Release Date: 1/26/2010
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BioWare has to be some of the most talented beings on the face of the planet because these guys can just pull whole new cultures, religions, and universes out of their asses like it was yesterday’s dinner. Mass Effect has a rich amazing universe attached to it with believable races, characters, religions, cultures, and it feels like a whole alternate universe that could exist. Mass Effect 2 expands on this for fans of the original (yeah don’t play it unless you played the first…seriously). Not only is this just a direct sequel, but all your actions from the original game affect the outcome of this one…amazing. Mass Effect 2 has Command Shepard being remade as a machine almost after the Normandy gets destroyed by Collectors. Cerberus fixes you up for 2 years and now you have to rebuild your team, find your previous ones, and stop the Collectors from destroying the human race and working with the Reapers.
Mass Effect 2 has so many changes that were much-needed and the game just feels tighter, more fluent, and action-packed. The action is the keyword here since a lot of the mundane RPG elements were stripped. To get an idea of what was improved I’ll start with squad management. Instead of finding armor for each type of race and maintaining every stat of that armor and the character, you no longer manage your team’s armor, just yours. You also no longer have to go find armor like the original. Armor can be bought from world markets and you equip each piece in your cabin on the Normandy 2. You can even change the color and scheme of the armor as well as your casual clothes. This is great and I love it because micromanaging armor in the first game was a real pain. The same goes for weapons. You no longer have to find and add each element to every weapon like ammo types and add-ons because those are now gone as well. Instead, you find weapons during missions or in markets. You can equip them via a loadout and the same goes for your squad.
Let’s talk about the radial menus here. You get three ammo types: Cryo, incinerate, and disruptor. Each can be used for certain enemies. Your powers are activated here too but you can now map them to buttons. When shooting weapons you no longer have a “heat gauge” but actual ammo. The weapons draw heat to a “clip” which is discharged once it gets too hot. If you run out of these clips your weapons won’t fire thus solving that annoying heat meter crap from the first game. This helps the game feel like a solid shooter instead of a game that doesn’t know if it’s an action game or a straight RPG.
The shooting and fighting in the game are now really solid and you just feel so powerful with all these guns at your disposal. You can upgrade everything (including your ship and this has outcomes during the last mission) by finding research projects while on missions. This solves all the RPG elements from the last game so it feels like a solid shooter. Don’t get too upset there are still RPG elements, but they are only in upgrading your teammates and yourself. Instead of upgrading every single element such as each ammo type, every biotic type, this and that you only have about 4-6 traits you upgrade. This includes your main character’s ability, biotic or ammo types, and any other special skill. Each one can be upgraded up to level four and after that, you get a choice between two special bonus perks. This makes the leveling feel more solid, fluid, and more resourceful.
Another great improvement is the galaxy map navigation. No longer are you just a cursor floating around the map, but you actually move your ship. When you are outside solar systems traveling in dead space on the map you use fuel, but the biggest improvement is no more excavating resources via the stupid rover vehicle. In fact, all vehicle control has been stripped from the game. Instead, you use a scanner on unexplored planets, and when the controller vibrates you will see your meter spike over a certain gauge. This will be one of the five resources used to upgrade things in the game. While it sounds more repetitive it’s nice to break up the action of the game and get some downtime.
If those don’t sound like enough of an improvement how about the story? The story is still as epic and emotionally engrossing as the first if not more so. There are a couple of new races added such as the vorcha, drell, and Batarians. There are new characters that you can recruit and they are all as loveable and memorable as in the first game. Of course, all your old pals return, but my favorite part about the game, which isn’t in any other, is how you’re original save carries over.
If you had a relationship with a previous mate you will see that in the game, saving and killing certain characters in the past will pop up in the sequel reflecting certain outcomes of missions, if you chose the renegade or paragon path reflects off your character with red scars and reddened eyes if you were a badass. You truly feel like you were dead for two years and all your choices in your past came back to haunt you. It’s a mind trip and it really makes you that much more involved in the story. Every choice you take during dialogs trees affects what you do, and BioWare is the master of this.
The only reason why this one scores lower than the original is that most of this has been seen in the original and isn’t anything new for vets of Mass Effect. The new additions just keep the score really high but don’t give us that new feeling. With improved graphics and the same amazing voice acting Mass Effect 2 will keep fans busy for a good 25-30 hours, but watch what you do because it will affect your outcome in Mass Effect 3.
BUYING A NEW COPY: This will grant you access to a free content update that’s normally $15 for free. This includes a new character, Zaeed, and two other missions that involve the crash of Normandy. While this update is not worth $15 buying a new copy makes you feel like you’re truly getting your money’s worth.