It’s amazing how quickly (and maybe a little obsessively) I go through games that has me hooked. It definitely wasn’t that long ago since I wrote a review for my thoughts on the first Mass Effect. Now I’m back with another game review for Mass Effect 2.
The Mass Effect series is truly an amazing game to play. The second part of the series makes it even better than the first. When playing Mass Effect 2, you get to import your Commander Shepard from the first game. Actions and decisions you have made in the first game will influence the second game in some way. I enjoy the idea of importing characters from a previous game to have their personalities and actions get shaped even more in a new installment of a series.
The game opens up with everyone on board the Normandy. All is seemingly normal until the ship gets attacked. Panic and chaos ensues. Some people die and others manage to get off the ship. Among the ones not so lucky to make it is Commander Shepard. You heard right. Your main character and star of the game starts off dead. This doesn’t mean this is the end of your Shepard. Far from it. This is when the real story begins. A shady, pro-human organization known as Cerberus manages to retrieve Shepard’s body and thanks to advanced medicine and science at work––Cerberus manages to bring your hero/heroine back to life. When Shepard awakens he/she is confused and wary of being in the care of a known terrorist organization. Cerberus is actually touched upon briefly in the first game through side assignments if a player chooses to do them. If you do the side assignments from the first game, you already know Cerberus isn’t to be trusted.
Shepard gets a clearer idea of what’s going on when he/she is contacted by the organization’s leader the Illusive Man. Shepard finds out that it was the Illusive Man who sought to recover Shepard’s body and spent a good amount of money to bring Shepard back from the dead in a span of two years just so Shepard can do what he/she does best––save the galaxy from another outside threat. The new threat this time comes from an insect type species known as the Collectors. The Collectors are abducting human colonies and using the humans they collect to conduct experiments for the Reapers. Shepard is forced into an uneasy alliance with the Illusive Man and the Cerberus organization to stop the Collectors from taking anymore human colonies. Stopping the Collectors is no easy task, and Shepard has to assemble the best from all across the galaxy to take part in what’s considered to be a suicide mission.
Mass Effect 2 sees the return of familiar faces from the first game as well as a whole new cast of characters to recruit and get to know. I would list the new characters, but there is quite a number of them including the DLC characters you can have in the game. By the time I assembled my team, I was overwhelmed by how huge my squad got. There are even more new characters you can romance in Mass Effect 2. I didn’t romance anyone in this playthrough because I wanted my female Shepard to remain faithful to Kaidan from the first Mass Effect game. There is a payoff for staying faithful to your romance in Mass Effect 3, and I am looking forward to seeing it once I start my first playthrough of Mass Effect 3 this weekend.
The graphics are much improved since the first game, and combat feels more fluid and less stiff than the first. In combat mode, Shepard can duck behind objects or vault over them to move forward or get closer to the enemy. This was something that wasn’t possible in the first game. Weapons need to be reloaded in order to continue using them. Paragon and Renegade gauges are still the same, but the second game adds another unique element to the system. During certain points in the conversation with characters, you are prompted to interrupt a character who is in the middle of talking to do a Paragon or Renegade action if available. These prompts can help increase your Paragon or Renegade gauge. These actions can range from hugging a distraught character or punching someone in the face if they get on your nerves. You don’t have to do any of the actions if you don’t want to, but if you are going for full Paragon, Renegade, or in between then it’s best you utilize these prompts whenever they appear.
Since the old Normandy gets blown up at the start of the second game, a new Normandy is in place thanks to Cerberus rebuilding the Normandy as she was before but with fancier upgrades. There’s more room to explore the ship, and each new character you recruit has their own space they hang out or bunk in. Shepard even gets his/her own room which can be customized with decor and pets you can buy at stores in cities you visit during the game. Shepard’s armor can be customized however a player likes and they can choose an outfit Shepard will wear during the time he/she is on board the Normandy and isn’t out on major missions or assignments.
The overall story in Mass Effect 2 focuses mainly on Cerberus, the Illusive Man, and the Collectors. I read some reviews on the Internet about how the story in this game compared to the first Mass Effect is a bit weak. I did enjoy the story for the most part, but I have to agree with the reviews about the story. I kind of feel there isn’t much to tell other than to get Shepard to the suicide mission and stop the Collectors. You don’t get to know more about the Illusive Man and you don’t really get much insight into the Reapers other than the Collectors are working for them and are using the human colonists for experiments.
A lot of the major missions for the game is to recruit the best of the best for your suicide mission. This involves going from Point A to Point B to pick up a person and then keep repeating the process. Eventually, the recruited person will want to talk to you on the Normandy which triggers their loyalty missions. The loyalty missions aren’t necessarily required to complete from what I’ve read in forums and Wiki guides, but it is essential if you want a better shot at your entire squad surviving by the end of the game.
Mass Effect 2 is more like a collection of individual stories rather than a story on a grand scale like the first Mass Effect. Maybe that’s why the story in Mass Effect 2 comes off a little weak? Despite that, I did enjoy doing all the loyalty missions of every single character I needed to recruit. The loyalty missions are very character driven and it allows the player to know where each of these characters are coming from.
I think the best thing about Mass Effect 2 is the suicide mission itself. During a certain point in the game, the crew on the Normandy except for the Normandy’s pilot Joker are abducted by the Collectors after Shepard and squad take the shuttle away from the Normandy in a brief cut scene. Using Reaper technology known as the IFF, the Normandy has to go through the Omega 4 Relay which allows the ship to travel to the Collector’s base. It’s considered a suicide mission because no ship that has managed to go through the Omega 4 Relay ever comes back out alive again. What’s crucial to the success of keeping your main squad and the background crew of the Normandy alive is if you upgrade the Normandy ship with the necessary equipment it needs to sustain a Collector attack, making sure you travel straight to the Omega 4 Relay to rescue the crew without doing any additional incomplete missions/side assignments, and assigning the right squad member for a specific job during the suicide mission.
To ensure everyone in my first playthrough made it out alive, I consulted Wikis and forums to find the best combination of people to get through the suicide mission without any casualties. I also made sure to do all the missions and side assignments before obtaining the IFF. Upgrading the ship and my squad was a no brainer during my first run with the game. Even with all the preparations I made, I was still nervous about the idea of losing anyone. Every cut scene that showed the outcome of what I did had me at the edge of my seat. This was one mission where I was absolutely hanging on every moment until I knew my Shepard and her squad has emerged victorious.
This game did have a few downsides like the slightly weak storyline. It’s hard to care about the Illusive Man or Cerberus past the fact that he’s mysterious and Cerberus has questionable methods on how they do things. I know the Illusive Man is meant to be a threat in the Mass Effect universe along with the Reapers, but he really doesn’t feel all that threatening compared to what the Reapers are capable of based on what is said about them in the first game. Mass Effect 2 still gives players the ability to explore planets, but they add the annoying task of scanning and launching probes to collect the necessary minerals to upgrade the Normandy, weapons, and armor. This is another downside of the game. With so many planets to scan and launch probes for minerals, I found myself growing impatient when all I want to do is get on with the story. It’s hard to skip this part of the game when you need enough minerals for the upgrades to get the best possible outcome by the end of the game.
Mass Effect 2 is an enjoyable sequel to the first Mass Effect. By adding an element of unpredictable outcomes in the suicide mission, it makes replaying the second game over and over again that more desirable. I may have managed to save everyone in my first playthrough, but I am curious to try a different set of outcomes to see who I will end up losing in the end. It will also make importing a Mass Effect 2 save file for Mass Effect 3 an entirely different gaming experience all together. I recommend playing Mass Effect 2 if you love the first Mass Effect. And if you’ve never played the series before, I suggest playing both to get more out of your RPG experience.
Reviewer Rating: 9/10