26 July 2013

'Mass Effect 2': Part I

At last, a Mass Effect title I can bitch less about! ...Maybe.

There is far too much to say about the trilogy, hence my splitting the first game's review into three parts. If there were too many unnecessary details thrown, I apologize. (But I really had to get the inventory system disaster off my chest.)

This game will probably get as much attention, mainly because the team you assemble is much, much larger. I'll get to them when I can though. One step at a time.

Heh, even after I finish this, I know I will have skipped over a ton of material. I can never win.

Once again I'll warn everyone that there are SPOILERS.

And one of MANY stupid memes that I need to reference just to shut the fans up.

Everyone, cue the infamous one finger air quote:

Now... let's begin.

My Experience

Just serving as a recap. Paragon female Shepard. Some Renegade choices too tempting to resist. Tries out different background histories for dialogue changes and classes for keeping the gameplay varied and fun. Likes most classes, though avoids Soldier most times. *inhales* Prefers talking over shooting.

Tries to get everyone to survive at the end of the game. Enjoys talking to squadmates. Can't resist flipping the bird at Illusive Man. X)

Now, back to normalspeak.

Shot from 'Mass Effect: Genesis' interactive comic.
As a reminder to old viewers and a fun fact for new ones, keep in mind that I own the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2. It contains the base game as well as the majority of the downloadable content ("Stolen Memory", Cerberus Network, "Lair of the Shadow Broker", and "Project Overlord"). Before the first Mass Effect game came out, we could only follow the plot via the interactive comic which also came in with the Cerberus Network. There, we could make the major plot choices, i.e. Wrex's fate, who survived on Virmire, who did Shepard romance, etc. Like everyone else, however, I bought the "Arrival" DLC for $8.00 to complete the Mass Effect 2 experience.

And for the final time, YES. Data from the first game can transfer into Mass Effect 2! The patch came out a LONG time ago. If you have internet access AND played this game sometime after Dec 7, 2012 you probably already have it installed. PLEASE stop bombarding the internet with the same question over and over again! Check the Mass Effect wiki if you have to! Call EA for technical help! Just stop asking the community! PLEASE!

It's July 2013! This is old news! Don't be those Persona 3 Portable players that whine about that damn pocket watch! X(


Onto the game.


If you played a shooter, you may be more comfortable with a decent amount of the combat. Mass Effect 2 uses guns with thermal clips, replacing the unlimited ammunition system of the first game. The usual shooter mechanics apply here: take cover, dodge bullets, don't get killed. Blah, blah, blah. The combat is fast-paced enough so you won't get too lost and confused. No matter which class you play as, there are plenty of weapons and techniques to utilize when attacking enemies. Don't panic if your pistol or assault rifle runs out.

The six classes are back with their focuses on combat, tech, or biotics, though with some new goodies and changes!

  • To make up for lacking tech and biotic abilities, Soldiers have varying types of ammo modifications help you fight any enemies and bypass their shields. They can use assault and sniper rifles, shotguns, and pistols.
  • Infiltrators now gain a tactical cloak, making you invisible for some time. They have sniper rifles, pistols, and submachine guns.
  • Engineers are able to use a reliable combat drone to attack or distract enemies. Pistols and submachine guns are useable.
  • Sentinels don't gain any new abilities, but they can finally pick up a gun and use it well. They have submachine guns and pistols as well.
  • Pull and shockwave are new crowd-control tricks in the Adept's arsenal. Submachine guns and pistols are available.
  • Vanguards use the infamous Biotic Charge technique, allowing Shepard to slam his/her body into an enemy with extreme force. Shotguns, submachine guns, and pistols are their weapons.

An interesting addition to the gameplay is the heavy weapon, which only Shepard can use. The kinds of "heavy weapon" varies from a flamethrower, a nuke-flinging cannon, a grenade launcher, etc. With this new tool, the game tends to be easier to complete via the Soldier class on higher difficulties. Otherwise, it's best with the largest targets in the game, such as Praetorians or the final boss at the last main story mission.

New weapons and upgrades are found throughout the various main story missions, so keep an eye open. Some can only be made, however, by mining for resources on planets and investing at Mordin's lab on the ship. Resource mining was a great complaint among gamers for being slow and tedious for those wanting to best prepare for the Suicide Mission at the end of the base game. True, it sucks to go back and forth between the lab and the galaxy map to get enough Palladium for armor upgrades. But if you plan to do one big upgrade hiatus, complete as many main story missions as much as possible before the Derelict Reaper mission. By then, you'll be just fine for the end game, even if you didn't get everything.


"Nothing's faster than Chiktikka vas Paus!" 
Whenever you go outside the Normandy and into a mission or hub world, you bring two squadmates with you. Again in combat they tend to be very helpful if you bring the right people. Sometimes it's hard when there are twelve to choose from because maybe three people can complete the same job very effectively. Usually I would have variety in my squad make-up, but I would have favorites for certain missions.

Sometimes I bring someone along only for the battle cries. Bring along Grunt for his Concussive Shot, Mordin for Incendiary, or Tali for her combat drone at least once just to hear what they say. And they are all epic.

Hey. It beats the constant looping of "I'm on it!", "I will destroy you!", "Enemy is everywhere!", and "Hold the line!" in the first Mass Effect. Because they have a sense of humor and awareness of their fans, BioWare threw in several references to the annoying battle cries from before.

That being said, each squadmate has his/her strengths and weaknesses... for good or for ill. Some are best suited for confronting synthetic enemies (like Tali and Legion), others for organic (Grunt and Jacob). Some are flexible and can get past enemy barriers, shields, and armor (Miranda). And there are some who have effective offensive abilities or weapons, but drop like flies because their health sucks (Jack and Kasumi).

Unlike the first game, no one falls into a certain class perfectly. Fans continue to debate over categorizing everyone. Tali might have the skills of an Engineer, but she prefers to use a shotgun, not a SMG. In the same vein, having a sniper rifle can mean that Thane is an Infiltrator; however, he has biotic abilities, not tech. Jack is like a vanguard, only her strength is more in biotics rather than combat, defense, and guns. This makes the squad selection process even more complicated. However, it highlights the uniqueness of everyone on your team.

Everyone comes into the game at different points, so the beginning might not be so bad since you'll only have at least five or six people.

Thankfully, keeping track of your abilities as you level up is much simpler this time around. You can only go up to level 30, and you have only six categories of skills to invest in. Your teammates start off with three talents, but a fourth will be unlocked if you fulfill certain requirements. With no inventory and no convoluted armor and weapon types, models, and fits, you have more time to focus on tactics.

What replaces it? Planet scanning.

You know, after playing a few other games, I returned to Mass Effect 2 and realized how much I really did not mind it. Fans hate it, of course, because you have to find planets, scan them, launch a missile, and gather resources to help take care of the various upgrades in the laboratory. 

But let me re-emphasize how this system is NOT the spawn of Satan. That would be Mass Effect 1's inventory system. Planet scanning is not endless hours of level grinding. It does not take forever. In two hours, I can mine for Platinum and Iridium, upgrade the ammo capacity of our sniper rifles, complete two loyalty missions, take a bathroom break, and chat with Mordin. The first time you play Mass Effect 2, you will probably spend maybe one or two hours out of thirty to find resources via the galaxy map. Otherwise, this stuff is littered all across the environment when completing missions or in stores in hub worlds.

If you transferred data from the first Mass Effect, you will get a nice batch of bonuses. One, you get about 50,000 units of minerals - guaranteeing you will never have to mine for Element Zero as omni-tool and biotic upgrades are very nonexistent. Two, say hello to a buttload of credits to spend! A few upgrades bought from the shops on Omega and the Citadel give you more to invest in. Three, whatever level your Shepard was from 50 to 60 can also give you a head start in improving talents. Starting off this game at level 5 thanks to thirty hours of driving the damn Mako everywhere is a grand sigh of relief. At least for about four hours when Archangel's recruitment mission kicks you in the balls.

Varren. The hounds of hell.

Even with the transfer data, the combat can still be a pain in the ass. No matter what level you are, Mass Effect 2's enemies will not run away from a fully upgraded squad with the great Commander Shepard holding the almighty, nuclear-war-head power of the Cain heavy weapon. You need to know what you're doing, pick the right teammates, and fight it out.

The enemies are varied enough that the combat is not any more repetitive than the run-and-shoot formula of shooters. You get to fight mercenaries of various races in the Mass Effect universe; wild scavengers; and mechs, both large and small. Even the geth make an very brief appearance for awhile. Some enemies have barriers, shields, or armor that you have to get rid of before you kill them. The nastiest ones, the genetically mutated Collectors, have multiple layers of protection. You will hate these guys with a passion. They are the reason Horizon is probably the most despised mission in this game. And for good reason.

That might just be the shooter virgin whining, but I easily found combat in this game to be more unforgiving here than in ME3. However, once I got used to it I became comfortable with the gameplay. Overall though, it's more challenging than ME1's, which became laughably easy by the halfway point.

Even Humans Talk Things to Death

Once again, Mass Effect truly shines when characters stop shooting and TALK.

The basic superficial mechanics from ME1 remain here. Although there are several changes, some of which might make this game and ME3 bite you really badly later on.

The basic mechanics of conversations are still pretty straightforward. You get a dialogue circle, with six spaces for the various potential ways to respond to characters. The choices on the left side tend to be investigative, leading to a variety of topics which you can ask about certain things. Even as I play the game for the fifty-thousandth time, I still ask some of these questions because the responses tend to be very well thought out in fleshing out the people, places, and themes within this large universe BioWare crafted. In some missions, picking the options on the left tend to help improve your chances of winning someone over, or fulfilling a mission. Samara's loyalty mission is a great example of this. If you try to breeze through the mission and not give a crap, you will gloss over so many details that might have helped you to complete it and gain her trust.

On the right side we have the options that tend to have a "let's get on with it" feel. However, there are certain ways you can say it. That's where the Paragon/Renegade morality kicks in. Paragon responses tend to be at the top, Renegade at the bottom.  There are "neutral" choices as well, but in this installment, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED you stick very conservatively to Paragon or Renegade.

Sometimes a big event might happen and a special option may pop up on the left side of the dialogue circle. The response may be highlighted in blue (for Paragon) or red (for Renegade). They are ONLY available if your morality meter is high enough on either of the two sides of morality. If you keep taking neutral options, or if you jump back and forth between Paragon and Renegade options, you will not be able to take these special "third" options.

The mechanics for this are very stupid, as it compares how many Paragon (or Renegade) points you earn out of how many you can obtain up to a certain point. If I can get 50 Paragon points by the end of mission A but only get 48, the score is 48/50. It'll compound with mission B, where I get 32 out of 60, making the total now 80/110 on the Paragon side. A similar, but separate score is tallied with Renegade.

In other words, if you go bipolar and flip flop, the more difficult choices late in the game will be impossible to solve by taking a third option. One confrontation in particular tends to be set as the epitome of BE CAREFUL as it along with other mess-ups can lead to anger and disaster in Mass Effect 3. Am I right, Tali fans?

Simply put, be very, very, very, very, very blue or very, very, very, very, very red. That's the best way for me to say it.

Also, this game is the first in the trilogy to use the interrupt system.

The above video shows one example of "interruptions" during cutscenes. The one in red coincides with a Renegade choice, and the blue is Paragon. Pretty straightforward. Several of these appear throughout the course of the game, so there are plenty to pick from and see what happens.

I can't judge for certain how much Mass Effect 2 rips off of shooters in general, but overall, it was a mildly satisfying, but addictive experience. It's enjoyable enough that I have gone back and start a few new careers with a new Shepard and new class. Playing with the morality system is fun too, but I wish it was more flexible like it was in the first game. In the end though, I still tend to converse with some squad mates more than others, ultimately affecting certain relationships. (I'll get there later.)


By this point if you have not played the first game (unless you got stuck with the Wii U), go ahead and play it NOW. PS3 owners, go on PSN and download it. Xbox owners, do the same on Xbox Live. NOW. Return here after you completed it.



... You back from playing? Good. :)

This game starts off right after the events of the first game. Commander Shepard is sent to patrol the fringes of space for signs of any more geth activity. Instead a giant ship comes out of nowhere and destroys the Normandy. All of the trilogy's plot-relevant characters survive except for Shepard. *cue title screen and cries of bullshit from first-time players of the game*

Jump ahead two years when the pro-human interest group, Cerberus, spens a fortune rebuilding Shepard. Once he/she technically rises back from the dead, the Illusive Man orders Shepard to investigate who is abducting humans from colonies throughout the galaxy and launch a mission to stop them. Cerberus is even kind enough to reconstruct and revamp the Normandy, bring in some familiar faces on the ship (how can you not love Joker?), and creating a dossier of various people who can help fulfill this mission.

The best part? You and your squad might not come out alive. In the case everyone dies, it's the non-canonical "bad ending."


Sadly, the galaxy is not comfortable about Shepard no longer being "killed in action" and not serving the Alliance military anymore. So expect a bit of a shitstorm ala the galactic council visit on the Citadel and the Horizon mission. Even Shepard's previous status as a council-approved reconnoissance agent, known as a Spectre, is nearly invalid due to the revelation of Shepard being alive and working for a terrorist group. For this reason, you might end up hating your old human squad mate from the first game who makes a cameo. I know I was pretty angry.

The real meat to Mass Effect 2's story is in the missions relating to your squad mates. The recruitment missions serve as character introductions, while the loyalty missions provide character development. Although you can chat with your teammates on the Normandy all you want, the full experience lies in actively getting involved with each individual. If all goes well, that one guy with the attitude problem might actually warm up to you and help out in the suicide mission.

Several of the loyalty missions are fantastic, since they later affect major story arcs in Mass Effect 3. Mordin's and Legion's are prime examples. One deals with a great ethical dilemma that was first brought up several times in the first game. The other is just as intriguing, shedding more light on a topic lightly grazed over before. Both left me with a few good solid minutes to make a major choice at the end of the missions.

Oh, ho! This ain't nothin' next to ol' Kalros!
Other loyalty missions were interesting if only for the character development or gameplay gimmick. Tali' s mission takes place in the middle of a trial that might ultimately end with her being cast out of her society.  Grunt's mission was an all-out fighting pit against some nasty monsters and a gigantic thresher maw.
Samara's was tracking and luring out an individual in a club to assassinate her.

For some strange reason, though, I was so emotionally involved in Garrus's loyalty mission. There was no time limit, but I somehow reacted like I was desperately running to stop a nuclear bomb from destroying a city. Once I completed the mission, I forced myself to turn the game off for the day because my hands were trembling and my heart was beating aggressively. It took two hours for me to calm down. Damn turian bastard trying to kill me. TT-TT

Once you recruit everyone and complete the major assignments, you are ready to jump head-first into your suicide mission. It doesn't matter if no one dies or ten die, Shepard will survive the mission and the main storyline is completed. Depending on the player, you may actually want to have everyone live. Because if anyone dies, the game will guilt-trip you and blame you for so-and-so's death. If you really suck, though, and all of your squad mates die, Shepard dies as well! So be wise, since you will most likely want to transfer your file to the third game.

Unless you let bad things happen for the lulz.

After that mess, you are free to traverse the galaxy and be a completionist if you desire. I would only recommend playing some missions from downloadable content, such as "Lair of the Shadow Broker" and "Arrival", after the suicide mission as the pacing tends to be far less jarring. But whatever, do whatever you want. Thankfully, this is the most open-world Mass Effect gets.

Indeed, Shepard. Yahg got teeth...
Speaking of which, ME2 has fantastic DLC. "Lair of the Shadow Broker" finally shows you what happened to Liara and how she changed from the first game. Plus the battle with the Shadow Broker gave both her and Shepard a ton of badass points. Even the bonus background content, from dossier files to hilarious videos, you can check out after the mission is full of detailed, but interesting filler. "Arrival", despite feeling a bit underwhelming next to "LotSB", nicely sets up the beginning of the galactic-wide Reaper invasion in ME3.

Other than the bonus content, ME2 feels a lot more like a filler episode. Even though the Collectors are the enemy, you end up caring a lot more about keeping your crew alive rather than preparing for the Reapers. The galaxy and its inhabitants have more time to develop and flesh out while the real enemy sits on the back burner, ignored but ready to strike at any moment. That may have been the point, since Cerberus is the only major organization that believes Shepard's warnings about the Reapers are true. Furthermore, the leaders of the galactic government more than likely think that Shepard is STILL clinically insane for believing in such "superstition". Cue the stupid "Ah, yes, 'Reapers'" meme.

However, the main plot of the trilogy felt like it was put on a thirty-hour hold until the very last second. There could have been a few more hints on the origin of the enemy rather than slipping plot progression on DLC for this game as well as the third. Rather than trying to expand on the ideas laid out in the first game, Mass Effect 2 puts them aside, only for them to rush back into the third game and throwing the storytelling out of whack.

(Note: I know, I know about the drama over one of the main writers leaving during the development of ME3. The writing department was clearly not at their best, but what happened happened.)

Overall, Mass Effect 2 is well written on its own, but stands out awkwardly within the confines of the trilogy. It's the obvious outlier, the one fans can't stop picking on. Whenever fans ask when the story started to go downhill, many point to this game. Yes, Mass Effect 2 feels out of place because of its style and focus, but it prepares us for the emotionally gripping character moments of awesome and sadness in the third installment. If nothing else, this is a "filler episode" done right: the perfect appetizer before the real, delicious feast arrives. It at least deserves that much credit.


Alrighty, next time, we'll dive into characters. By this rate, it'll be one looooooooooong post. The twelve you recruit are the real meat of the game, and I love it! ...Most of the time.

Until then, I leave you with another meme.

Ladies and gentlemen, WHO is the deadliest son of a bitch in space?!


Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


Voltech said...

You know, I had an interesting conversation with my brother a while back. We were discussing EA, and he -- like a lot of people, I'm guessing -- was convinced that everyone's favorite company ruined Mass Effect 3. More importantly, he let it slip that Mass Effect 2 was not only the better game, but one of his favorite games period.

Looking at this post, I'm starting to see why. Just a glance at a few of these clips reminds me that Mass Effect -- this game, and the franchise in general -- is something special.

Watching that clip with Tali on trial put a smile on my face. Seeing the multiple choices offered really makes me think about how BioWare put some genuine effort into catering to different tastes and approaches. I played a straight Paragon and was rewarded, but I can see now that the other options are just as viable AND just as entertaining. (Though that might just be because Renegade Shepard channels the spirit of Phoenix Wright at a few points.)

I'm not much in the way of shooters either, but I'm with you on this one: the point of this game isn't about how many headshots you can score, but how you handle relationships, decisions, and whatever situations come your way. If ever there was a franchise other games needed to take lessons from, it's this one.

In any case, good to see that your ME2 posts are coming. You've got a commanding understanding of the franchise, so I'll be entrusting the in-depth stuff to you. Looking forward to the next post.

...And now lamenting the fact that I didn't make a FemShep so I could be soothed by the timbre of Jennifer Hale's voice.

...What? It's a good voice. She's no Crispin Freeman, but it's more than good enough.

Melanie~Light said...

Hey, no worries! I freakin' LOVE Jennifer Hale as FemShep! For some reason, I can't identify many female voice actresses from each other. So it was Christmas morning for me when I saw the name Jennifer Hale and heard the voice enough in other media to recognize her anywhere. (She's even Samus in the Metroid Prime trilogy = AWESOME!) Tara Platt is another one that's been sticking lately.

Otherwise, I can list off far more male voice actors and recognize them. (For some reason I can never pick up on Johnny Yong Bosch. o_O)


A while back I started a Renegade play through, though I was far more benevolent than what many would consider a "true" red. i.e.) My Shep continued to badmouth and distrust the Illusive Man, she completed loyalty missions even after she blew off everyone's cry for help (she softened up a bit later with some), and she called out the quarians on their political bullshit. The Renegade version of that speech was the most inspiring thing ever.

'Mass Effect 3'... will be interesting. I have a bunch of posts about the ending ALONE. I still can't decide if ME2 is better than ME3 overall, as both had their brilliant mountains and their lousy trenches.

Now, I have to finish up the characters of ME2. It's coming up, I can assure you that, but part 2 (and maybe 3 at this rate) will take a long time. I have only examined five of the twelve you can recruit, and some have more material I can work with than others. One in particular is turning into -- now I've said too much. X(

I appreciate your post. My understanding of the franchise might be a bit overestimated (I can't argue all the sci-fi-related BS pulled out of the writers' asses for example), but I think some of my opinions aren't voiced enough among the fanbase.

Still, gotta get my voice out there somehow. I'm glad you look forward to my ramblings.

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