Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lair of the Shadow Broker

A few months back, the good folks at BioWare released another DLC package for one of my favorite video games, namely Mass Effect 2. I've snatched up every other DLC package that they've put out for this game, so I knew that Lair of the Shadow Broker would be no different. But what really piqued my interest was when I read that decisions you make in this mission will effect your gameplay in the up-coming Mass Effect 3. One of the things I loved about Mass Effect 2 was the way it showed players the consequences of their actions in the original. I know I'll be getting the third installment, so I figured, I'd better get to the Lair so I can start getting ready for the final installment of this apparent trilogy.

The story is pretty simple. Commander Shepard's old friend, Liara T'Soni needs help. She's been hunting for the elusive Shadow Broker for the past two years. Shepard's contacts in Cerberus have information she can use, so they pass it on to Shepard to pass on to Liara. Only when Shepard gets to Liara's apartment, she's gone. Shepard has to find her and then help her bring down one of the most dangerous people in the galaxy.

I really liked this mission. A lot. For starters, there are the settings. You travel across a cityscape in Ilium, fighting across most of it. I even didn't mind driving the taxi through its "streets," and I'm not a fan of Mass Effect driving levels. I'll do them, but I don't enjoy them. The Shadow Broker's base is also a pleasant surprise. There were some unique features that I enjoyed using during the battles and the final boss battle, while a bit simplistic, is still a lot of fun.

Gameplay aside, the writing that went into this new mission is fantastic too. Shepard has some great one-liners he unleashes throughout the mission. But it's also fascinating to watch Liara as she comes to grips with her two year obsession. What's especially fun is if your in-game character had a romance with Liara in the original game. It definitely effects the way this mission plays out.

But what really surprised (and delighted) me is what you get after you complete the mission. No simple monetary reward, you gain access to some very powerful tools that help you find resources, money, and even retrain your team members (a feature the game did not have before). But my favorite has to be the dossiers the Shadow Broker collected. None of it effects the game overall, but it does help add some more depth and color to the characters in-game.

My favorite part, though, were the surveillance videos. Little snippets of footage of people doing weird stuff for seemingly no reason. It was just strange enough that I had to keep coming back to see all of them. I was actually a bit bummed when I learned that there are only three sets of videos.

I do have one complaint about this DLC, and it's a minor point, I suppose. One of the things you can do after you finish the mission is purchase information on where to find specific in-game resources. The game then marks your galaxy map as to where to find the right planets. That's great, but the problem is, the planets stay labeled, even after you visited them and retrieved said resources. On my latest playthrough, I had so many labels on my galaxy map from other missions that I could barely see where the individual starsystems were. It would have been nice if there were a way to clear those resource labels once you're done with them. A minor gripe, but there you go.

I honestly don't know if there will be any other DLCs coming out before Mass Effect 3. If there are and they're as good as this one, I know I'll be revisiting Commander Shepard's world once again.

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