Friday, February 5, 2010

Played Lately: Mass Effect 2

  • I wrote a blog post yesterday about Borderlands, but all the comments ended up referring to Mass Effect 2. If that's what everyone wants to talk about, far be it from me to stand in everyone's way. So, using my bullet points the way the nature intended (and without spoiling anything):

  • The intro sequence for the game absolutely stunned me. I knew going in what was about to happen. Bioware has been gleefully spoiling it to everyone they talk to. What that didn't prepare me for was how it would hit me emotionally. Sometimes when watching a musical, I'm overcome with emotion as the music and the singing swells. This was almost that. Closest I've come to crying at a video game.

    Ahem. Now on to more masculine topics....

  • Speaking of masculine topics, I was fascinated by the bachelor party going on in the bar in on Ilium. Asari dancers are spread more liberally throughout the universe in this game. I guess someone didn't want the model and animation to go to waste. And while this was a great bit of humor injected into the game, one of the interactions is very interesting lore-wise. The conversation between the Human, Salarian, and Turian implies that each of them see Asari dancer as resembling their own race. Does that mean that the reason they are modeled as attractive women is because they are psychic chameleons? It makes sense that a species that mates by drawing genetic code from other species would need a way to make themselves appealing to multiple species. I wonder if Bioware threw that in to deflect criticism of their blue space lesbians or it was always in the lore.

  • I don't care what anyone says: scanning planets for resources is one hundred percent better than the Mako missions. It's not amazing or anything and I'm not going to give up hours of my time to do it. However there is something primal about the tactile, visual, and auditory feedback when you hit a rich resource node. Shawn Andrich from Gamers With Jobs is right: scanning is best done with your headphones on, listening to podcasts. It's like playing Minesweeper or Solitaire. You relax and let your fingers do their own thing.

  • Who in their right mind thought Mass Effect was in desperate need of ammo. Sorry, I meant heat sinks. I thought the heat system in ME1 worked just fine. I liked that you could push an extra shot or two out at the risk of your gun overheating. I've never run out of ammo in an awkward situation. Maybe I've had to switch guns once or twice in the middle of a fight. (So much for universal thermal clips.) But even without any problems, ammo still sucks. It just doesn't suck too much.

  • I've playing an Infiltrator in this game like I did in the first game. I liked the idea of a dedicated sniper class. Sniping is still awesome. At least it is now that I know what I'm doing. At first it felt too frustrating, but my skills have improved enough that I feel like a headshot terror again. My old Shepard is back!

  • I have this feeling that I'm using Yeoman Kelly. Somehow (okay, maybe there was a little innocent flirting) she has lead Kelly on enough that the yeoman has offered to take care of Shepard's fish for her. Which gives the yeoman free access to the captain's cabin. My Shepard, the galactic hero that she is, doesn't just turn her back on the man she loves. She even keeps a picture of the man on her desk. I like having someone take care of the fish, but this is going to lead to an awkward situation down the line. Maybe I should keep multiple saves just in case.

  • One of the problems with the story is that I keep wanting to diving ahead instead of taking my time and exploring the galaxy. In the first game, saving the galaxy was all laid back. Get around to it when you can, but the Alliance has a ton of busy work for you to handle along the way. In this game, even though the structure encourages you to explore, the story is so intense that I want to rush to the next chapter immediately. Some problem to have, huh?

  • The funny thing about this game is that I don't just want to replay it when I'm done. I want to go back and replay ME1 and do everything from the beginning. The ability to carry a character over is so amazingly handled. You're not converting a set of statistics. You are bringing an entire universe into the new game.

  • The characters are really cool in this game. Bioware absolutely nailed it with the crew this time. I enjoyed the squadmates in the first game, but they pale in comparison to how well defined the new characters are. That said, one of my favorites is returning crewmember Garrus. It was so great to meet up with him again. Plus he can use all the sniper upgrades that I've been researching.

  • One final note: I believe that while stripping out all the overwhelming RPG systems, they have actually made Mass Effect 2 a truer role-playing experience than we've seen before. Role-playing is not about dice and statistics. It's about inhabiting a character and telling a story. That is exactly what we're doing here. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a galaxy to save.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. I now have 2 hours into ME1, so in a year or so when ME2 is on sale, I can pick it up. It sounds wonderful :P

  2. Dang it! You're gonna make me buy ME2 this weekend. Noooooooooooooooo. Gotta stay strong and wait until I've reached Captain in STO.

  3. @ heartlessgamer - Ha ha! It really is worth the experience. Enjoy your time in ME1!

    @ Blue Kae - Honestly, Mass Effect is the Star Trek game I've always wanted. Bioware would do the universe proud if they ever wanted to.

  4. Great write up. I totally agree that roleplaying is a lot more about...playing a role (i.e., choosing a personality and set of motivations and acting out the part)..than improving a bunch of stats. At some point in the transition between pen and paper and CRPGs that fact seems to have been largely forgotten.

    Not that I don't enjoy Fantasy/ Sci Fi themed stat based combat simulators. I certainly do.

  5. Intro is awesome, planet surveying is not that bad but just tedious as you get towards the end of the game(there are a lot of planets in the game), and I agree with you that the party members are a lot more interesting, even the two that make a return! And yes, thermal clips just plain suck.

    At first I missed the inventory system or having to collect loot, and the lack of skills was a bit off putting, but I have found that not having to deal with those things meant less time micromanaging and more time being engrossed in the story.

    It's funny, Borderlands has all the aspects of a rpg but a strong story, where as ME2 is almost the exact opposite.

  6. @ Yeebo - I love me some stat-based games. Crunchy rules have their place. But loot and XP aren't the definition of the RPG. I remember how I rolled my eyes every time someone called Diablo an RPG when if first came out.

    @ Jayedub - Oh, so now you want to comment about Borderlands? Grrrr....