BioWare has finally explained exactly how your Mass Effect 1 save affects your Mass Effect 2 experience, and, in short, they're saying it could potentially change everything.
BioWare's talked a lot of game about how your Mass Effect 1 save will influence how your Mass Effect 2 experience ends up playing out, but have been a bit shy on the specifics about how exactly all of it's going to work. Turns out that maybe the reason they haven't been explaining the details is because the scope of how this works is potentially, ahem, massive.
"It's completely different from anything you've played before, because it's literally, potentially threaded into everything that happens," BioWare's Casey Hudson told PC World. "When you're playing the first game, everything that you do is setting a variable so that as the story progresses we know that you did a certain thing on a certain planet, and then internal to the game, we can reference those things."
All those variables make their way into Mass Effect 2, and "it's not just what your ending was, or a couple of the big choices, you know, where we could have stuck a conversation at the beginning and asked you what you did and moved on. This is literally hundreds of things."
Hudson gives this example: in Mass Effect 1 you may have encountered Conrad Werner in the course of your adventures, and you could have been a jerk to him or not and that would have been the end of the interaction. At the time, BioWare says, you "might have been thinking of it as just a trite role-playing convention," but in Mass Effect 2, when Werner shows up again in a subplot, "what you did two years ago is meaningfully affecting what's happening."
From the biggest changes to the tiniest details, your Mass Effect 1 save sounds like it will genuinely shape your Mass Effect 2 playthrough. "It's also part of dialogues, part of signs that you see, even reflected in PA announcements that you'll hear," Hudson said. "So it's woven through the entire experience, from beginning to end."