Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect was a very good action sci-fi RPG. It was a little short and a little too easy for my taste but it had a good story and enough action to compensate for its shortcoming. As with all sequels, Mass Effect 2 aims to improve on the first game.

The result was mixed.

One thing Bioware got right was the story. The story of Mass Effect 2 was really quite complicated, but good writing ensured a smooth flow to the story and I was never caught out by the story. The story does not jump and you could follow the story very well. Having said that, it certainly help that I had played Mass Effect first before Mass Effect 2. Like I said earlier, the story is quite complicated and you could only truly understand the beauty of the story if you had played the first game. However, even if you didn’t play the first game, there are great depth and characters in the game to really get you into the story.

I won’t dive into the story too clearly because I don’t want to spoil it for you but I will say I was impressed with the way the decisions of the first game affected the world of Mass Effect 2. If you had finished Mass Effect, you can import your character and game into Mass Effect 2. Not just your character's look, but the decisions you made in the first game will be carried over. Unfortunately this effect was only done with a soft touch. The decision made at the first game's climax was referenced but didn’t really affect gameplay that much and the big decision you had to make in Mass Effect on who you had to let die almost had no effect at all. Still, I enjoyed the minor touches on how decisions made in Mass Effect affected the world of Mass Effect 2.

As with the previous game, Mass Effect 2 is a beautiful game. Visually, the game looks more interesting as everything from the station stations, the colonies, the various planets, were beautifully tendered. Even the blast-out ruins of a planet was great to look at. Also as with the previous game, you recruit a squad and can choose two squad mates to accompany you on your mission. Unlike some other games, your squad mates are very useful in Mass Effect 2. They use their powers, follow your orders and leads, and each comes with their own usually painful but interesting back-story.

The problem of being too short and too easy was also dealt with as Mass Effect 2 is much longer than Mass Effect and a little bit more difficult. Gameplay was improved as the combat system was tweaked to be more Halo-like. For anyone who do not know what this means, it means combat in Mass Effect 2 is “Run to cover, shoot, cover, kill the enemy, run on to new cover”.

Yes, Mass Effect 2 is a shooter. I don’t care what Bioware says, Mass Effect 2 is NOT a RPG! Bioware said that the RPG element in Mass Effect 2 has been “streamlined”…don’t believe it! The RPG elements in the game has not streamlined but totally destroyed. Instead of the 10-15 skills of Mass Effect, you only get 5-6 skills. Most, if not all, of them useful but a game with only 5-6 skills to improve on is NOT a RPG.

This is one of a number of things I dislike about Mass Effect 2. Outside turning Mass Effect 2 is an action shooter similar to Halo, what happened to the Mako? In Mass Effect, you land on a planet in the Mako all-terrain vehicle and drove around the planet to the site of the action. In the middle of the trip, you can mine resources if you happened to come across them.

In Mass Effect 2, there’s no Mako! And I loved the Mako! Yes, I know there were a lot of complaints about the Mako but even if those complaints were true, who in Bioware actually thought this scanning and probing mini-game was a better alternative? In Mass Effect 2, the way to get resources is to scan the planet for resources and once you hit an area with high content, send a probe to the area to extract it. It’s very sci-fi but also a time-sink. Worse, it’s a time-sink you can’t avoid because you need these resources to make the high level weapons necessary to fight the end-game.

One more thing is the recent rage of DLC or “downloadable content”. Mass Effect 2 has a system called the Cerberus System which you can go directly to and download additional content for Mass Effect 2. For the life of me I don’t understand why they bother. The Cerberus System is terrible. It took me about 6 emails to Bioware before I finally got it to work and even after that, there wasn’t any good content for download. What’s worse is that the latest download required you to pay for it. So what’s the use of the Cerberus System? There is no difference between it and any other website like Stream because you still need to pay for it. So why bother setting up the Cerberus System?

Overall, I guess you can say Mass Effect 2 is a better game than Mass Effect. There’s a lot more action and shooting in Mass Effect 2 and the story, already top-notch in Mass Effect, was even better with an excellent story, great depth and great characters. However you have been warned; Mass Effect 2 is no RPG.


Gar said...

I'm not a big fan of FPS. But I loved Mass Effect. However, the MAKO was also one of my favorite parts. It's like you get tired of shooting stuff, you drive around in the MAKO. And the pictures were stunning. Nothing like bouncing around in your ATV on an alien world.
I haven't bought Mass Effect 2 yet. Now I am thinking I might not... At least not until it gets down to around $10 :).

Ghost said...

You must be playing via PC like me Gar. A lot of complains about the Mako came from console players but on PC, it worked great. Mass Effect 2 is a good game with a good story, good characters and solid gameplay. It may even be better than Mass Effect, but unfortunately for RPG fans like me, it is a shooter, not a RPG.