I reviewed Mass Effect 1 previously. You can read that review here - http://honestgamingprose.blogspot.com/2010...ect-review.html
I won’t go into masses of detail about how the game plays here, because you’ll either know that from having played Mass Effect 1 or having read the above review.
This review will instead be written from the point of view examining the differences between Mass 1 and Mass 2.
As we would expect from a sequel, many of the game’s usage items are now contextually and practically different to interact with.
Omni tools for one. Then there’s the hacking and rewiring of electrical circuits that are in themselves mini games, rather than a solid succeed or fail, or a QTE. In fact, the QTE’s are totally gone, except for new paragon/renegade options mid cut scene where each trigger controls one of them respectively.
It used to be such a pain to find a box and discover that you didn’t have a specialist there with high enough skill to open it. Truly those days are gone, thank goodness.
These new touches work well enough, again making you feel more involved, but the triggers to decide actions can be a little unsure because you don’t really know what your character is going to do as a result of you choosing the option.
The other mini games mentioned above are actually quite good. One is a game that tests your short term memory. The other has you searching for pieces of code on a screen full of code that matches each piece it asks for. Both are entertaining enough.
Sending probes at planets is now more like a game of battleships meets pin the tail on the donkey. It gets boring but you feel like you have to mine for whatever is there because those materials are what upgrades you and your crew’s abilities. Better armour, better damage, ship upgrades – they come from research training and materials spent.
Fuel money and economy thinking keep you thinking about your budget. It makes you feel more involved in a way that Mass Effect 1 did not.
Ultimately, the scanning of planets parts are numerous and get tedious quite soon. You’ll find you’re getting twitchy to stop doing it, because it feels pointless. The only way I could get through it was to leave a radio on to play, so I would have something else to focus on. It’s worse than “grinding kills” in an MMO for rep or whatever. This is the worst thing about ME2 and stops it getting into a higher end review score.
The second worst is perhaps the way it doesn’t encourage conversation with your crew, just like ME1 didn’t.
To some people who are new to this sort of game, the options and conversations will seem wonderful I’m sure. To people who have played games like KOTOR (Knights of the Old Republic), ME1 and ME2 will be noticeably lacking in conversation options even though both games are by the same people.
The first way that conversation is discouraged is by the fact that you still have to endure a waiting loading screen just to change floors and speak to some of your crew. The second is that when you actually get there, you find that they still don’t want to talk to you, even though there has been an updated situation, in some cases. The third is that characters can end up in a repeated loop, a cycle of saying the same one thing to you each time you visit them, even after planetary updates. Jacob is one example. You will find that once he is loyal he’ll get to a point where each time you speak to him he will only speak about looking forward to sharing some drinks with when this is all over. After four different visits to see what’s new with him, you end up feeling that you might as well not bother trying to talk. Even characters you’re supposed to be getting into a romance with. Miranda for example – once things are accepted, that you and she will be an item, she keeps telling you that she will swing by and see you when it’s quiet. That is unfortunately your cue to not bothering talking to her at all anymore – not until she chooses the time that is quiet enough to come to you. Then there is the character in question being too busy to talk, as the fourth reason. The fifth reason is just as annoying. The loyalty missions pretty much all pop up at once. Once a character has stated that they need their mission doing, the won’t be interested in speaking to you about anything else but that, time and time again. You won’t escape that cycle until you do their mission. This means that you don’t get to talk to those characters with new updates of conversation after you complete even the other character’s loyalty missions.
It doesn’t matter all that much really anyway as the crew conversations and what you learn is pretty thin info at best. Consider any sort of typical Bioware conversation sim element here to be just a little added extra to give you some flavour to the crew - nothing important though I’m afraid.
Combat is now pretty smooth. I had some issues with the first game’s combat system, but many of those are now addressed. Guns are a lot more efficient to use right from the off. The game’s expectations of you as a player are a lot more combat focused, with elements of further expansion in tactical play. You can for instance order team mates to separate positions, using the D-Pad left and D-Pad right respectively. Cover is used with a lot more care and attention into it. You are now encouraged to place yourselves tactically behind something and it be meaningful to your chances of survival/counter fire.
Also new, adding more tactical insight into your gameplay expectations is the “right weapon for the job” type scenarios. An enemy Krogen might appear for example. It could have a layer of shield, then a layer of armour before getting to even see its health bar. Some guns are weaker/stronger against shields/armour/health. It isn’t unusual to be expected to switch weapons mid fight. In the case of the Krogen mentioned above, the flame thrower weapon is recommended, as flame or biotic attacks shut down their regenerative ability!
Usually, fights will have large numbers of enemies spawning at you for a while. You soon learn the rules of the mechanics though, that these numbers are finite. There are a couple of sections though that breaks the rules the game usually enforces - with non stop spawning enemies ‘Call of Duty’ style – and of course you stop them by capturing a new forward position, again COD style.
The mako type driving gameplay is gone from the normal game of ME2 (not including any Cerberus network DLC “downloadable content” that is brought out). So you can forget about exploring planets in that way – you just can’t.
The overall pacing and efficiency of the game is improved, the overall speed of getting from A to B. A lot has been streamlined, whether you’ll like it or not, like in the above example of mako driving to destinations being removed.
Lifts are now rather simple loading screens rather than painful waiting experience from ME1.
You can expect a crew of mainly new characters with some old faces thrown in. Again, the game is story driven. You feel as if you really do care about the outcomes of your actions. When you make a choice, whether someone lives or dies, usually you feel passionate about it. That’s a good sign.
Conversation options are still misleading. The text you see on screen compared to what actually happens when you select it. For example, at one point I let one person go when I didn’t even want that to happen and it appears that I could have stopped it. They’re too abstract about the meanings behind the phrases you select.
This though is what we’ve come to expect from Mass Effect. You know what you’re buying at least. Be warned about this though, it certainly upset me when I hear outcomes based on things I’ve said that I even don’t agree with!
Unlike some Bioware party based RPG’s, this game doesn’t have loyalty reading for each of your actions. Loyalty from your crew expands their abilities a little and gives them a new outfit to choose from. Think along the lines of Dragon Age Origins’ final outcome. But even then, DAO has a meter for team loyalty to you. As I said, ME2 doesn’t.
You’ll be gaining loyalty based on each crew’s loyalty mission. You can choose not to do it of course, but that’s the way you get them to “loyal” status - that or get 200 gym badges…wait a minute, wrong game – tee-hee. But the loyalty status of each crewmember also has an effect on the later game as well.
This can be frustrating also though, the loyalty matter. You can gain loyalty of someone just to lose it straight away from one decision you make. This happened to me more than once. It’s frustrating because everything you did felt like it was for nothing.
One major concern I noticed in ME1 was the gameplay stability. It didn’t run very well at all. There was lots of memory lag. Those days are behind us. Yes, not everything is instant, but then what is on a loaded disc these days? However, it now runs on par with any other RPG. Nothing negative to say about ME2 on that front then.
If you played ME1 and liked it, you need to play this. If you played ME1 and thought it was just “okay”, this might change your mind, if you can handle the stomach churning planetary resource hunting segments. If you hated ME1 before, perhaps consider this as a rental if you think the above I’ve mentioned has addressed your particular issues with it.
They have taken the story forwards in what will be a trilogy. I can say that I truly am fascinated by the wealth of information about the world. This would make a solid tabletop RPG too – for the same reason.
The decisions you make in Mass Effect 2 will have a huge impact on events in Mass Effect 3.
Ultimately, the sort of thing that will make fans of Mass Effect 1 play this is that you see more and do more. Remember hearing about the Quarian Migrant Fleet of 50,000 craft holding over 17 million quarians? This time around, it’s not just something to hear about. It’s somewhere to visit. That’s what I’m talking, as an example. Pros: Continue the story, a story told in its own way - not copying anyone else, combat is improved, those lifts are gone, streamlined gameplay elements in so many ways, fairer locked crate and password protected entry system, that DLC keep on coming.
Cons: The loyalty missions are a bit hit and miss, conversation is still weak for an interactive RPG like this, resource collection is appalling after a while.
Total Score: 8.8
(This review appeared in original form at my gaming blog here - http://honestgamingprose.blogspot.com/2010...t-2-review.html