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Mass Effect franchise: Part 2 – Mass Effect 2

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MassEffect2_Hero

Welcome to the Second of four posts by me on the Mass effect franchise. these posts will be split as follows:

  • Part 1 – Introduction & Mass Effect 1
  • Part 2 – Mass Effect 2 (This Post)
  • Part 3 – Mass Effect 3
  • Part 4 – Mass Effect, The future & Conclusion

Before we get started be aware that these posts will be long(ish) and will have frequent and heavy spoilers as i discus elements of the games. So bare this in mind, in case your that one person who hasn’t played it yet!!

Okay, still here? Lets get into the goodness that is the greatness of Mass Effect!!

MassEffect2_cover

Language: English
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Format: PC/XBox 360/PS3
Type: Game
Genre: Sci-Fi

Synopsis:

Two years after Commander Shepard repelled invading Reapers bent on the destruction of organic life, a mysterious new enemy has emerged. On the fringes of known space, something is silently abducting entire human colonies. Now Shepard must work with Cerberus, a ruthless organization devoted to human survival at any cost, to stop the most terrifying threat mankind has ever faced.

To even attempt this perilous mission, Shepard must assemble the galaxy’s most elite team and command the most powerful ship ever built. Even then, they say it would be suicide. Commander Shepard intends to prove them wrong.

Mass Effect 2, a game I both love and hate!

Why do i hate it? It reminds me just how awesome Mass Effect 1 was. The problem here is that EA stripped out almost all of the RPG elements from the game. these included stripping out the character progression system and replacing it with a linear progression track, I can’t even call it a twig, never mind a tree. They also stripped out the inventory system and item drops, resulting in a rather dull and uninteresting system, this also means they got rid of the modifications for weapons and armour.

Ss-014

Weapons are found as pick-ups, or purchased from the vendors on planets. However due to the lack of mods you’re pretty much forced to upgrade as you find new weapons as each are significantly better than the previous one. The mods have now been incorporated into the skill track, which you can see in the above picture. The issue i have here is they removed all the skills relating to weapons, spectre training, and mercantile stuff. This in turn removed various damage and health buffs, which i find disappointing to say the lest. They made Shepard more ‘human’ to me, and really helped with immersion as i built the character the way i wanted.

The same is true with the armour, gone are armour drops, now you buy bits and pieces from the odd vendor or find them as mission rewards. Instead of having multiple versions of the same armour (N7 MkI-Mk-XII for example) which were steady increases over the base stats of the armour, which you then improved with modifications; this time you get a few sets and that’s it.

ME2-Armor-Customization

One part of this system i do like is the way you can mix and match, but i personally found that the basic N7 armour was the best, playing as a soldier, the other armours were all geared to the others classes. So despite the fact i liked the mix and match aspect, EA never really maximised on it and i never felt the desire to mix and match. One aspect that irked me no end was the helmet, in ME 1 helmets were part of the armour. You could toggle them on or off at will, or set it so they turned off the helmet when in conversations; but were on the rest of the time. This was the ideal system, that was replaced with the option to have a helmet on all the time and have a stat buff. Or have no helmet all the time with no stat buff; gone is the option for toggling on or off in conversations.

The Casual clothing you get are a bit crappy, in fact you really only have two choices, look like a pirate or a Cerberus outfit. It wasn’t until i did Kasumi’s story that i got another outfit (a Tuxedo) and i kept that as my casual suit from then on.

Sadly, when EA took over this franchise they decided to push it for consoles, and the game shows this, heavily. The entire game really plays out from the ship, which is your home hub. You then go to planets which are in turn broken into smaller sections. On the actual planets this isn’t as noticeable, however when you go to the Citadel you can’t help but notice it. Gone are the wide ranging floors of the Citadel, gone are multiple layers and levels with hidden back alleys and hidden areas, all giving the illusion of being on a a huge sprawling citadel. Instead your give small area that you run across in a few seconds and then you move to another loading screen.

Combat wise it’s fairly similar to the first game, though I’m sure the game has a hidden auto aim assist in it. Either that or they made the hit boxes a hell of a lot bigger. Although this is classed as third persona cover shooter, I can only really think of one time I needed to use cover and that was when i was fighting the Collectors at the end. The rest of the time i was so over powered i didn’t need it.

And that is where the next issue comes in, the balance of imported characters. Playing on a new character (non-imported) i found certain fights hard, such as Horizon with the collectors. However on my imported character i breezed through the game right up to the final mission on the collectors base. Hell i don’t think i died once, which is a bad balance; and no i wasn’t playing on easy, i was on Veteran.

Now lets talk one of the biggest complaints people have with the game, and one i whole heartedly agree with, the DLC situation.

EA released a significant amount of paid DLC for this game that add substantial amounts to the game. These additions actually have a impact on ME3 and are referenced in ME3 which is annoying and frustrations, not to mention confusing if you haven’t played them. That in and of itself wouldn’t be a issue per say, the problem is to buy the DLC you need to first buy Bioware Points. The game has 10 pieces of paid for DLC needing a total of 3600 points to get. That means buying 2x 1600 point and 1x 800 point packs, leaving you with 400 useless points. The cost? £32, yup that’s right £32 for DLC in a game you can buy for £4.99, or less. Again i wouldn’t have an issue if these went on sale, however EA never discounts the prices on the Bioware Points, and i refuse to pay £32 for DLC. In the end i torrented them, something i personally prefer not to do.

When they release their trilogy box set you’d think they’d include the DLC with it, but nope. They include the DLC for ME1 but that’s it. So you have the luxury of £40 for the box set, and another £65 for the DLC for ME2 and 3 (I’ll cover the ME3 bit in my next post); personally i find this disgusting. I understand the price being that high as the DLC is released, since it’s new. But this long after release (it was released January 2010) hell no!!

So, that’s the negativity done!! And yes if you were to take just what I’ve written above you’d think I’d hate the game. However you’d be wrong! I love this game, it’s one of the few franchises I’ve played to completion. And also one of the few that can still throw surprises at me now and again!

Since EA threw out the RPG aspects of the game the story has to be significantly better to make up for it, and holy hell it is!!!

The whole point of the game is to find out who is kidnaping human colonies, and put an end to it. You find out who fairly early on, and then spend a huge chunk of the game recruiting your team to help you put an end to it. Each recruit has a secondary objective they want completed as their ‘price’ or as a request. I have to admit i loved doing all the side missions, they all had a lot of character and depth to them. Even the ones i was expecting to be weak were bloody good fun.

I love the banter that goes on between some of the characters, and the out and out hostility between others. Bioware went all out on these characters and pulled together an amazing squad. We get several returning squad mates from the first game, and they’ve all been changed by the death of Shepard, the passage of time, and Shepard’s return. These changes add new and interesting dynamics to the characters. All except for Joker, who doesn’t change and didn’t need to, he was perfect from the start!!

One of the things i loved the most about this game however is that depending on which missions you complete the game will have different consequences. If you don’t do things by a certain time or in a certain order, members of your crew will die. When the collectors attack your ship and kidnap your crew you can go after them straight away or do other missions first. The consequences however are dire, if you go straight away you get all your crew back. However the longer you leave the more  crew dies and the more the survivors question your timing. This also has a knock on effect on the next game.

Again on the last mission of the game, you can lose members of your squad if you don’t do things right, or lose members of your crew if you decide to send them off on their own without a escort (after you rescue them). And finally you have the big question of whether you can trust the Illusive Man (Cerberus) with a Collector base, or should you blow it up. All of these have major impacts both on the game your playing, and in the next instalment.

The only thing i don’t like about this is the ‘after game’. Once you’ve made you’re last decision and watched the cut scene and credits, it gives you choice to either restart and import your current toon, or carry on. The problem with that for me is that there’s no after effect of your choices. The game excels at doing these, but here there’s nothing, which was greatly disappointing for me. I was kind of hoping for some sort of after show, but oh well.

One other thing i feel the need to mention. In ME 1 they had a different approach to ammo, you had unlimited ammo but your weapons overheated at which point you ejected a thermal clip. In ME 2 they went for the usual ammo hunting method, and i personally don’t like it. While there’s no major difference between the two i preferred ME1 way of doing it just because it was different. Also dropped from this game are character stats on the selection screen, there’s no graphical representation of how your team choice is balanced between combat, tech, and biotic, which i do miss.

Now lets talk graphics and music, these were superb!!

Graphically it was a marked improvement over ME1, but there was also a marked improvement over how smoothly the game ran. The game was full of glorious vistas, though frankly the planetside ones didn’t really get me. What did grab me however were the space vistas. For example at the beginning of the game there’s a bit where your walking through a wrecked Normandy to rescue Joker. If you pause and look out the gaping hole in the side of the ship your treated to an amazing view. Same at the end of the game when you’re heading to the collector Base flying through the junk yard. some of the views you get are just stunning.

The music has gone through a marked upgrade as well, with some amazing choices of music that left me in awe. I generally turn off in game music (cause it’s usually so bad) and listen to iTunes or Spotify. With ME series though i always listen to the in game music because it’s so damn good!!

HOWEVER, this game has issues with newer OS, Win7 and 8. On my Windows 7 i noticed several bugs ranging from game breaking to annoying. First the game breaking bug, when you go to talk to Aria on Omega you can’t. I’ve no idea what causes this or how to fix it. However once it happens i had to uninstall the game and reinstall it since i couldn’t get past that bit since it was a main story point; restarting the game didn’t work. I also experienced a similar bug when doing Krios’s mission, got caught in a loop as a conversation wasn’t ending for some reason. Thankfully that was simply a case of restarting from the last save.

There were also a number of odd graphical issues, for example in the captains cabin if you watch your fish they go out of the bounds of the tank when you feed them. Heads on backwards and characters stuck aiming guns in cut scenes. Black backgrounds on subtitles and severe screen tearing in cut scenes. But these are all minor issues and don’t really hinder game play.

The ending of the game gets you eager and ready for the next one!!

Reblogged from: Dave’s Gaming Blog

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