Mass Effect 2 PC (Pro/Contra)

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Because there are enough Mass Effect 2 "Reviews" around here already, I've decided to go back to my "old format" for this one and align it more to what I did for Mass Effect 1 e.g. splitting it in what I thought was good and some of the faults in two separate sections while trying to be brief.

I'm probably going to be praising the game a lot, so if you want to see a lot more bile or what I am comparing it to head over here for the same treatment on Mass Effect 1 I did almost 2 years ago (damn... time flies by): http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.61865-Mass-Effect-PC-Pro-Contra

(All the images are clickable thumbnails)

The good:

  • It is even more immersive and gripping than the first part and has a lot of well known and generally better voice actors (most of them from a lot of different Sci-Fi series), some of the more prominent ones being Yvonne Strahovsky (Chuck), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica); Adam Baldwin (Firefly/Day Break/Chuck); Martin Sheen and a lot of others like Michael Dorn (TNG/DS9); Claudia Black (Farscape/StarGate) and Armin Shimerman (DS9) are even used for minor roles making the voice-acting a thing of beauty. The facial expressions and general animation (maybe aside of the hair) also seemed better compared to the first.
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  • They expanded upon the already great lore of the first game and made it more "real" and tangible, I can't really explain it but it felt more like an experience than a video game in comparison to the first.

    The much better graphics and use of general resources may have had a big part in that. Most of the new worlds seemed more "alive" with all the effects and lighting improved upon and a healthy use of holograms, post processing and lively backgrounds. Some of the planets would appear to be right out of a Star Wars movie. Others were now teeming with plant and animal life.

    The "Mass Effect" universe also generally started to take shape in front of me in this game, while it only gave hints of its potential in the first part... And with that it also became very apparent why Bioware wanted to make Mass Effect in the first place. It is not just another one of those "Star Wars" or "Star Trek" games some developer no one remembers did, it is Bioware's "Mass Effect", which also already spawned off some books, comics and might be made into a movie soon. Also Bioware themselves mentioned that even after Mass Effect 3 ends, they're long not done with the universe and will expand on it, maybe even as early as the beginning of 2011.

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  • Bioware finally stopped pretending and mainly made it into a 3rd person shooter (not that it was much of anything else to begin with, but some people kept imagining it to be, now they even lost that illusion).

    Honestly I was very skeptic of this myself at first, especially because in Interviews the Developers openly compared it to titles like "Halo" and "Gears of War", but it actually works! It's got about as much customization as Dead Space, Bioshock or Wolfenstein left and not much more. It got rid of features like Inventory, most character advancement and added things like Ammunition and Reloading your weapon to the plate instead. The cover system also takes a much more prominent role with Automatic Shield and Health-Regeneration while in it.

    But the truly great parts like the interesting characters, the plot, the dialogue and the Alignment-options stayed onboard or were even expanded upon and this just WORKS so much better for the type of game they are trying to make (an immersive movie experience) than Mass Effect 1 ever did. It is still no Baldur's Gate (the story-book/fantasy tale approach) which I will always hold dear but I like it also. Although I still can't completely agree with the cover-system. I don't know if a more "classic" approach e.g. actually using objects and the environment like corners, walls etc. as cover wouldn't have been better than the "Gears of War"-method where you press a button and are in cover. I guess that works better on consoles but on the PC...

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    Most of the combat will go like this
  • Removing the inventory system and getting rid of the equipment-micromanagement on your companions was a good decision. It rarely seemed anything more than a chore to go through that HUGE item-list just to equip the best ones on all your teammates and sell everything else in Mass Effect 1 (especially because there weren't any "unique" weapons, that did anything special aside of the Specter-gear, now there are).

    There's also generally less items but the game is better for it... instead of having to pick up/loot and sell all that vendor-crap constantly they got rid of it and introduced construction plans instead... Some weapons and armors are for Shepard alone, some benefit the whole crew... as soon as you find them, they can be equipped on everyone. And they are and actually feel unique in the way they handle and the tactics they enable.

    On the armor side of things there is mainly the N7 armor with modular "Add-Ons" you can change however you want (different helmets, colors and different parts like legs or gauntlets with different stats). This also seemed like the better overall choice and preferable to having to wear an armor one doesn't like (from the design or color: pink) because it has better stats. The only detriment is that while using any of the "Bonus" armors Shepard doesn't take his helmet off, not even while talking to people or when he's having a few drinks at a bar... It seemed/and looked somewhat silly and it is rather pointless to work on all the emotional and facial expressions (mostly ranging from angry to surprised and angry) if he is wearing a helmet all of the time and you can't see them, so I usually went with the N7 armor and an eye-piece during the largest part of the game.

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    Weapons and Armor choice screens
  • Looking back, they fixed a lot of the time-sinks that were there in the first game: They got rid of the elevators, loading is much faster, you don't have to search for blinking lights on the space map anymore, you can skip cut scenes (especially the docking videos) and single dialogues with space, you are able to sprint out of combat now and after you complete a mission in any area, you get teleported back to the ship instantly (after you are done exploring or if there's nothing left to explore) so you don't have to walk all the way back.
  • The Hacking/Bypassing Minigames are better and not as annoying as in the first part, Bypassing is like playing a round of "memory" and isn't on EVERY single object and Hacking isn't overly complicated and you won't find it on every terminal either (although I could imagine colorblind people having a problem with that game)
  • Even the previous "random terrain generator" planet exploration and MAKO missions are (thankfully) gone and the new ones at least all have a short back-story to them, play differently, are more varied and have 1-2 cut scenes thrown in as plot advancement, unlike the first part where you just had to shoot a lot of aliens on a barren rock somewhere over and over, they were actually FUN to explore and play.
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    One of those missions involves Shepard landing on a freighter balancing at the edge of a Cliffside, and while you're working your way towards the objective it is constantly creaking and tilting back and forth under your feet.
  • You encounter a lot of people you met in the first part and having different saves/your decisions in Mass Effect 1 actually make somewhat of a difference and it doesn't seem like a "total reboot" like in most games. While there's nothing game-changing about it, I think that this is the first time a system like this has been properly done (if anyone knows better feel free to correct me, it is also funny that you as a player might remember some or have forgotten other characters and events because it has been about 2 years ago now... which is about the same amount of time Shepard lay dormant in a big fridge somewhere).

    The downside to all of this is that if you don't have an ME1 save ready anymore you will have to start with predefined choices. Some kind of questionnaire on the big things before you start the game might have been the better choice to implement so you aren't "forced" in a world you didn't leave that way and miss out on certain things.

  • The companions are more numerous and seem more fleshed out almost all around... and the best ones from the first one have stayed onboard:
  • Your companions are a lot more useful now aside of a few situations (especially when encountering the big stuff like Heavy Mechs) where they do tend to act a little stupid and run right into the line of fire, but it is a big improvement overall in that they search cover for themselves and actually help you kill enemies instead of watching you doing it.
  • The game has one of the few well implemented and not annoying uses of QTE, by choosing whether to press a button or not and perform a "Good" or a "Bad" action (where applicable)
  • Boo is back! ;)

The bad:

  • They left out most of the skill-customization and made it overly simple, this could be regarded as both good and bad, it does fit in more with the "Shooter" concept of the game and the Levels you are gaining don't seem to that big of a deal anymore (Upgrades are a lot more important), but especially continuing as a Soldier from Mass Effect 1 there were mostly just different Ammo types aside from the "Adrenaline" ability (which slows down time) and not much else, which was a little disappointing.
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    Character customization is barely available at all
  • If I'd have to pick the one and only worst thing about the game it'd have to obviously be the Planet Scanning (whoever made that decision deserves a special place in Designer-hell right with the guy that introduced the random-planet-Mako-drops in the first part). The only redeeming thing about it, is that it takes less time than having to drive around with the Mako shooting enemies all day but it seems so unnecessary...

    It is not only bad from a gameplay point of view but it also totally breaks the otherwise Epic storyline with unneeded downtime if you want your team to actually survive or be better in combat by having to Research things. Buying fuel and drones also falls under this category and seems like another filler just for the sake of the bigger one, you have to return back to another system to fill up on them after you ran out... It is also an uncontrollable money-sink, some players might fly around less and be able to buy more items, and others fly around more and can buy less because they're spending lots of credits on filling up their engines.

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    Imagine the red line being the plot of an engaging movie or book,
    then blue would resemble Mass Effect 2 a lot more with all the downtime throughout.

    It is hard for me to grasp why they decided this was a necessary step for padding the game at all (not much unlike the Random Terrain Generator planets in ME1), the story is so enthralling at times that you just want to go on but then you're supposed to play a horrible Minigame a few dozen times to be able to.

    Picture this: You want to go to the cinema and watch a movie you have really anticipated for months, you get your food, get through the damned commercials and all that and watch about 20 minutes of it and you're really into it, the suspense is killing you... then BAM!
    You are being presented with a screen and a basic D-Pad control pops out from the seat in front of you. A message is displayed on the screen, telling you that you have to play 10 rounds of Tetris and make it to a certain number of points till you can go on watching the movie... Wouldn't that be awesome?

    I was constantly thinking about using some sort of Trainer to get over this,
    but in the end put up with it and mined a few dozen star-clusters empty to better my armament and save mankind.

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    Hell if I didn't know better I might think they're putting those annoyances in on purpose so they have a sure shot way for the sequels to be better than the prequels but then that'd be stupid...

    How about getting rid of those "fillers" altogether next time or at least coming up with something awesome like Pazaak or Pod-Racing in KOTOR, how about some ship-to-ship combat mini game and this time around NOT overusing it?

  • The UI also left some things to be desired, I wouldn't go as far as to write an entire 3-part dissertation about it but it could have been improved, especially for the PC.

    In some regards I thought they even made a few steps back, for example I couldn't use my mouse-scroll on about any of menu items and text-windows that had a slider. The Codex is obviously conceived with a Controller in mind because it immediately changes subject if you use the slider to scroll at all. Even the On/Off buttons in the Options aren't clickable and can only be changed with the left/right arrows. The team-members character sheets also don't seem to be as easily accessible as in the first (Point & Click), there is no Drop-Down Menu for changing weapons quickly during the Weapons-Loadout Screen, one always has to press "Select" and "Accept" etc. There are no Hot-keys for easy weapon change, only for abilities. The "Planetary Mining Minigame" bar fills up to 25000 but you can mine a lot more than that and even need more for certain Upgrades... you get the picture

  • The main storyline of ME2 was generally more "engaging" for me, but aside of the 4-5 main story missions the entire game is basically comprised of a lot of "Find companion" --> "Do loyalty quest" missions. While this might be nice at first it degrades into a certain "pattern" fast and there's not that much else to do, the few side quests available are hardly worth mentioning because they usually consist of you finding and giving someone an item you found on one of said missions.
    A little more variety would be desirable. And even then, there's not exactly many of them.
  • They need to diversify a little more in the interior design department, Omega, the Citadel, Illium, the Quarian Fleet etc. look very similar (ground, windows, doors) with a few different symbols and lighting making most of the "difference". Take a note from Star Trek/Wars for example with different design philosophies and technologies for different races.
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    Six different places, that still all look very similar...
  • The Codex is still there but it seems to have regressed backwards from what it was in the first game, a lot of it is directly imported from ME1 and there are just a few dozen new entries with speech while the rest falls into the "unimportant" TAB you have to read yourself.
  • Oh yes and one of the first things I wanted to do after starting up the game was to jump. Why can't I jump? Let me jump! :/

Basically the game is an improvement from the first one through and through but it could have done with a little more polish.
I'd rate the game a 9.0 for an amazing experience.
With an extra rating of 3.5 for the Planetary Scan Mini game (make it a browser-game to unlock something or for fun, but leave it out of the main game...)

Older stuff:

Star Trek Online - First Impressions
The Saboteur - A Review
Dragon Age - An In-Depth Review
Risen - A Review
Batman: Arkham Asylum - A Review
Mass Effect - Pro and Con
Age of Conan Impressions - Pro and Con

Good review. It's odd, I read a lot of reviews that say a lot of good and a little bad about Mass Effect 2. And yet, the more I read, the less I want to actually play the game.

I want to read this but I'm occupied with ICT coursework, I'll bookmark this for later.

SultanP:
Good review. It's odd, I read a lot of reviews that say a lot of good and a little bad about Mass Effect 2. And yet, the more I read, the less I want to actually play the game.

No matter how much bad you read, the game is worth a playthrough. Most of my friends HATED mass effect one and I worshiped it. Now all those people that hated ME1 that have played ME2 LOVE the game. Its one of the best action RPGs I've played, next to FallOut 3, and KotOR 1 & 2

It depends on the type of player you really are. In all RPGs that I played so far, I enjoyed the element of exploration, and in ME1 I really loved the Mako (and the occasional killing of thresher maws), it was waaaaaay more useful to bring down the nasties. I really missed not being able to land on planets in ME2 and discover the occasional artefact & such.

And about customization... having different looking armors that you can upgrade for each individual member of your group, as well as the weapon enhancements in ME1 added a distinct feature to the gameplay. In ME2, you add upgrades to the current weapons, as in ME1 you must actually GET a better weapon to deal more damage; plus, the extra weapons and armor suits spell "omni-gel" all the way through, so safe hacking and such become easier. They simplified the hacking system so that every container could be opened, not as in ME1, where it was a hassle to manually override difficult ones. It took away some of the challenge in the ME1, methinks.

Bonuses and minuses considered, I see ME2 a more than worthy sequel. Let's see if ME3 will be up to the task of being better than it's predecessors. It better have longer gameplay, considering that ME2 can be completed in 24 hours of gameplay (or less, if you shave off some secondary quests) including loyalty missions...

I understand that "hardcore" gamers eat up content like ravenous coke fiends and you need something to placate the masses so they don't beat your game in 6 hours and blast you on the internets because your game was "so short" and they move at the speed of a caffeinated squirrels on pixie sticks, but damn, seriously? Mining? WTF?

There is a reason crafting and gathering exists in an MMO - the time spent in game is directly proportional to the money the game company makes. But in a single player, its like thinking you are about to see tits, but you have to run through a field of penises to get there. There's nobody around to see you, so sure, you'll probably close your eyes and do it, but you'll always tell your friends that you cheated to get past it.

And you can't use the argument that you sold 97 million copies of the game either, because once you establish that you can write and direct a good game storyline with good gameplay elements, adding a time sink is just plain mean.

Yes, the game is still awesome and well worth the money, but developers need to knock off the time sink shit.

Seriously, stop it.

Good review.
I agree with you on almost everything, but I don't get why you used the graph. Mining isn't compulsory, I went through an entire playthrough, and I only mined about 2 or 3 times.
But other than that, awesome review.

People need to shut the fuck up about planet scanning. You are more annoying than it is.

A good review. In terms or formatting, picture usage, and general visual appeal: everything was spot on. But the writing left a bit to be desired. It's not that there were a lot of grammatical mistakes, just a lot of awkwardly written sentences like

Dexter111:
Honestly, I was skeptic of this myself at first

or

Dexter111:
The much better graphics and use of general resources may have had a big part in that. Most of the new worlds seemed more "alive" with all the effects and lighting improved upon and a healthy use of holograms, post processing and lively backgrounds.

or

Dexter111:
It is still no Baldur's Gate (the story-book/fantasy tale approach) which I will always hold dear but I like it also.

There were other examples but these were the first that came to mind. Every writer is entitled to their own style of prose but, these don't seem to be stylistic choices on your part, rather, they appear to be the result of hurriedly attempting to phrase a complex idea. All in all, a good review, just not something I'd like to read.

reg42:
Good review.
I agree with you on almost everything, but I don't get why you used the graph. Mining isn't compulsory, I went through an entire playthrough, and I only mined about 2 or 3 times.
But other than that, awesome review.

It isn't needed per se, but as said if you want to get the ending you want and not have several team-members die a horrible death on the way there or if you want to delve in character advancement every now and then (which is mainly achieved by Researching upgrades instead of Leveling now) and be more effective in combat you'll have to do it more than enough. It kind of is an integral part of the game.

SultanP:
Good review. It's odd, I read a lot of reviews that say a lot of good and a little bad about Mass Effect 2. And yet, the more I read, the less I want to actually play the game.

I know what you mean, it happens with some largely hyped games for me too that I just choose to skip (like Halo xD) or play years later, don't really know what to say other than maybe try not to hear or read too much about something before you try it. I think I managed to only watch 1-2 Mass Effect 2 videos and read maybe 1-2 Interviews before I started playing it. Bioware is also notorious for almost spoiling the entire game if you "inform" yourself in advance.

Not a Spy:
There were other examples but these were the first that came to mind. Every writer is entitled to their own style of prose but, these don't seem to be stylistic choices on your part, rather, they appear to be the result of hurriedly attempting to phrase a complex idea. All in all, a good review, just not something I'd like to read.

I guess I get what you mean (kind of :P) and I do tend to write some Run-On sentences in any language, but I don't know if this is something that can be fixed easily without changing my Basic understanding of the entire language or Advanced Writing courses or something like that.
I did look the text over a few times and I did rewrite and reword a few sentences and sections here and there but I wouldn't have noticed that there is anything inherently wrong with any of that by myself xD

Dexter111:

reg42:
Good review.
I agree with you on almost everything, but I don't get why you used the graph. Mining isn't compulsory, I went through an entire playthrough, and I only mined about 2 or 3 times.
But other than that, awesome review.

It isn't needed per se, but as said if you want to get the ending you want and not have several team-members die a horrible death on the way there or if you want to delve in character advancement every now and then (which is mainly achieved by Researching upgrades instead of Leveling now) and be more effective in combat you'll have to do it more than enough. It kind of is an integral part of the game.

Actually, only the ship upgrades effect who lives and who dies. The rest is down to loyalty and who you choose for the suicide mission.

reg42:

Dexter111:

reg42:
Good review.
I agree with you on almost everything, but I don't get why you used the graph. Mining isn't compulsory, I went through an entire playthrough, and I only mined about 2 or 3 times.
But other than that, awesome review.

It isn't needed per se, but as said if you want to get the ending you want and not have several team-members die a horrible death on the way there or if you want to delve in character advancement every now and then (which is mainly achieved by Researching upgrades instead of Leveling now) and be more effective in combat you'll have to do it more than enough. It kind of is an integral part of the game.

Actually, only the ship upgrades effect who lives and who dies. The rest is down to loyalty and who you choose for the suicide mission.

\

Really? There was part where as a door was closing a stray round hit a teammate of mine, everyone paused and looked at him but he was fine and we continued onwards. I have a feeling had I not upgraded everyone's armor and shields he would have died during that particular scene so maybe the other non-ship related upgrades do play a role in who lives/dies....

Just my 2 cents anyways.
:D

Shoes:

reg42:

Dexter111:

reg42:
Good review.
I agree with you on almost everything, but I don't get why you used the graph. Mining isn't compulsory, I went through an entire playthrough, and I only mined about 2 or 3 times.
But other than that, awesome review.

It isn't needed per se, but as said if you want to get the ending you want and not have several team-members die a horrible death on the way there or if you want to delve in character advancement every now and then (which is mainly achieved by Researching upgrades instead of Leveling now) and be more effective in combat you'll have to do it more than enough. It kind of is an integral part of the game.

Actually, only the ship upgrades effect who lives and who dies. The rest is down to loyalty and who you choose for the suicide mission.

\

Really? There was part where as a door was closing a stray round hit a teammate of mine, everyone paused and looked at him but he was fine and we continued onwards. I have a feeling had I not upgraded everyone's armor and shields he would have died during that particular scene so maybe the other non-ship related upgrades do play a role in who lives/dies....

Just my 2 cents anyways.
:D

It's down to chance whether that shot kills the person, if you chose the right team leader. If not, the leader will die.

reg42:

Shoes:

reg42:

Dexter111:

reg42:
Good review.
I agree with you on almost everything, but I don't get why you used the graph. Mining isn't compulsory, I went through an entire playthrough, and I only mined about 2 or 3 times.
But other than that, awesome review.

It isn't needed per se, but as said if you want to get the ending you want and not have several team-members die a horrible death on the way there or if you want to delve in character advancement every now and then (which is mainly achieved by Researching upgrades instead of Leveling now) and be more effective in combat you'll have to do it more than enough. It kind of is an integral part of the game.

Actually, only the ship upgrades effect who lives and who dies. The rest is down to loyalty and who you choose for the suicide mission.

\

Really? There was part where as a door was closing a stray round hit a teammate of mine, everyone paused and looked at him but he was fine and we continued onwards. I have a feeling had I not upgraded everyone's armor and shields he would have died during that particular scene so maybe the other non-ship related upgrades do play a role in who lives/dies....

Just my 2 cents anyways.
:D

It's down to chance whether that shot kills the person, if you chose the right team leader. If not, the leader will die.

Well that's pretty anticlimactic

reg42:
Actually, only the ship upgrades effect who lives and who dies. The rest is down to loyalty and who you choose for the suicide mission.

I know that ship shields/hull/weapons play a role while flying towards the ship but I thought the unique weapons e.g. Grunt and Legion also play a role at the end aside of choosing the right people?

Dexter111:

reg42:
Actually, only the ship upgrades effect who lives and who dies. The rest is down to loyalty and who you choose for the suicide mission.

I know that ship shields/hull/weapons play a role while flying towards the ship but I thought the unique weapons e.g. Grunt and Legion also play a role at the end aside of choosing the right people?

Nope, I didn't buy either of them. Everyone lived.

Wow this is detailed. Great job! It's nice to see a review from someone who played so much of the game.

 

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