Mass Effect 2: Post 06

I’m getting close to the end of the game and don’t have a lot of new things to say. I figured I’d lay down the remaining unrelated observations all in one post, and then maybe wrap the series up in a few days with an after-I-beat-the-game post.

  • I like the new ship. The old Normandy felt huge and empty. The new Normandy is at least twice as big, yet is filled so much more satisfyingly. And believably. There’s a crew’s quarters. There are bathrooms. There’s a med bay. There are research stations and weapons lockers. There are storage rooms. There’s a captain’s quarter. The ship has it all. And there are people in every corner of the ship. It’s a fully realized stronghold.
  • And, like Assassin’s Creed 2, you can upgrade your stronghold — though apparently the upgrades to the ship impact how the end-game plays out. I cannot fully comment on that yet since I have not finished.
  • I love the henchmen loyalty quests. After a while, a henchman asks you to help them in some matter — something like a 30-minute one-off mission. Instead of each one requiring you to shoot a bunch of enemies in generic fashion, they’re crafted in a manner appropriate to the henchman and filled with interaction with that henchman — kind of like the BG2 stronghold quests. One mission requires you to seduce someone. Another requires you to spy on a politician. Very cool.
  • But that’s been the best part of ME2 versus ME1: the level of polish. Every level feels unique. Nothing is filler. And the story contains a lot more moments of “showing” versus “telling”. For example, in ME2, Jack asks you to take her to the lab where she was tortured and abused. You get to see first-hand where she has been, and listen to her as she responds to various in-level stimuli. ME2 shows the developers’ personality and love for the franchise, and also may hint at a little more wiggle room in the schedule this time around.
  • I like walking into a new city location. Lots of people. Advertisements. News. Ambient conversations. It feels busy and more like a living city than locations in ME1. It’s not to the level of Assassin’s Creed 2, but AC2 had the benefit of centralized locations whereas ME2 is all about world-hopping.
  • The continuity provided by the loading screen graphics is a huge improvement and helps provide a greater level of immersion. And what I mean is that when you complete a mission in ME1 you jump from the middle of a swamp to the comm room of the Normandy with only a spinning Mass Effect relay in-between. In ME2, there’s a loading screen where you see your skiff lift off the planet and fly straight up to be intercepted by the the Normandy on its way out of orbit. In ME1, elevators were long and painful. In ME2, longer elevator rides are masked by a load screen showing a graphic of your location and the moving elevator. It definitely makes a seamed world feel more seamless.
  • I bet I could out-run Shepherd, and I’m not in optimal shape. She runs 20 feet and then she’s heavy breathing for a while. Really?
  • In ME1, I spent a lot of time running around the ship talking to every henchmen only to learn that most of them never wanted to talk to me. I felt so rejected. In ME2, my assistant kindly tells me that Grunt or Jack need a talking to, and off I run to do it. Much more efficient. She’s also nice enough to feed my fish for me and let me know when I have new e-mail. And speaking of, I love the mails themselves. Instead of wondering why I never had a scene with so-and-so, as was often the case in ME1, in ME2 I’ll spot a new e-mail with an update from so-and-so. And they’re cheap, from a development perspective. Designers don’t need to craft a scene with camera angles and VO and so on when they can write up a quick e-mail.
  • Is it just me or are the “husk” levels awfully buggy? I’ve managed to fall out of two different husk levels. My henchmen are constantly disappearing for long stretches before reappearing in random locations, or just straight up teleporting. Or dying and returning to life in the same combat. And husks are dying without playing the proper animations. Or they’re standing still while I stand next to them unloading bullets into their face. Etc. ME2 is not a buggy game, so it’s surprising that these levels are as buggy as they are. While I applaud the unique style to them (husks swarm you, thereby preventing you from staying hunkered down in cover. Instead, you have to strafe in circles or go for the fire-and-retreat strategy), I’d applaud them more if they worked properly.
  • I had to use the web to verify this, but it turns out the credits available in the game (approximately 1,150,000) balance out almost exactly to cost to buy everything (approximately 1,250,000). In other words, if you do everything, you can buy almost everything. So at the very least, you’re not going to exit the game with a giant wad of cash and nothing to spend it on (like ME1).

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