Mass Effect 2 review by Honorabili
WARNING: This review is not for fanboys or people who like simple games or dumbed down RPGs. If you have played as many RPGs as I have, you will find it useful.
One Sentence Review:
“More action-rpg space opera mayhem”
7 out of 10
Mass Effect 2 is a sequel to one of the better modern RPGs out there. Both Mass Effect games are a lot like Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), taking some elements from the early Fallout games and Planescape: Torment. The game plays like an interactive movie done by a really good director.
I will assume that people who played this game have already played the first one. If you haven’t, you should stop reading this and go play ME1 instead before looking at this game.
You take the role again of Shepard, Captain of the Normandy. I won’t get into any spoilers but the intro of the game will leave you saying “WHAT THE HELL?!” You go around the galaxy recruiting/commanding a team of soldiers, scientists, engineers, etc. trying to uncover clues and complete missions that get you closer to attacking the home of the main baddies, etc.
I won’t cover spoilers and I am writing this review from the perspective of someone that has been playing RPGs from the mid 80s, both normal RPGs (table-top, pen and paper) and classic computer RPGs (non-MMO). Most media out there considers this game the next best thing to sliced bread but I have found some areas that I thought could have been better, especially since they were available in previous Bioware games.
In general, in both games I have a problem with the way they made the dialogue circle. It’s fairly evident after you have been playing for a few minutes that all the nice/good-guy/Paragon options are positioned towards the top of the circle and the asshole/bad-guy/Renegade towards the bottom. My beef with this is that in real life, there’s more to just the extremity of being super nice Jesus Chris Superstar or being Satan/Adolf Hitler. I wish they would have implemented more alignments than just good or bad. In reality nothing is black or white. How about a grey zone? The game has it but all the responses for most of those choices are half assed and you will usually end up getting screwed by the game when you try to apply a rational solution to a problem that compromises both sides.
I wish they would go away from this dumbed down choose-your-own-adventure system and go back towards the roots of more intricate RPGs. It’s kind of annoying how they only phrase part of what your response would be in the options. I miss the days of being able to look at 8-9 different responses that were worded out exactly as my character would deliver them. I would look at lines in Fallout 2 or Planescape: Torment and think “hey, that’s really clever, let’s see what happens?!” Now I can just click on the obvious choices and just keep making my guy nicer/more of an asshole. Like, it takes no skill or thought.
Some people have said that this is now more an action game than rpg. A big problem I found with the action is that there are NO GRENADES. Grenades have been a part of warfare for more than 100 years now. Are you telling me there are no more being used by the military in the future?
Mass Effect 2 vs Mass Effect 1:
ME2 is a lot like part 1 but many things are changed as well.
The first thing that you will notice is that character progression is pretty primitive vs ME1. The game lacks an attribute progression system (hell all attributes in general other than shields, HPs, DPS).
They have done away with the planetary landings/random missions (they are MUCH less in ME2) and your little buggy is gone, which they in turn have replaced with you launching probes (which magically mine minerals for you) from a point and click screen. This is a huge mistake as, at least to me, this was one of the funnest parts of part 1 and that’s the difference between me beating part 1 in 1.5 weeks playing a good 4-6 hours a day and me destroying ME2 in 3 days only. The probing is BORING as hell. I’m good at it but basically as soon as I would start doing it, it would put me in the mood to go do something else (like go play another game or go to sleep). You might say, “Hey, it’s a good concept” but it’s been done right in other games, like Star Control 2 (The Ur-Quan Masters, a 1992 space exploration/combat game, with rpg elements to it). They should have included the buggy and maybe added a chemical analyzer to it to manually explore and drop off mining drones. That might have given the game a feel sort of like Koronis Rift, a lost Lucasfilm Games classic for c64 and other 8-bit computers/systems.
The game was dumbed down even further by removing the inventory system. When you kill enemies the only thing they drop is generic ammo, which you adapt to fit on any gun. This is the same as the previous game, and yes it does make the game go a lot faster. It’s not very realistic though, at least from the perspective of loot. It would have been nice if they gave you bonus money for salvaging and selling the weapons/armor/equipment that enemies dropped, for missions where you can pick that stuff up (not ones where you run off a ship/space station that is blowing up). That part of the game just made no sense to me. Some people think this is an improvement of the game but a good part in just about every RPG is gear/weapons/armor/tool management. Many people who play RPGs care about loot and having special items for their characters. (Some real RPG purists will argue otherwise but the plug-and-play system of loot in this game is just silly).
The game now makes you research for weapon mods, which for which you get resources by probing/mining (the game killer for me). You still buy stuff at stores but they are mainly mods which lead to new research projects for which you still need to waste time mining. This feels like grinding except that you’re not killing anything except strip mining a planet through a simple little interface. Where’s the action?
The fight scenes are pretty nice but they are impaired by probing/mining in between missions. I’m only really bitching about it so much because if you want to unlock every item mod/ship mod, you will have to spend time grinding on the probes. That’s not my idea of fun.
The fights themselves are pretty fun, although they are easy, especially with the dumb A.I. (see below) and lack of challenge.
The story is nice, but essentially it’s more of the first game (which I love) but it lacks more secret/side quests. It would have been nice to see more of those that secretly integrated into the background of the main story. An example is in Planescape: Torment when you buy a little toy Modron (an artificial robot race in this fantasy setting) and he lets you go to a special Modron dimension that’s an endless Dungeon. I think something like that is unique in a game but I see how that could make a game company dedicate a lot of resources towards something like that. Some people consider Planescape: Torment to be a failure as a “product” but it’s more like what a real RPG (non video game) is like than many others.
I would have liked as well to have seen a LOT MORE interaction between characters while in missions. I purposely picked characters on missions that would have ethical problems with whatever the mission was at hand. I would have liked to have seen them interacting more with each other, maybe even arguing rather than provide a one liner like “Shepard I don’t agree with this, but you’re the Captain.” They had that in Planescape: Torment but I would like that developed even more than that so it seems like you’re dealing with real people/real characters.
Back to ME2, I would have liked more interactivity with my plot/dialogue choices and more challenging combat and NO grinding/mining (if I wanted that I would go play an MMO). When I played ME1 or KOTOR, I cherished every moment. As I played ME2 I just felt like “okay let’s beat it to say I beat it.” I liked the characters in ME1 more as well but that’s beside the point of this section. Fun Factor got a score of 6 out of 10. Bring back more non-predictable dialogue/plot and better/harder/more intense action and my love will return.
Overall, I found this game to be easy. There’s multiple difficulties but overall you won’t feel much of a difference unless you play it on the max difficulty. Doing that will sometimes create a situation where if the story dictates that you get screwed/ambushed by multiple enemies from multiple directions, you will often die then. That’s not really an issue for most of the game because you can just switch the difficulty on the fly through the options menu, and that IS useful.
The A.I. of the game is pretty linear/retarded (for the enemies). It’s not as bad as Dragon Age: Origins (that literally made me stop playing that game, although I bought that game). The biggest problem I had with the A.I. is that the enemies take cover really POORLY. In just about 95% of all combat in the game I have just been able to keep attacking the enemy even when they hide behind a box or wall. I especially love when they hide everything except the top of their head and I just unload a clip of sniper rifle on their sweet spot.
I would have liked the A.I. to get smarter as I set it on a higher difficulty, and not just lower my regen rate. Oh, yes, you have a regen rate in Mass Effect 2. Healing items are pretty common and they’re pretty useless unless you’re a really bad gamer. On the 2nd to last and even on the max difficulty there have only been about 2 real fights where I needed to heal my character. The rest of the time I just take cover and drink some tea and pretend I’m playing Gears of War.
The option to change the difficulty is nice (although it doesn’t do much) but the game is a cakewalk (for me). Difficulty Versatility get a score of 6 out of 10.
The best price for the PC at the time of this writing that I found quickly was from gogamer.com for $41.90.
For Xbox 360, on gogamer.com they have it on “sale” right now for $52.50, which is a bit steep for me, but then again I don’t buy console games as they are expensive.
The game took me about 3 days to beat which is longer than most new video games these days. The problem with RPGs is that unless they have dramatically different replayabilities then they’re pretty much a game you will play NOW and then again a year or so later. I can justify more paying money like that for a game you can play daily, whether a strategy game (any Civilization game) or FPS (Unreal Tournament series, Call of Duty, Team Fortress 2) than a game you will play sparsely like this one.
Most fans will pay the current amount for the game, if they like it enough to buy. If you are a fast gamer like me, especially for the console crowd, you’re better off renting the game.
I give Value a score of 5 out of 10. Too expensive for my blood to buy but longer than most one shot games out there.
I unlocked pretty much everything on my first run of the game, so I don’t think I’ll replay this for a while now. I’d probably replay Mass Effect 1 before I replay this one anyways (especially since I think ME1 is a better game).
If they add more missions, game modes through DLC then it would entice me to play it again (assuming they addressed at least some of the game design problems I had with ME2). The problem I have with DLC is that it’s simply a way for companies to milk you of more money for stuff they could have included in the game to make it a better game from the start. Business-wise it’s a good move (for profits) but it does make inferior games come out.
Some of my friends are as of this moment replaying it as a different class but the game overall is the same. For me that has the same appeal as watching a movie and then immediately rewatching it. Unless an rpg has a lot of different endings and side quests that are unique to that way you picked to play, then they don’t really have much replayability. Since I have really good memory, I will not go back to ME2 for a long while, maybe before Mass Effect 3 comes out. I give replayability a score of 4 out of 10.
The sound effects are nicely picked. You have many sounds from ME1 repeated but they did the job for that game and they continue to work for this one. Some of their menu interfaces have their own sounds and they are pleasant. The weapons sound authentic and that’s important for an action (rpg) game.
The voice actors do a good job and you will hear familiar voices (not just from the gaming industry) doing an amazing job with their characters. I think they add a great level of immersion to the game. Sound gets a score of 9 out of 10.
The music is great for this game but my beef with it is that it is not constantly playing. There will be some songs like the galaxy interface that you will hear over and over. Some songs, like the ones in your private quarters, are pretty epic, but you can only listen to them by going into that room (for which you hardly ever go into). I would have liked an option to force the game to play music constantly to be integrated, and you can make specific songs override what’s playing for dramatic effect in cut scenes or specific fights.
The music I enjoyed but if we can’t really hear it then it’s not really there. Music gets a score of 7 out of 10. It’s there and great, just absent.
Eye candy! This game looks just as good as ME1 and even almost as good as Dead Space. I think they did a great job with the ingame graphics and cut scene movies. Graphics get a score of 10 out of 10.
The game never crashed for me, even though I alt-tabbed the game a bunch of times. You’d expect a game with such a pretty graphics engine to go nuts from that but it never did. In fact, I purposely crashed the game sometimes to see if it could recover and the game relaunched immediately, with no performance hit. Stability/Reliability gets a score of 10 out of 10.
For PC, the controls are pretty standard. WASD moves you around, the mouse aims, F melee attacks, Shift pauses the game (so that you can issue squad commands and use powers), and Spacebar is the general use/run/everything else key. The controls could have been a bit better, such as including a crouch key, common in most other FPS games, rather than forcing me to run like a little girl for cover. The general action spacebar key sometimes got me killed because my character decided to stand up from cover rather than jump over it. Controls get a score of 7 out of 10. They are enough considering how easy ME2 is but they feel primitive.
The game runs pretty okay on my 2 year old gaming PC. There were moments, especially during heavy action sequences when the game did lag/skip frames. Most people will be satified with the overall performance of the game, especially since the graphics of the game are PRETTY. Performance gets a score of 8 out of 10.
My history with this game:
Overall, I like the game. (I’m not as much of a hater as you’d think, but I am critical). I have my opinions on what I wish they would have done differently and I hope they implement some of those changes especially for when we see Mass Effect 3, which is pretty much guaranteed to be made considering how much money this franchise makes.