Now Playing: Mass Effect 2

I mentioned the other day on the Twitter feed that in the last couple of weeks of the year, I’ve finally obtained my personal “most anticipated” game of 2010. That game is Mass Effect 2.

Now, I love Mass Effect 1. I think it’s one of the best titles to come out in this generation, and I felt it was a perfect blend of action and RPG. For me, it’s almost like getting to enjoy another couple of seasons of my favorite sci fi TV show long after it ended, with better special effects. (Correct guesses as to the identity of the show will get props from me.) Not every part of the game is universally strong, of course… the cover mechanic is pretty shakey and the vehicle parts of the game mixed bad controls and bad terrain in a generally displeasing way, but at least gave you a honkin’ huge cannon to make up for it.

I don’t finish a lot of games. Partly this is because many of the games I play aren’t the kind with a discrete finish line. But it’s also because I find few games compelling enough to drop 25 or 50 hours into them. I either lack patience or have a low tolerance for frustration. Mass Effect I finished twice.

Mass Effect 2 somehow slipped off my radar for much of the year, despite my being all pumped about it when it came out, and despite the near-universal acclaim it accrued. Just about everyone seems to feel that it’s a significant improvement over its predecessor.

But my first instinct is to like it less than ME1. I’m only a few hours in and the jury’s still out, and a number of aspects are indeed greatly improved over the first game. Cover is basically fixed and level design is better, and there are generally more options in the dialogue trees. Plus the graphics are a mite better.

However, ME2 also changes up the action/RPG mix, mostly by de-emphasizing the RPG parts. Charcater development is streamlined to the point where I’m not sure why it’s even there anymore, there’s essentially no “inventory” per se, and the story seems more episodic and the world less open.

Of course, Mass Effect 1 was not an open-world game in any meaningful sense of the term. It did sometimes give me the illusion that it was, which is enough. Maybe I just haven’t seen that part of ME2 yet.

Don’t get me wrong, though – I’m not saying that it’s rotten or that I hate it. I’m about 5 hours in at this point, and I’ve just not fallen in love with it yet.

7 responses to “Now Playing: Mass Effect 2

  1. I’m still working my way through ME1, and hoping that I catch ME2 on an incredible deep sale so I can afford it with my utter lack of cash. 😀

    I like your statement about the impression of an open world in ME1. While not truly open, by allowing you to wander around in it and complete missions somewhat in the timing of your choosing, it gives a good effect of openness.

    If I had one complaint about ME1 immersion, though I understand the reason in terms of UI, it’s one that’s common to other games as well: Why, when I’m facing major enemy forces of doom, do I only take two allies along and leave the rest hanging out on the ship? It’s not like the rover vehicle isn’t the size of a bus. They could fit a few more beings in there then just three. And at any one moment I have enough guns and armor to outfit a battalion. 😉

  2. Im going to take a wild stab in the dark and say that because your views pretty closely mirror my own, youre going to be one of the many who just didnt like the changes in Mass Effect 2. The biggest change being to stop making a Mass Effect game, and instead make a cover shooter with episodic missions. Many of the problems you listed are just endemic to Mass Effect 2s experience.

    Its not a crime to dislike it, in fact the more people who own up to doing so, the better chance ME3 will make chances that around just around mainstream shooter combat.

    Ill just say that ultimately sidelining my favourite characters, filling the main plot with busywork (mostly cover-shooting every enemy) and streamlining the gameworld and RPG elements left my with a game that, unlike ME1, I didnt care about. I finished the game with a “perfect” ending so to speak, and I just did not care at all.

    Like I said, it sounds like you have similar problems to me, so its possible you just wont like it. Maybe youll persevere and it will come good, but the heavy linear cover shooter emphasis and streamlined RPG elements dominate the game from start to finish, so that why Im siding with “not likely” on the vote of actually loving this game in the end.

    Still, fingers crossed theyll actually shift their efforts in ME3 to something closer to the first game, but do things better this time. Mainly because as much as I love the first, especially when compared with the second, it had room for improvement. Not streamlined and stipping out, like in ME2, but actual *improvement*.

    Oh and bringing by Liara, Ashley&Kaidan and Wrex as team members again couldnt hurt. I get the feeling Wrex wont manage that, but the first two are the best suited of any, so maybe that another area Ill see improved in ME3 – giving the characters I love the place in the story they occupied in ME1 as Shepards teammates again.

  3. Is the show Farscape?

    I suppose it depends on what you’re looking for. I was glued to my computer chair for the story in ME1 and 2 does just as good a job in this respect, if not better. The actual, physical gameplay is smoothed out in a ton of places and most of the streamlining was for the good.

    I think swapping the old overheating mechanic for ammo clips – ahem – heat sinks was a transparent mistake, but the only RPG elements that are different at all is the now lack of an inventory system and the inclusion of an item upgrade system. The old inventory was an out-and-out disaster and if your argument is they should have fixed it instead of removing it altogether, I think you might have a point.

    It seems to me you’re just wishing for more of a “go anywhere-do anything” thing and that bit does happen later on, just not quite as freely as it appeared in ME1. That being said, the bits they cut out are the Mako roving so…again…is it really so bad one of the worst things about the first game were replaced by hand-crafted combat zones?

    Mm. Mass Effect 2 IS superior in my opinion, but the original maintains the charm of BEING the original.

  4. @Roger: The show is not Farscape. Good guess, though.

    @Yogi: Yep. The game more or less opens up beyond the point at which I wrote this post. It’s still somewhat linear, and the main mission so far seems kind of lean in terms of the amount on content in it compared to “build your team” and the loyalty missions. However, I have not yet embarked on the final stage of the main story – I’m close to doing so. I will no doubt make a full report when I’ve finished the game.