Mass Effect 2 – Review


A friend commented that I tend to be all hyped up about a game then the next post about it tends to be less positive. No reason to buck that trend.

Mass Effect 2 is a great game, but like all sequels, it just doesn’t live up to the first version. EA haters can chime in now if you want, but living up to what ME delivered was going to be an epic task.

Why?

It’s hard to beat a first time experience. Everything similar will just cause you to reflect on that first experience. With that in mind, it’s not a horrible game, it’s a great game but seemed to lack a little something the first one had.

Here are a few things I didn’t like about the game.

Static Character Looks

You get a few pieces that can make your armor look different, but not a whole lot different. Gone are the Light, Medium and Heavy Armor types. Granted the previous armor looks were simply texturing on the same models, it was still something a little more.

Yes, you can modify your armor a bit with some individual piece chances (legs, shoulders, arms, helmet), colors and patterns but your Squad members never change their armor and the only way you can get them to look different is by doing their side missions. Even then, it’s just swapping some colors.

Missions Too Short, Too Similar

This was the thing that really disappointed me. In some ways that’s a positive, like when you’re really enjoying a movie and it comes to an end – you just want more.

The missions all seemed very similar in pattern and short in length. I there were more missions involving your squad members than actually dealing with the enemy. I found that disappointing. It made the game feel like it was more about building a squad, gaining their loyalty and less about what was going on.

Don’t get me wrong, the squad members are interesting, but again, the missions to get them or to gain their loyal were all very short and straight forward. And they made up the majority of the game’s content. It felt a little more like Mass Recruiting than Mass Effect 2.

In ME the squad was built as you went through the missions based on the main story, you didn’t really have a grocery list to fill out.

The formula seemed to be: RP investigation, do some fighting, maybe a little more RP and then some fighting. This made areas were too transient and you never really felt like there was a lot to be done in an area outside of one or two action sequences.

You’d be hard pressed to find a mission in ME2 that felt as lengthy (in a good way) as the one in ME that involved chasing down the Asari Matriarch. That one was really good, lengthy and involved a good mix of exploration, RP to investigate and varied action in several different locations – including some time in the MAKO.

That was another aspect that was missing; no vehicle time. The addition of the time in the MAKO made ME have a little more varied mission play. Something I feel ME2 missed out on.

Exploration Lacks Enough Reward

I also felt exploration was a little unrewarding. For the number of planets you could find in the various systems you were limited to scanning them. Only a very small fragment of the ones you scan will lead to other missions and those missions were short – way too short. I didn’t really find any hidden gems like Wrex’s armor from ME.

There didn’t appear to be any ships in space you could discover, instead you either got mail saying there was a ship to help out or you found an outpost where a ship was mentioned.

While scanning a planet and firing a probe down to collect it was amusing the first couple of times, after awhile the only thing I was really looking for was an anomaly or Elemental Zero node.

On the bright side, if you’re going to play through a second time you can import your ME2 character and start with all the benefits you unlocked, including the level. Also, you get to start with a bonus power (selected from the ones you unlocked by performing the loyalty missions for squad members) as well as a ton of money and resources. That means less time spent scanning planets for resources.

Loading, Please Wait…

Another thing I found a little punishing was the whole loading screens thing. There was far too much loading.

I blame the consoles for that. I’ve got a dual core CPU with 8gb of RAM and some of the fastest HDs available (aside from slate). Nothing should take that long to load.

It got to the point that I’d actually plan out where I’d go on the Normandy simply because I knew I was going to face a couple of loading screens.

On the Normandy.

Come on! I shouldn’t have to load when going from one level of the ship to another! I mean, REALLY? I have to load up my room? It’s one room!

And the loading was pretty damn slow. Maybe I was just anxious to get playing, but for what was loaded up, it really didn’t seem to warrant the time spent loading.

Dumbed Down

I really don’t like that they removed a lot of the character advancement choices from the game. There used to be a good number of additional skills and abilities. A lot more choice in advancing your character and the squad members, but now you get so few options to pick from and nearly enough points to buy everything.

There might as well not be any choice at all – why not just assign these abilities automatically as you level?

Bugs

Remarkably, I didn’t run into any crashes – not a single one.

The only issue I had was the odd time my character would be stuck advancing up the Z-axis for no apparent reason. This happened two or three times and there was no easy way out. The first time was in a doorway so I thought I might have gotten stuck on the door close animation but the next time I saw it there wasn’t a door or so much as a rock in the way. I just stepped into a part in the path way and it started making me go straight up.

You Beat The Game… Right?

You can continue playing after you beat the game so as to finish exploring things or maybe clearing up some of the loyalty missions. The part I didn’t like about this is that most of the Squad still responded to you in a similar manner. Oh, each one congratulated you on doing what you did and took your side, but they said little else than that and went back into default mode.

The Good

Building a character was interesting. The opening sequence leads into it all pretty nicely. I was a little disappointed that you didn’t get a chance to customize the major decision points from the previous games – I’m not sure how many people kept their save games around. (I could see having to do this each time you create a new character being a little painful.)

I like the hacking and bypassing mini-games. It was a nifty little gimmick that was a break from picking chat or shooting stuff but not enough of that it got annoying. I have mixed feelings on how things continue as you’re trying to do this.

Despite my complaining about squad member related missions dominating the content, I did really like the squad members and their (limited) interactions with others. The interactions they had seemed to make sense (Tali/Legion and Miranda/Jack).

The game performed well (it better have for all the loading it did!) without any hiccups, hangs or crashes even when I was ALT-Tabbing out to check things and then back in.

The goals involved in several of the missions seemed different, which is probably part of what frustrated me. Some were neat and you never got a chance to do it again.

The voice acting was well done and the animations tied to them made sense and weren’t unbelievable active.

The combat was definitely fun, though I wish there was more of it and in more challenging fashions. Having to actually use the environment for more than cover would have been nice. There were opportunities, but none of the battles were overly complicated outside of the final one.

The end was interesting and definitely sets up for ME3.

Conclusion

It is a great game, but I can’t help but feel they cut out things to make allow for other things.

Looking back on this, it seems like a negative review but it isn’t. Those are the flaws of one of the most engrossing games I’ve played since I played the first one. I can’t help but feel my disappointment is summed up by there not being more.

MORE.

NOW!

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