Victory! The threat to the galaxy is once again stopped. I really enjoyed the title and mostly loved the ending. And like Dragon Age, I’ll happily fire this one up again after all the DLC is bundled (though I’ll probably start over in ME1 with a very different character to pick up on more of the differences). Here are a few extra thoughts to close down this series.
(Although it should be assumed that every post contains spoilers, here’s a reminder: don’t read this post if you don’t to be spoiled about the game’s ending.)
- Statistically speaking, I clocked in with 41h56m invested into ME2. Good value. My paragon, female Shepherd is level 27, and I flopped back-and-forth between hardcore and insanity difficulty. I started a new game to hit level 30, and did so at 1h03m en route to recovering Mordin.
- Almost everyone in my crew had a few unused talent points. That’s disappointing, considering how valuable talent points should be. I know the implemented system makes it impossible to account for every single point, but that is one of the flaws (albeit minor) in the progressive-cost skill system for ME2, versus ME1’s 1:1 costs.
- Color me (happily) shocked. I can’t think of a single moment in a single BioWare game where the game tells you to act now and you actually need to act now. Until ME2. Your crew is abducted by the collectors, and the game tells you that in order to save them you need to act now. I was like, “sure, sure. I’ll get to it.” Miranda, especially, was persistent. But I ignored her since, you know, I had a few loose ends to wrap up — maybe doing a little gambling with the krogan or some such. Alas! My poor assistant, Kelly! I’ll always remember that night you hung out in my quarters. :p
- I was really enjoying the run-through to the end of the game until my group had to fight the Reaper embryo. Yes, it may be a “six-of-one/half-dozen-of-another” comment, but I’d rather watch large chunks of health fall away from the embryo — and then have it climb down, heal itself, and return — rather than unload with clip-after-clip as tiny pixels of health are grudgingly given up. It makes me feel a little impotent — the opposite of how I should feel as the galaxy’s savior. I had the same complaint with the NWN: Hordes of the Underdark boss fight. The difference is I was the QA Tech Lead back then and convinced the designer to change it.
- I really liked the final major decision: save or destroy the Collector base. I liked it because it was a tough decision. ME1 was straight-forward: do you want to see a diverse civilization including humanity, or a xenophobic, human-dominated civilization? In ME2, it’s much more gray; I’m playing Paragon but it’s hard to argue against the value of all that technology. I wanted to save it, but I wasn’t willing to make a Renegade decision. If I had not been clued in which was Paragon or Renegade, I likely would have kept the base around. That said, my party seems to be happy with my choice. I’m really curious to find out how this plays out in ME3.
- And while I also liked all the different ways you can save or lose your henchmen, I’m at least a little bothered by the ambiguity. For example, how do I know which defenders are the ones that can survive the final assault? I felt compelled to read along at the Mass Effect wiki as I played to make sure I didn’t lose anyone.
- I hate losing control of my actions during a cutscene. I like impressive cutscenes, true, but I hate that my character pulls off these amazing feats that I cannot do in the game. Or that something drastic happens during a cutscene that I have no control over. I wish more companies, BioWare included, would do something to keep the player from putting down the controller during those moments. Similarly, I wonder if BioWare gave thought to letting the player volunteer himself as a specialist during the end-game sequence. For example, when I had to pick a tech specialist to manipulate a door — why couldn’t I volunteer my Engineer? Or when Samara was struggling to hold up the biotic shield, and Jack was in my group, why couldn’t Jack help out?
- Looks like BioWare’s QA department has gained a new testing team since I’ve left. Back then, we had QA Design (the game itself) and QA Tech (the systems and tools that make the game). According to the game’s credits, we now have a QA Story team complementing the aforementioned. Cool. I’d say the expansion has paid off.
It probably doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: Mass Effect 2 is a great game and a strong sequel to Mass Effect 1. In fact, when I’ve said that video games are an arena where sequels are wonderful (as opposed to Hollywood where it feels more like a cash in), this is a great example of why; the designers are less focused on waiting for tools to arrive and more focused on getting content created with pre-exisisting tools with which they are already familiar, using art assets and such that are already created. It makes for a much better gaming experience.
If you haven’t played this game yet, and you enjoy RPGs, you need to give this one a chance.