This evening, I finished my first play through of Mass Effect 2. I say first because it definitely will not be the only one.
Truth be told, I had to warm up to this series. I bought Mass Effect for cheap, if I remember correctly. Part of the problem was the sheer repetition of some of the missions: land your rover on a planet, drive around looking for stuff, go through cookie-cutter copies of the same base. Rinse, repeat. The player had to sort through myriad armor sets, weapons, modifications. Wow. It was a complex ordeal. The game grew on me eventually, in no small part because of the intense story. I honestly wasn't sure if I would be interested in the sequel, but when I heard the rave reviews for Mass Effect 2, I decided to pull out the original and play through it again. I had so much fun with it the second time through, I immediately played it through a third. And then I knew I had to get the sequel.
I'm glad I did. The designers at BioWare did a great job rebuilding the game engine. Gone are the repetitive level designs. Gone is the driving around on planet surfaces looking for junk to salvage and minerals to survey. Gone are the complex inventory screens and arsenals. Everything is stripped down and much cleaner. In some ways, it was almost too simple. I missed being able to "dress" my squad with their own armor and weaponry.
And much prettier too, I must say. I was actually very worried about whether or not my desktop could handle the graphics. It turns out my concerns were unfounded. I took the images for this post from the official website and my experience wasn't quite as sharp, but it was pretty close.
Since this is an RPG, there's not as much action as in other games. As a matter of fact, my wife referred to both Mass Effect games as "choose your own adventure" games because there is a lot of talking. A lot of talking, in this case. BioWare does not scrimp on conversation but they keep it interesting by letting the player choose how they respond to what is said. They've also added a fun "interrupt" function, where you can occasionally cut a conversation short in either a good or bad way.
What also makes this game fun is the fact that you can import the character you created in the previous game into this one. It was kind of surreal seeing my version of "Commander Shepherd" running around again but kind of nice too, not to have to start over again. It's like playing with an old friend.
Where this game really shines, though, is in its story and characters. The story opens quite literally with a bang with Commander Shepherd once again plunged into an adventure to save humanity from a threat called the Reapers. To do so, Shepherd must recruit the best of the best for an impossible mission. There's Jack, a psychotic criminal. There's Tali, a genius engineer. There's Mordin, a scientist who knows his way around a gun. The list goes on and on. Shepherd needs to keep his team strong as they face almost certain death to protect the rest of the galaxy. And yes, I short-changed the story to sum it up.
What's really awesome is the voice talent. BioWare pulled out some heavy hitters for this game. Adam Baldwin, Keith David, Seth Green, Tricia Helfer, Yvonne Strahovski, Carrie-Anne Moss. And Martin Sheen! Holy cow! The voice talent helped create some intriguing characters. My personal favorites are Garrus and Tali. And Mordin. Ah, Mordin, crazy, fast-talking Salarian that he is. I mean, how can you hate this:
Ahem. Where was I?
Well, the upshot is this: I had a blast playing this through the first time and I'm looking forward to taking another run through it soon.
And hey, one of the loading screens promised I'd be able to import my characters into Mass Effect 3. I can't wait. It should be fun.