire says:

    ME1 and 2 were both great for different reasons. ME1 was a lot more different and special, but ME2 had better characterization and the loyalty quests were all nice. Plus, the ME2 combat gameplay was already a lot better than the ME1 stuff.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    By the way, unrelated: my Supporter subscription expired and the new code (entered before last one ended) didn’t work. Who do I talk to about fixing that? I emailed the main RPS email and got no response.

  10. Chaoslord AJ says:

    First one was best. Second one was a well done shooter /RPG-hybrid with strange pacing, boring scanning and flawed plotline which led up to the ME3 ending. SciFi was good, characters were good.

  11. Sagiri says:

    Isn’t ME2 generally considered the best of the trilogy?

    I played through the entire trilogy during my Christmas break a few years back – I want to say 2013, but I’m not sure.

    I wanted to replay through the trilogy (this time as FemShep and with all the DLC) before Andromeda came out, but that didn’t end up happening. I got through ME1 and a few hours into ME2, but then I got busy and never got a chance to go back to it to finish it again. I will eventually, though.

    • Rizlar says:

      Yeah I thought you were supposed to say that 2 is the best but 1 is your personal favourite. Well that’s what I’m sticking to anyway.

      2 also has an unintentionally hilarious final boss.

    • Captain Yesterday says:

      I don’t believe that there’s any consensus. From what I’ve seen, it’s more or less evenly split between ME2 and ME3 (right up until the ending).

  12. leeder krenon says:

    1. v good. the best.
    2. loyalty quests – no. final mission – hell yes. the 3rd best.
    3. finished it 2 days ago. i liked it. the 2nd best.
    4. hopefully get round to it before 2022.

    • Unsheep says:

      Why don’t any of these gaming magazines etc. ever hire people like you ? people who can actually think differently from any other gaming journalist and critic.

  13. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    I just finished a replay of ME1 and have moved onto ME2. What’s striking isn’t the difference in gameplay, it’s the completely different tone of the writing and the departure from some of the major themes of the original setting.

    ME1 had this constant underlying theme that civilization in the galaxy was just one out of control species away from total annihilation. The Reapers, the Rachni, the Geth, and the Krogans were these huge cautionary tales about a single race or culture who turn on their creators and threaten to destroy everything good in the galaxy. The question underlying each of their stories is: will these ambitious newcomers the humans be the same?

    It’s such an interesting take on the idea of humanity’s future in space, and ME2 drops it like a lead balloon.

    • Premium User Badge

      X_kot says:

      This. ME2 did not want to engage with most of the themes raised in the first game (except for human exceptionalism), instead focusing on interpersonal relationships and fluid combat. ME1 : ME2 :: Alien : Aliens.

      • Premium User Badge

        kfix says:

        Absolutely. And in both cases, I like the second for what they are and would like them even more if they were not sequels and so didn’t make me sad that they did a u-turn on the tone and detail and world building and other things that made the first (flawed) masterpieces.

        • Ex Lion Tamer says:

          Wow, this thread summarizes my feelings on the course of the series as well as any I’ve seen. Though I’m particularly partial to kfix’s analysis of the difficulties appreciating the second in the series given their departures from the first.

        • malkav11 says:

          I quite like the way that Alien as a franchise went from different vision to different vision across each of four movies and while it didn’t always work out (coughResurrectioncough), it was vastly more interesting than umpteen iterations on the same formula would have been. I wouldn’t necessarily have objected to a similar approach to Mass Effect. The problem is that Mass Effect was specifically set up with a sequel hook and then Mass Effect 2 is theoretically a direct continuation of that story and those characters and it just…isn’t. If it had been a more Aliens-type sequel where you’re just returning to the setting and bringing along one character from the first one for the ride, I’d still hate the mechanical changes because they’re mostly bad, but the shift in narrative focus would be far less jarring.

    • Captain Yesterday says:

      In ME, one spends so much time managing one’s inventory that the larger themes are lost among the shuffle of Lancer VI assault rifles and Mantis IV armors.

    • Asurmen says:

      I never got the impression from ME1 that humans were even slightly considered the same. Ambitious yes, but never a threat to the galaxy like the other cautions. To me, the ME1 setting was one that was quite stable, and had been for some time.

  14. Tuor says:

    Meh. ME1 was a superior game to me, storywise. It was about humanity getting into the Council (or not). About humanity’s first SPECTRE. It was about seeing all these new species and all the other new stuff. Did I mention its newness?

    Yes, driving around on planets got old after a while, but at first I really enjoyed it. Combat was a bit clunky, but if you worked at it, I found it to be okay — not great, but not terrible.

    But to get to ME 2. One of the big downers for me was how the Council just blew off your warnings. In fact, the whole disconnection between ME 1 and 2 was jarring and annoying. I didn’t like it, at all. I liked the new characters well enough, but the story-line was just… less good than the first game.

    I didn’t hate ME 2, but I never felt much interest in playing ME 3, and the more I heard about ME 3 once it was released, the more sure I was that I didn’t want to play it. ME A isn’t even on the radar for me, especially after what I heard about it here and in other places.

    It’s a shame how such a good base concept was ridden into the ground (IMO), but that’s how things go, I guess, particularly once EA gets their claws into it.

    • malkav11 says:

      Andromeda should absolutely be on your radar. It’s not perfect, but a lot of the negativity around it from various corners is overblown at a minimum, entirely unfounded a lot of the time. And it returns to most of the things that made ME1 the best in the series, handling things like the rover and planetary exploration better than ME1 ever did, and mixing in probably the best implementation of combat yet in the franchise. It’s been my experience that people that like the first game best have been finding Andromeda a wonderful return to form, not the final riding of the franchise into the ground.

      (For that matter, I thought 3 was significantly better than 2.)

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        That’s good to hear. I’m holding off playing Andromeda until I’ve finished some other games I’m playing. Hopefully by then they’ll have patched the bugs and maybe made some improvements here and there, but I expect I’m going to enjoy it.

      • Politik says:

        Shameless plug really but I put some impressions of Andromeda up on the Xbox website I write for. I think it gives a better balance than many of the reviews I’ve read.

        I haven’t finished it yet so it’s not a review…

        link to xboxsector.com

  15. Ace Rimmer says:

    ME1 had more interesting world building, but ME2 was more fun as an action game. The paragon/renegade system worked exceedingly poorly for the railroaded-into-running-errands-for-human-supremacists story, though.

  16. Booker says:

    Couldn’t agree any more with your text Sir! To me, Mass Effect 2 is their Empire Strikes Back! I love it!

  17. brucethemoose says:

    Funny how people here judge ME3 and Andromeda so quickly without having ever played them.

    After 3 trilogy playthroughs, ME1 is my least favorite of all 4 so far (though I still love it to death). 2 is my favorite, but 3 and Andromeda are not the terrible games the internet makes them out to be, IMHO.

    • Ace Rimmer says:

      Funny how some people here make assumptions about the gaming habits of other people here.

      I daresay I’ll pick Andromeda up eventually on some sale or other; as for ME3, it was a mostly serviceable if ultimately forgettable continuation of 2, except for the last hour or so of pure, undiluted wank (in the edited version, never played the original ending, which at least was shorter).

      • Rizlar says:

        Not sure if you can even access the original cut anymore but you are missing out. The original ending was a beautifully tight piece of drama, even if the child and plot explanations were crap.

        Played the fanservice updated version afterwards and it was nowhere near as good.

        • Premium User Badge

          Nauallis says:

          You could do it using a PS3 or xbox 360 that you didn’t hook up to their online services, so no updates, with an optional install from disc. You’d also have to play from disc. Maybe it’d be possible to download a digital copy on PC but disable automatic updates? Not sure what the patch status is for the digital version. Regardless of platform you’d have to stop the game from communicating with the internet. Granted, without access to multiplayer to boost your “galactic readiness” score as high as possible, you’d be forced into the “okay” endings and would have a generally tougher time.

        • malkav11 says:

          You can just watch it on Youtube. It has nothing to do with your decisions during any of the games other than the final button you push so there’s no reason you need to experience it in game, really.

  18. Unsheep says:

    Dude don’t even get me started … well, too late.

    Mass Effect 2 turned an open-world RPG with tactial combat, which actually required you to plan and think, into a [comparatively] linear cover-based shooter with terrible writing. It’s a classic example of developers “simplifying” a series for the masses.

    They redeemed some of these faults in Mass Effect 3, making it a better game, overall, than Mass Effect 2.

    Mass Effect 2 had ‘some’ good qualities: the soundtrack was fantastic, the technical quality was better, and the graphics much nicer. As far as the story and gameplay goes though …

    • lglethal says:

      OK I have to ask this, as I’m replaying ME1 right now – Tactical combat? Your kidding, right?

      Stand back, try to get your companions to get out of the way, shoot everything because your companions cant hit a barn door with a banjo. If there’s a krogan run and shoot them as you run. There is nothing Tactical in the combat in ME1.

      I guess that’s rose tinted glasses affecting your vision there. Maybe go back and try it again…

      • Premium User Badge

        subdog says:

        I agree with this, with a ME1 replay fresh in my mind. The closest the game ever got to tactical was dropping a Singularity into a big group and comboing it with a grenade and some tech powers.

        Tactical positioning was virtually non-existent. Most of the time you’d just get “I can’t get there!” any time you tried to put a squadmate in cover. And if they made it to cover, they would spend the rest of the fight shooting a wall six inches from their face.

      • NickAragua says:

        Yeah, tactical is not how I’d describe Mass Effect 1. There’s not really much variety in the fights, especially the little side missions on the explorable planets. Fights generally boiled down into two categories for me:

        1) Engage at extreme range with the sniper rifle. Don’t close in until everyone is dead.
        2) Find a door/tunnel choke point. Stack the squad up to either side of it. Fire off a couple of shots to wake up everyone in the next room. Repeatedly use the pistol rapid fire skill to kill everyone coming through the hole. Stagger use of your and squad’s “knock down” abilities to prevent enemies from getting up.

  19. ZippyLemon says:

    I have distilled the sentiments that I agree with above into a concise mathematical formula:

    World building > world shooting
    therefore, ME1 > ME2

    We can prove several other obviously true expressions with the same premise:

    KotOR 2 restored > KotOR 1 > TOR
    Fallout: NV > Fallout 3 > Fallout 4 (never played the classics)

    I call this rule the ‘Avellone Axiom’.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Where does Oblivion fit in there? Is that the tipping point where the gameplay/design flaws start to interfere with the world building?

      • ZippyLemon says:

        I knew I was forgetting a key series! Thank you.

        Morrowind > Oblivion > Skyrim

        That’s bearing in mind that the quality lore in Oblivion and Skyrim pretty much rides on the coattails of Michael Kirkbride’s vision of the Elder Scrolls world: a digital cosmos capable of sporadic self-awareness and radical conscious transformation, its metaphysics and astrophysics derived from its binary code; a universe in which reloading a savegame is an act of divine power that Vivec can understand and call out in his literature before the player even installs the game.

        Yeah, the bones of this made Oblivion fun to read into and Skyrim an absolute disappointment. In my opinion.

    • Ace Rimmer says:

      I’ll agree with the overall sentiments here, but not with their application. KotOR2 suffers, primarily, from being at best half-finished, but also from the dreariest, dullest sorta-antagonist known to man and from a severe case of mistaking verbosity for profundity (another candidate for the Avellone appellation).

      KotOR is a solid game with glimmers of greatness, KotOR2, even in its restored state, is the rotting husk of what might have been a great game, or at least a glorious failure, that never really left the starting block. Call me shallow, but I prefer the former.

      • ZippyLemon says:

        In terms of narrative I guess I would agree, though I am way too biased to really do so.

        In terms of world building, however, I would say KotOR 2 is unarguably the superior work. Because, you know, it actually builds something new with the world rather than rehashing the same old redemption story.

  20. Premium User Badge

    cpt_freakout says:

    As with some others here, ME 2 is where the series lost me, basically because the story was just not that great and the writing often faltered to the point of being somewhat annoying. I didn’t think ME 1 was amazing either, although I did enjoy it quite a lot more even if the combat was super clunky.

    It might have been the high point in many regards like you say, but it’s also perhaps the point when Bioware shifted gears altogether and set on the course that most recently brought us Andromeda.

  21. EvilMonkeyPL says:

    While ME2 technically is a better game I still think ME1 was a better experiance. First time on the Citadel, first encounters with wierd new aliens, first time plotting a jump or driving around in Mako. Those were nice moments. Music was great as well.
    I had kinda hoped for something close with Andromeda but I don’t think I will even pick it up as what I’ve seen reminds me so much of DA:I which I really disliked.

  22. Kefren says:

    I played this (and no further, since after that they required an account and more software installed – Origin? Can’t remember, not interested).

    The graphics and shooting were better. But it also really frustrated me, because I had mainly played for the story, characters, relationships. Luckily in ME1 it came together satisfyingly (and my Shep had an affair with her friend of choice). But it crunched and showed its seems in ME2 for me. The character Shep wanted a relationship with wouldn’t discuss their past relationship at all – no chat option. I kept going back to see if there was a new option. Never was. All I wanted to ask was “Is there a chance between us?” and get a yes or no – but despite being a tough captain, it was impossible to ask. Ditto with her second and third choices – there were hints of romance and then they just disappeared. It was like controlling a mute, since Shep couldn’t just ask what was wrong, whether they were potentially interested, whatever. So I was left checking in on people who never offered new responses, increasingly frustrated at not being able to discuss it. After that it just felt hollow.

    • lglethal says:

      If your talking about Liara – the chance for a renewed romance comes after you complete the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC. It’s decidedly screwed up that it’s behind a paywall, but thats Bioware and EA for you.

      *cough*(Although if you look around real hard, there are cracks out there to get ME2 DLC for free)*cough*

      • Kefren says:

        Yes, that’s the one.
        So annoying. She goes from being a lover to not being willing to discuss anything – feelings, options, pasts, future. If it was a novel or film we’d find it annoying – even worse when it is meant to be interactive.

        • lglethal says:

          It’s ridiculous but the actual reasoning behind her coldness and aloof attitude is really well explained in one of the companion comics from Dark Horse (basically she’s one hundred percent focused on rescuing someone who saved her life whilst she was searching for Shep’s body, and who was then kidnapped). It sort of plays out in Lair of the Shadow Broker but the fact they dont cover any of the back story behind it is pretty shit. I read the comic afterwards and was like “Oh that’s why she was like that! Why the f&ck didnt they just explain that in the bloody game???”

  23. Troubletcat says:

    ME2 did a lot of work ruining the mystery and tone set in ME1, story-wise. I’m referring to the main plot here, and the world building. The later was set up with a great deal of thematic care, almost Star-Trekian in this sense. In terms of the main plot… the reapers were a more interesting villain when their motivation was “we are beings so far beyond your comprehension that even trying to explain our motivations would be pointless.” Every attempt to explain what they are and what their motives were made them less threatening and less interesting. The conversation you have with Sovereign in the middle of ME1 is absolutely chilling. All the stuff that was revealed about the reapers made them less threatening, less interesting.

    But having this faceless, unknowable evil as the primary antagonist in your story isn’t really good enough. Thank goodness, then, that they had the character of Saren. A villain who’s motivations were clear, and were actually extremely human. Ultimately you feel sorry for him more than anything. And there is the potential for a bit of redemption at the end of his character arch. No other ME game has any character, friend or foe, as compelling as Saren.

    Then you have things like the Mako. As bad as the Mako was in ME1, it was better than scanning, and it made the game feel big, and like there was a great deal of exploring to be done. Removing the Mako instead of trying to make it more interesting was a big miss for me.

    Gameplay-wise I think ME2 overall is a win for me, although the idea that technology ‘advanced’ to the point where reloading was a thing again as opposed to guns having effictively unlimited ammo (something that was well explained in the in-game codex in ME1) was a bit of a stretch on the belivability of the world. But ultimately the combat felt better in ME2, so it gets a pass here.

    The side quests in ME2 and your companions, some of that stuff was really good.

    Too bad the final mission that was so hyped basically had no drama because the only way for anyone to die was if the player intentionally chose to make blatantly terrible decisions.

    …I dunno… I think I’m trying to say there are positives to both games. But as somebody who’s more interested in the story than anything else, ME2/3 were both massive trainwrecks that seemed to go out of their way to ruin everything exciting about the first game’s setting and plot by giving really stupid answers to things that would’ve been better left as mysteries and shoving in annoying bee people in place of an actual relatable villain.

    Also that bit where you fight a giant terminator at the end is some of the stupidest crap I’ve seen in a game that was trying to be serious.

    • Horg says:

      A good summary of which I agree with everything except the combat. I thought it degraded in ME2, specifically becasue you were made even more vulnerable outside of cover than ME1. This had a double negative impact of making you less mobile and forcing environment design to include even more suspiciously placed chest high walls. The whole felt more artificial and arcadey, like a really pretty Duck Hunt in space. Also, squad members were toned down to the point where team participation became almost pointless, whereas in ME1 the squad were of comparable power to your Shepard. Active effects such as biotics and techs also felt underwhelming in ME2 compared to the awesome physics combos of ME1.

      But all that aside, it was the lack of a compelling villain which really killed the game for me. You never got a sense that Shepard was struggling against anything that could out-fight or out-wit him, and pursuing the Collectors to uncover their motivations was fundamentally dull.

    • Ex Lion Tamer says:

      I was complimentary of an earlier thread, but I think this is also an excellent (and different) summary of ME1’s strengths.

  24. Mumbles says:

    After finishing MEA at around the 90-ish percent mark… and having started ME 1 again right after – I think it’s only my second playthrough of that game ever, roughly 10 years after the first – makes for some interesting comparison points. I’m actually planning to play the whole trilogy in order – ME overkill! ME 1 is good at setting up the ME universe, but it doesn’t have terribly good flow or writing.

    Thinking of how MEA is criticized for simplistic crew relationship and dialog, ME 1 is in fact worse than that in most places, especially when first putting together the crew. “Oh, hey, you alien I just met five seconds ago about whom I know nothing: Welcome aboard!” When I talk to them on the ship they’re little more than information dispensers. Everything is also presented in overly dramatic tones. Rah! Rah! Shep must be on a testosterone high because he sounds too aggressive in a lot of conversations.

    Technically, it definitely shows its age, but I actually like some of the gameplay elements better:
    – Having much easier and direct control over my squadmates in pause view.
    – An easy and quick inventory system in which weapon mods transfer from gun to gun; selling items is a mess though with no filter option
    – A quick and dirty stats screen with no stinking folders everywhere
    – Weapon heat system; I’ve always thought it was a shame they got rid of it for standard ammo afterwards. It can make combat definitely more interesting and intense, and not having to run around from ammo box to ammo box is a definite plus. I also really like the remote-detonated grenades.
    – There’s friendly fire, which I first noticed when I accidentally knocked out Tali with my assault rifle.
    – Fire fights seem to be much more intense, and while the cover system is a bit awkward positioning is way more essential
    – Eye movements may be bit more subdued and automated-looking, but they certainly don’t do some of herpy derp stuff I encountered in MEA
    – Roaming planet-side may be a bit samey and the Mako is one of the bounciest vehicles ever, but blowing shit up with my cannon is so satisfying

    So yeah, ME 1 is definitely dated – not to mention the texture issues of the PC version – and has a number flaws of its own, but it’s still quite good fun. It’ll be interesting to see how ME 2 & 3 compare in the overall picture. I haven’t played either one of those in years either.

    • Premium User Badge

      subdog says:

      If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend installing the MEUITM texture mod over at Mass Effect Nexus, and follow the guides it comes with for tweaking your driver settings.

      I’m not usually a fan of texture mods, but this stays very faithful to the original and makes the game look drop-dead gorgeous.

  25. Corwin71 says:

    I don’t know about this “supposed to” anything when it comes to games, but Mass Effect was and is absolutely my least favorite. Least favorite characters/story, least favorite gameplay (by a mile). It’s been a long time since I’ve played ME2, but at the time, I thought it was a vast improvement, and probably the best (in the trilogy) as far as characters. Loved the loyalty missions. What I remember most about ME3 (besides the furor over the ending) is that I enjoyed the combat the most in that game of the three.

    I love ME:A. It’s hard to say whether it’s my favorite of the series, not having played 2 or 3 for years, and not being done with Andromeda, but it’s definitely not NOT my favorite. By far the most fleshed out cast, best protagonist (Ryder, I mean), best exploration, best motivation (I love the idea of settlements and all that comes with that), best combat, best character progression. Yeah, there are some bugs; show me a game these days that doesn’t have them. If they’re not constant or game-breaking, and they haven’t been, I live with them. And the animation hoo-hah is so overblown it’s sad. It’s also cherry picking because every Bioware game for years has had wonky faces and movement at times.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Agreed, except for the bugs part. Script problems on Eos in particular made me ragequit more than once.

      • Corwin71 says:

        Sorry to hear that. Everyone’s experience seems to be a bit different, but the couple of times something didn’t fire properly for me, I was able to save/reload and fix it.

        • brucethemoose says:

          Saving/reloading was my problem. When I first died to the architect, for instance, loading a save and placing the last seismic sensor makes the game hang for like 8 minutes. And right next door, in that shielded facility, a reload caused the enemies to spawn infinitely. And then there’s the occasional required reload when something gets stuck in a wall.

          I think people playing on higher difficulties (and hence have to reload alot) may be running into these problems more. To me, in feels like no-one even playtested it on insanity.

  26. pfooti says:

    I have both ME1 and ME2 in my steam library. I don’t want to install origin, so that’s all I really have access to. I liked ME1 a fair bit, thought it set some interesting things up.

    Then ME2 had ammunition, and I was like, what?

    Then the Illusive Man showed up, and I was like, NOPE. I mean, first of all, ‘illusive’? Like what? Elusive? Illusive is *barely* a word, ffs. Second, Jed Bartlett sure doesn’t work as a crazy-ass conspiracy theorist. Third, I hated those guys from ME1, there’s *no way* I’m working with them. Fourth, they went through all this trouble to blow up my ship during the opening cutscene just to give it back to me, but “better”? No, they can fuck right off.

  27. Eridu says:

    I remember the retailer exclusive pre-order bonuses from ME2 more than anything else (having bought the game from the “wrong” store). Really made me wary of EA games in general and never got the third game despite having a perfect save from ME2.

  28. skyst says:

    Those who don’t like ME2 the best must not have played as a Vanguard.

  29. Jason Moyer says:

    ME1 was the “having fun with friends exploring the universe and uncovering a mystery” game.
    ME2 was the “having fun with friends from the wrong side of town and saving the world” game.
    ME3 was the “having fun with old friends and blowing stuff up” game.
    ME4 was the “we don’t know what kind of game we’re making but we need to make a new ME” game.

    • Corwin71 says:

      If that’s all you take out of ME4, you either a) haven’t played it, but that’s not stopping you from criticizing it, or b) you’re not thinking very hard.

      MA4 is the “stake a new claim for humanity in the face of the unknown and various perils” game. And it has a lot more substance to its exploration that ME1 did (which rarely extended beyond, ooh, a rock, aah, an insignia)

    • malkav11 says:

      Andromeda is also “having fun with friends exploring the galaxy and uncovering a mystery” except different galaxy and different mystery. Also colonization.

  30. Sin Vega says:

    The first one had the best tone, the dread and stakes seemed real, especially the 30 minutes or so after you discover a particular AI on a particular planet late on for some major exposition followed by a dramatic and Actually Fun race to save the day (sheperd should have died at the end though, that bit was shit).

    The second lost a lot of that, but it gained almost all the best characters (the best was Wrex, from the first game, obviously) and interactions, and it’s easy to overlook how much work went into the ‘re-use your save from the first game’ system, something most releases just don’t have the resources or ambition to do.

    On the other hand, Miranda. So, ME2 nets -504,891 points.

    • poliovaccine says:

      Miranda’s boob modeling made me embarrassed to play this game in front of my girlfriend. ME2 is my favorite, but goddamn dude, rendering the polies on those, ah, ample features probably sagged me 5-7 FPS all on their own. Oh, and *then* she starts *talking*…

      • Coming Second says:

        I’m surprised you even noticed Miranda’s boobs, given 75% of her dialogue scenes is taken up by her arse.

        There’s a throwaway line somewhere when, in response to being asked what she’s waiting for, a merc says for Miranda to finish getting dressed, which almost makes the overall embarrassment worth it.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I could ignore Miranda, but it was impossible to ignore the laughable end boss in ME2. So even though the combat was better in ME2, and the companion quests were better, I guess ME1 is my favorite. It had the best ending, and the best classic sci-fi Sense of Wonder in introducing the setting.

      ME3 I played as basically a shooter in a sci-fi setting. My favorite companions from the earlier games were shunted to the side, so I didn’t care much about the plot.

    • malkav11 says:

      I was really impressed with the save import stuff, I will say. Even if it didn’t amount to anything much in the long run.

  31. Rikard Peterson says:

    You’re supposed to say ME1 is the best? When I in a not too distant past (2011 according to my Steam receipt) decided that it was time for me to try my first RPG, the advice I got (on this site) was that the first Mass Effect was a bit crap (or at least not recommended for someone like me who had played adventure games since the mid 90s, but wasn’t sure if an RPG was something that I’d enjoy), and that I’d probably be better off skipping it and start with the sequel. So I did, and now ME1 is the only post-KOTOR BioWare RPG that I haven’t played (not counting Andromeda — this is the first game in many years that I need to upgrade my hardware in order to play). And I have enjoyed them all.

  32. poliovaccine says:

    Are you supposed to say that? I always thought ME2 was the fan favorite. When I was first convinced to try the series, I was told to start with ME2… which I did, for an hour, at which point it had become bleedingly obvious that I should have started with, surprise, the first one.

    But I’m replaying the trilogy lately (started cus my rig wouldnt be able to run MEA – I care less about that at this point tho) and I gotta say – it’s a slog. Even with nice modded textures, the visuals aren’t the reason it’s aged badly. And paragon Shep is a heel and a boy scout. But renegade Shep is a heel and a schizoid. I def do agree with whoever said the negative options can be side-cramps kinda funny.

    Btw, ME2 is my favorite, anyway. The moment when you finally get ahold of your ship is just priceless.

  33. Von Uber says:

    The big problem with ME2 – with it being part of a trilogy – is that you can effectively go from ME1>ME3 and not really miss out on anything plot wise.
    ME3 had to do a lot of heavy lifting thanks to ME2.

  34. Amphetamine says:

    I finished replaying it 2 days ago. Cleared the main game and all DLC missions. Game was fun but those DLC missions were hot trash.

    I had actually tried to play ME1 beforehand, but it just crashed on startup and nothing on any support page would fix it :(

  35. dancindan2589 says:

    I know I’m in the super-duper minority here, but I’ve never thought ME2 was the best in the series. It had the best character building, for sure, and the combat was far and away better than ME1, but that was about it. For me the biggest problem will always be that the main story of the game always felt like one massive side quest, or maybe a huge DLC entry tacked onto ME1. The Collectors as the main antagonist were so underwhelmingly, mind-bogglingly out of left field for a main entry in a series about fighting Reapers that it was always hard for me to reconcile ME2 as its own stand-alone game within the series.

    Don’t get me wrong – I loved it. I loved (most of) the side characters and squad mates (and the writing that came with them), I loved the inclusion of TIM (<3) and Cerberus, and I loved that I got to dive back into my favorite game series of all time. But I'm sorry, the Collector plot should have been DLC or a side-quest. It felt like a lateral move for the overarching story, not an advancement. On top of that, the new RPG system was frigging awful.

    I’m also in the distinct minority when I say that ME3 was, in my opinion, the best of the series. Gameplay was fantastic, the story was the best in the trilogy, and I have never cried so much in a video game. The entire game – up until that fateful final encounter with TIM – was the epitome of storytelling catharsis for me. I loved it. I loved every freaking second of it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I even think the ending is acceptable now, post-Hold The Line movement and its historic repercussions. I also didn’t encounter anywhere near the number of bugs and issues that people were getting so up in arms about (though, fun fact, to this day the climactic scene in ME2 between Samara and Mordinth has no sound for me and I have to play it with subtitles, both on my 360 and my PC). Anyway, just my two cents. I really feel like ME2 gets way more zealous adoration than it deserves, and ME3 gets way more rabid hate than it deserves. Kind of like MEA right now, which is certainly not the best in the series but also nowhere near as terrible as the mob-forum of the internet is making it out to be.

    • Premium User Badge

      sbrn10 says:

      It is pretty fun to just go through comments and see what people are “here for,” so to speak. I’m by and large here for the character interactions, which is why MEA sucks for me so far — the characters are boring. (Which doesn’t explain why I’m about 35 hours into MEA, I suppose, but it’s like a comfortable bad habit. I’m completely ignoring the kett in favor of running around doing loyalty missions, hoping that I eventually give a damn about any of these characters, but I largely don’t. :( )

      I don’t really care about the main space opera plot — I don’t really remember the main plot of ME2 or ME3 that well, to be honest. Collectors, something something, Reapers, something something, magical child — I swear to god I’ve forgotten what the magical child even was supposed to be. What I DO remember is shooting shit on the Citadel with Garrus, checking in with Liara all the time in ME2 to make eyes at her and being disappointed when she wouldn’t give me the time of day, and then the Shadow Broker DLC and MAKING BLUE BABIES UGH, Mordin’s last scene (at which I cried actual tears, goddammit), and all this stupid shit that is kind of inconsequential and yet. And yet! *maudlin sigh*

      Which is to say, I personally greatly enjoyed ME3, but I often think that it probably wasn’t that special to anyone who hadn’t played through the first two and loved them. Which isn’t really a knock on ME3 so much as a self-observation that I was really way too invested in that particular set of characters, and now I give zero fucks about the new ones in MEA.

      I also sometimes wonder how much one’s appreciation for the character interaction bits changes based on playing Shepard as Jennifer Hale or Mark Meer. (The only correct way to play, of course, is as femShep. ;) )

    • brucethemoose says:

      I mostly agree with you, actually. If you read through the old Bioware forums or the ME subreddit where alot of hardcore fans resided, youd find that many (but certainly not all) agree.

  36. E_FD says:

    Of the first two Mass Effects (which are all I’ve played of the series), I definitely prefer this one. For all the complaints you see about ME2 being “dumbed down”, I thought the original’s hybrid gameplay was the worst of both worlds: clunky, vestigial RPG elements paired with half-baked action, both undermining each other. The sequel picked a direction and stuck with it, and was stronger for it IMO.

    • Hammer1649 says:

      I could not agree with you more, the first game just felt like a mess to me.

  37. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    Mass Effect 2 is a great game if you can ignore its betrayal of the first game’s premise and an idiotic main storyline. It really would have been better as a spinoff — something like Mass Effect: Cerberus.

    • Tuor says:

      They could’ve made it something like Half-life: Opposing Force. I think that would’ve made for a better game story-wise but, alas, it didn’t happen.

  38. Premium User Badge

    sbrn10 says:

    ME1 overall wasn’t a great game, but it was new. The story isn’t super-duper amazing, but it’s competent, Sovereign was chilling in a way that almost no action/RPG villain ever is, and the last act (from finding the VI to the end) is pacing perfection — it’s the last time in memory that I really felt edge-of-your-seat urgency in an action/RPG game.

    That said, you only ever experience that feeling once. I haven’t played it in a while and I don’t want to — what I remember of the combat is bad enough, and I’d rather have my fond memories intact.

    ME2 is the point where the shooting became enjoyable for the sake of itself. The characters were in general better realized and the loyalty missions, Illusive Man, etc., weren’t gripping the way the last act of ME1 was, but they were enjoyable in the way a romcom is — you know what’s coming, it’s not SUSPENSE and THRILL, but it’s cheesy and fun and the kind of popcorn flick that you can actually come back to in a fit of nostalgia and it’s still fun! The main plot – I don’t even remember the main plot. Who cares.

    So IMO, ME1 was the best if you played it at the time, for the first time, without any spoilers. But for anybody else, and especially anybody picking up the trilogy in 2017, it’s kind of unlikely to be the most enjoyable — especially if you think of shooting as more than filler inbetween the story bits.

    • Captain Yesterday says:

      I remember that ME got a lot of press, not just gaming press, but press press, because it was a stright-up space opera at a time when such things weren’t fashionable.

      They still aren’t, come to think of it.

  39. malkav11 says:

    I have. Twice, having finished my second run just before Andromeda released. I think it’s the worst game in the franchise by a fair margin, but that doesn’t make it bad, per se. Obviously I liked it enough to play twice. The recruitment missions, loyalty missions, and characters are all pretty great (except for Jacob and Miranda), DLC characters included, and Lair of the Shadow Broker is better than anything in the main game and has some great terminal logs afterwards. There’s a lot of fun writing, especially in the margins, and it can be fun to toss people out windows or shoot them in the middle of speechifying, etc. And although the worldbuilding sometimes conflicts with previously established canon, there’s some pretty decent stuff there too.

    That said, I think people insisting that it has better combat than the first game are off their rockers. Combat is the worst and most prevalent part of the game, especially in DLC missions Overlord and Arrival (the latter of which is especially terrible). There’s a bunch of changes that combine to sap all the joy out of things. I don’t mean to imply that ME1’s combat is -good-, because it isn’t particularly. But there is a basic satisfaction in the interplay of guns and powers that is sorely lacking in 2, and a few cool setpieces (like fighting on the side of the Citadel) that have no equivalent outside of Lair of the Shadow Broker in ME2. These changes include: introducing (far too limited) ammo so that you’re constantly running short; putting all powers on the same shared cooldown so there is no reason to ever use anything other than the single most effective power; introducing multiple types of HP bar that are supposedly there to introduce tactical nuance but in practice dramatically shrink your options to one or two prescribed tactics; making biotics not work on any of them so the most enjoyable powers in the game don’t work until most enemies are almost dead anyway and biotic specialists are practically neutered; forcing heavy reliance on cover so that fights devolve into huddling behind barriers and intermittently popping up to mill through sacks of HP who are also huddled behind barriers, and making every combat area a boring field of waist-high cover; forcing you to rely heavily on an arsenal of guns with no personality and including as many as four entire generic kinds for the most gun-oriented class. (You can buy a few more with a bit more character as DLC.)

    The combination of these things (and a few more disputable elements) renders combat about as dull as humanly possible. Add in the fact that loot consists entirely of 1) cash, 2) minerals (which are basically another type of cash) and 3) blueprints for “upgrades” consisting of 10% boosts to numbers you’re not allowed to look at, which you don’t even get until you spend the aforementioned minerals (or cash, in stores) on them, the gameplay systems are a chore in a way that’s infinitely worse than the already flawed systems in 1.

    And of course the main plot, with its random digression from the plot throughline established by the first game, the facepalm-worthy requirement to continue working with an organization already established to be both evil and stupid, a group of freaking human supremacist mad scientists, the nonsensical Collector “threat” which is poorly established and unmotivated, and the incredibly stupid main boss…

    Yeah, lots of mess to go around. But like I say, I do like it. And it didn’t mark the point where Bioware went downhill, thankfully, although after ME2 and DA2 I was really worried for a bit there. ME3 was significantly better in most respects (ending, continuity errors, and Kai Leng aside), particularly combat. Dragon Age Inquisition has some pacing problems and the combat is kind of bad (arguably not as bad as DA2), but is an astonishing achievement in worldbuilding and characterization, not to mention art design and tech. And Andromeda is, so far, the best ME yet.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Not sure I agree with ME1 combat being better than 2… But it is close. 2 is indeed very clunky, and the gulf between that and 3/Andromeda is HUUUUUGE.

  40. Captain Yesterday says:

    For me, the biggest issue with the whole series is that they give you a galaxy (or a significant chunk of a galaxy) to explore, and there’s really not much out there. All of the series ill-conceived ideas (looking at you, planet scanning) were an attempt to provide filler, to populate the galaxy with planets that weren’t connected to the story (as was the case with Knights of the Old Republic, for example). The Galaxy doesn’t seem that big when you only shuffle between four or five planets.

    So Bioware included all these planets to provide scale, make the galaxy seem like the impressively large place that it is. But, they never really found a good in-game reason to include them. That’s where you get the busywork for scanning planets for odd bits of Matriarch manifesto (ME), Platinum with which to upgrade your shotgun (ME2) or various bits of culturally relevant space gew-gaws (ME3).

    It’s only gotten worse once Bioware decided to emulate TES open-world style games.

  41. Stinkfinger75 says:

    There’s a mod out there that restores controller support on PC, it was there all along, it even has the exact UI as the console version. EA stripping out controller support for the absolutely dreadful KB/M controls it shipped with was an odd choice. Leaving it up to modders to unlock is stranger yet.

  42. teamcharlie says:

    For me, I think the question about whether a game is good or not is the following: after ten years without touching the game, would I want to play it again?

    For ME1, the answer to that is fffffuuuuuck no. I’d be totally down to watch some highlights, and I love the hell out of the spaceship battle near the end, but playing that game is 90% an unfun slog.

    ME2 is fun, and I think I would be thrilled to have forgotten enough of the game to want to play it again. It’s also fun that means something because the game actually spends the time and energy making sure the players care about the characters.

    ME3 is a little more…more? than ME2, but I just don’t like it as much. Too much ‘and here’s THIS homeworld you’ve never seen. Oh, and here? This is where the Ardat-Yakshi live! Their life is nuts!’ etc. ME2 did this a bit, but had a better balance with new content, whereas new characters I genuinely like such as Jaavik and whatever-meathead-Freddy-Prinze-Jr’s-character’s-name-was felt like their lead-in was a bigger deal than their actual presence in the game. Also, neither would bone down with my manshep? What the hell!

    I’ve got nothing to say about Andromeda because I’m too poor to upgrade my potato so it will play the game. Fuckin’ shame too, since I am absolutely a junkie for space operas. Ah well.

  43. Coming Second says:

    In terms of gameplay, the transition from ME1 to ME2 was purest baby-with-the-bathwater. Certainly some of the more frustrating elements were removed and a much more tighter, action-orientated mix was achieved, but that came at the expense of any kind of interesting tactical choices, destruction of a cool and unique weapon cooldown system in favour of the utterly shameful heatsinks, and the eye-rolling cover system which enabled you to work out exactly where the enemies were going to pop up based upon the number of waist-high walls in the vicinity. ME3 is a lot better in many of these respects and deserves credit for that.

    As for the endlessly picked over story, the question of what might have been, and what Bioware became: It’s clear the whole thing is carried by the characters. You are made to care about them, the Dirty Dozen aspect is well built up and then superbly resolved. When people say this is the pick of the bunch this is really what they’re talking about – Tali’s loyalty mission, Garrus’s recruitment mission, Liara in the DLC and so on. But what’s surrounding these bubbles of magic is unfortunately dreck of the highest order. The plot is a complete shambles, setting in motion the problems which caused ME3’s train-crash of an ending.

    On a larger scale ME2 was able to muddle along on the sturdy foundations ME1 built, narrative and world. Once the new Bioware was creating beyond that, it became clear just how much they had lost in their transition from RPG creators to action blockbuster production line.

  44. Hammer1649 says:

    Wait, why are you supposed to say ME1 is better? Because in my opinion, it isn’t close. I’ve replayed ME2 about seven or eight times, whereas ME1 I only replayed once, and that was just to get the different ending referenced in the beginning of ME2.

  45. sege says:

    I’ve only played ME2. I never got around to buying ME1, I think it probably wasn’t on sale until after ME2 came out. I was always really interested in ME1, it looked great in reviews etc. But after I forced myself to complete ME2 I knew I was done with bioware unless they radically changed their formula.
    I can’t remember much about it except for this quest in a star port or somewhere where one alien wanted you to go and ask out this other alien 10 paces away on their behalf because they were too scared to or something. That was the moment I knew it wasn’t for me. Somehow that shitty side quest just killed bioware for me for good. The only other thing i remember is excessively compulsively scanning planets for some reason.
    The split of people either loving or hating this series really interests me. It really seems to divide opinion. Personally, i hate it.

  46. GreatHackster says:

    Can barely ever resist commenting/ranting on this dichotomy, but I’ll keep it short this time. Mass Effect 2 is the better “game” from just about any sort of gameplay perspective, but I still absolutely loathe it because it took the smart (for a video game) setting and space mystery plot of the first and turned it into dumb action schlock with explosions for explosions’ sake. Bioware’s strengths at character design come through very strongly in 2, yet I found I didn’t care about any of them, because them being subordinate to the Idiot Plot (TM) made them all idiots no matter how good their characterization was.

    This is why video game plots matter (to me, anyway). The characters that we get to know, and possibly love, are not created in a vacuum; they are the actors in the plot. The mechanics of the game are only contextualized by the advancement of the plot. Thus, if the plot is about stupid people making stupid decisions (head in the sand Council/Alliance, mega-super-totally-not-incompetent-terrorists Cerberus, stealthy intelligent Collectors that don’t even understand what escape pods are or how to spring a trap, a Shepard that blindly follows whoever holds his leash until he can make a big enough ‘splosion to convince himself to leave, etc … and that’s without even getting into the 3rd entry) … then it follows that all of the characters are stupid and I cease to care about them, as just about every problem they face could be solved with the age-old “have a 5 year old next to me to point out flaws in my plan” gag.

  47. Laurentius says:

    I like ME2 but simply speaking plot and story is veey weak. ME1 is celebration of classic space opera that has coherent plot and story that drives it forward. ME2 is better game gameplay wise but that’s all. ME1>ME2>ME3

    Same with Witcher series W1>W2>W3.

  48. AyeBraine says:

    I’ll join the choir with my own opinion of ME1!

    I think it had one of the best expositions in RPG gaming. Nothing spectacularly odd or innovative – just a steady, sure-handed, cinematic exposition with ever-widening context, in which your character is always – truly and convincingly – put into the center of the conflict.

    Convincing expositions need several seemingly obvious things that are omitted all to often. Convincing competence of the protagonist breeds convincing and immediate reactions (also making choices clearer). Convincing and immediate global conflict grounds you as the player faster into the story, even if on the whole it is outlandish. Finally, convincing and immediate local conflict declares the stakes and creates emotional connection: first, big expectations of you are made clear, then you pass a trial in a murky situation, then you are unfairly accused by all sides in various degrees, and only THEN and BECAUSE of that you are faced with the underlying big mystery; only after all that you are given the “magic power” of SPECTRE rank and a nominal hero’s mission.

    Then, of course, the game very deliberately opens up and lets you act “freely” on your established motivations, stakes and clues. Which is exactly what gave Mass Effect 1 its notable feeling of scale, wonder and freedom. For comparison, ME2 starts with an expodump that immediately translates into a laundry list of missions (spectacular ones, for sure). The “big mystery” is driven to the background and does not act as a motivator (it just reveals automatically throughout the game). The stakes are simply declared, and do not directly affect you (there is no account for, say, the possibility of Shepard deciding to just retire, change identity and lay low – he must act because he’s savior Shepard and the tools are there, not because his (very much existing) reputation, career and also humanity’s reputation and political future are at stake. Companion quests are great and flesh out the universe, but the only thing you can affect in relation to them is whether you’ve already started their quest yet or hadn’t got around to it yet. Oh I’m rambling again, sorry.

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      I’m sympathetic to the(near impossible) challenge of actually capturing moral choices in a game you could ship in finite time; but I found the way everything was boiled down to ‘paragon’ or ‘renegade'(sometimes in ways that left you guessing as to why, especially since the dialog hints are pretty uneven in telling you what you are about to say) really stifled the sense of being able to act like a real character.

      Since most of the really useful, sometimes vital, options were locked behind a requirement to have enough paragon or enough renegade(a high enough total ‘renown’ was never useful, had to have enough points in the same category); and since every NPC in the universe magically knew how many points you had, whether accrued through highly visible public action or in private conversations half a galaxy away, you pretty much had to be unidimensional:

      Want to approach missions ruthlessly, and just massacre your way through problems? Well, better be sure to take absolutely every opportunity to be a dick to your teammates, lest you accrue paragon points by being nice to them. Don’t really think Jenkins getting shot was that tragic? You Monster; what you said to Alenko on Eden Prime will make it incrementally less likely that you’ll ever be able to do something diplomatic rather than just shooting the guy.

      In addition to everyone in the entire universe seemingly knowing how many points you had; they all seemed to have basically the same opinion of you for it: if you had enough ‘paragon’ you could be tactful and diplomatic with the Asari councilor or some mercenary thugs with equal ease: you never ran into someone who assumed that you were a snivelling little diplomat for having paragon points; or someone who figured that when dealing with a known psycho renegade they might as well just start shooting first and hope for the best.

  49. ansionnach says:

    Well said, Alec. Knights of the Old Republic was the point at which Bioware succumbed to the console dumbing-down disease. Mass Effect has more stats and items but it’s all junk. There isn’t much choice in the narrative either, and the combat isn’t very good. Mass Effect 2 had enjoyable combat that succeeded in achieving the positives of consoliness. It shifted the role-playing to the more significant area of interacting with your crew and getting your ship ready for the mission. Your actions affected the result. As with some of the later Ultima games, the weapons didn’t have visible stats. Importantly, they all felt distinctive. I think Richard Garriott stated that the hiding of weapon stats was to encourage role-playing – that you choose to use a sword because you like it. This was what Mass Effect 2 did – ditch all the junk, throw-away weapons and armour from the first game and give you less, but more distinctive options. The weapons felt different and not just the same thing with different numbers.

    Anyway, I don’t consider the first Mass Effect to be an RPG but Mass Effect 2 is one of the best. It’s also the only Mass Effect game that I would say is essential. Forget about the other two completely. Life’s to short to waste on padding.

    • malkav11 says:

      Did we play the same game? The guns are purely bog-standard implementations of the basic gun types shooters have, and you get one more of each that’s a straight upgrade of the previous version (they even say so in their descriptions). Nothing distinctive about them. You have far fewer options because of shared cooldowns and biotics not working on shields/armor/barriers. (And the powers were what was distinctive, so deprecating their usefulness, as ME2 does to a dramatic degree, really hurts on that front.) Hiding visible stats just meant that there was no sense of reward from the upgrades. 10% more (x) isn’t a big enough improvement to be able to tell from play, and you don’t get to see whatever that number is go up by 10%, so they feel utterly meaningless.

  50. Pizzzahut says:

    Just finished ME2