When Mass Effect came out back in november 2007 nobody had too much hope in the game. Sometimes it was considered as one of the filler-RPGs that come out couple off times in a year to satisfy the genre gamers; while in the background everyone places its attention on some mayor RPG title. Surprise to everyone when it turned out to be one of the most satisfying action RPG adventures of the current console generation.
Mass Effect brought innovative elements like multiple conversation options that could change part of how the story is unfolded. It satisfies both kind of gamers: those who are willing to skip the conversations and like to jump directly into the action. Or those who like to focus in the story structure and turn of events. Depending on the actions that you take, the perception about you of the NPCs will change whether you made rightful or morally doubtful actions; by focusing on one of both paths of possibilities you can further in the game unlock unique conversation and action options. This gives the player the sense that he/she’s actually forging the main character behavior.
This, along with a clever RPG system that is hidden between action combat sequences is what made the game so famous.
Basically Mass Effect 2 keeps all the good elements that the previous game presented, and corrects some others that were kind of annoying, like for example, the weird late texturization of the graphical sequences is fixed by using the Unreal Engine 3.5 which enhances graphical display. So this issue is gone. Combat mechanics basically remain the same also, while you control Shepard the CPU will control other 2 characters of the main party and will help you in the adventures across the galaxy. The CPU controlled characters have decent AI level, provided that you give them the correct weapons to fire.
Medi-packs are no longer used to heal you character since now the health will auto-regenerate; this helps the combat be more fluid and makes you focus more in strategy than in trying to heal Shepard. You are now prompted to use the medi-packs to revive downed team members.
One point that I disliked is that, despite the multiple weapon upgrade options, there is not a huge weapon arsenal. Basically each member can only have 2 (or at most 3) options for the same type of weapon. Upgrading the ship or the weapons is made by using elements found by side-questing the galaxy and looking for elements in each available planet in the game. This turns to be waaay to repetitive, boring and annoying. This element should have been left like in Mass Effect 1 where you could actually explore (land) on each planet. Now, exploration it is limited to a lame outside view of the planet and drop of drones that will dig out elements wherever the control vibrates.
Graphically as explained before, Mass Effect 2 is much more superior (as one should expect) from its predecessor. Musically is outstanding as well with the composition of master Jack Wall. Sometimes the musical effects in key moments of the story will give you the feeling that the actual fate of the galaxy depends on Shepard’s party. Concept art is great (pretty much a-la Star Wars), and follows the same architecture and design as in the first installment, adding only a few races to the creature compendium already shown in the past.
Good stuff is that you can actually import the Mass Effect 1 save game profile to receive some cool bonuses at the start of the game that will make easier the beginning of the adventure; and at the end you will have the option to import it to Mass Effect 3 as well.
Party members are much more kick ass looking than the first companions, and some of the old characters are also reappearing like Tali and Garrus. However the story behind each character from a storytelling perspective seems empty-shelled in the end. Good thing is that you have 11 characters (each one with unique abilities) to choose from to make the ultimate party, from several races and even you have the option of having a geth in the party.
As for the most important part, the story, it is shameful that it is not as strong as the Mass Effect 1 was. In general the story does not stands on its own since is highly dependent on the events occurred in the first game, this brings limitation for newcomers ’cause the events on ME1 are continuously mention in the sequel. Which may seem appropriate to keep the progression line, but it’s a commercial risk that Bioware has taken. Nevertheless and compared to the first storyline, Mass Effect 2 lacks of innovative elements and twists in the plot line that makes the outcome of the story way to predictable and plain. I’m being optimistic and think that as usual, in trilogies there is always one of the 3 parts that lacks of some storytelling elements which makes it the weakest of all. I believe this may be the case of Mass Effect 2, story line speaking. Script and voice acting is superb, voices fit perfectly on each character personality and they are given the perfect emphasis according to the situation; making dialogues believable, easy to digest and enjoyable to the ear.
Mass Effect 2 begins in 2183, shortly after Mass Effect. On patrol to locate and destroy any remaining geth, the Normandy and its commanding officer, Commander Shepard, are attacked. The crew is forced to evacuate. Joker, the helmsman, continues piloting the ship and is rescued by Shepard. Before Shepard can board the escape pod, Shepard is sent flying and debris slices through his/her suit as the Normandy is attacked again. Shepard dies from asphyxiation and his/her body enters a nearby planet’s atmosphere.
Shepard’s body is retrieved by Cerberus, an extremist pro-human organization. Over the course of two years, attempts are made to bring Shepard back to life via the Lazarus Project (named after the Biblical figure Lazarus). Shepard awakens in 2185 aboard a Cerberus space station that is under attack. After Shepard aids Cerberus agents Jacob Taylor and Miranda Lawson, Shepard is granted an audience with the Illusive Man, who explains that Shepard was revived and ‘upgraded’ in return for his/her aid combating a new threat. Human colonies have been attacked, and their colonists have gone missing. The Illusive Man believes this is the work of Shepard’s old enemies, the Reapers, a race of mechanical dreadnoughts that periodically harvest the galaxy once galactic civilization reaches a certain point.
The game is exclusive for XBOX 360 Platform, comes in 2 discs in DVD format and takes about ~60-70hrs to complete with all achievements.
So in the end, Mass Effect 2 improves the action part while sacrificing story elements, thing that makes it a good game, but still not flawless. Recommended for those who played (and liked) the first installment since it’s strongly tight to the ME1 story line.
Still ME2 is one of the best action RPGs out there.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10