Tag Archives: Mass Effect 2

What I’m Playing: Mass Effect 2 (Part 3)

This being the final part of my ME2 report, it contains spoilers except in the first and last paragraph.

In the first two parts, I looked at game mechanics and the first part of the story, and at the different characters you can recruit. I have now finished the game – finally, after breaks due to traveling to Japan, celebrating Christmas, and a work retreat that involved lots of skiing and discussions. So in the contemporary spirit of “everything that has more than one part shall have three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number of parts thou shalt write, and the number of the parts shall be three. Four shalt thou not write, neither write thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to write a thirdst. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then thou proclaimest a trilogy and a great work before Man complete.”

Ahem. I think I got sidetracked there. Anyway, part 3: overall thoughts on Mass Effect 2.

My opinion on mechanics hasn’t changed since I wrote part 1. I like the streamlined team management, but the removal of a lot of convenient hotkeys compared to ME1 was annoying. Researching equipment is cool, but ONLY researching, no buying, was a bit odd. Likewise, my opinion on my team mates hasn’t changed either since I wrote part 2. There wasn’t much opportunity to change anyway, since with a team that large, interaction gets a bit spread thin. In hindsight, I think the game might’ve benefited from half as many team members with stronger characters. (Or just remove the ones I don’t like! That’s a good solution, isn’t it?)

Last time I wrote about the story, I had played up to and not including the Reaper IFF mission. From there, the story continues at high speed. Basically, after you find the IFF, you are urged to take the one-way trip through the Omega 4 relay as soon as possible. This starts the point-of-no-return endgame, like in so many other RPGs that allow for some non-linearity in the middle part of the game, but have a linear final part.

I liked a lot that, once you were on the other side, you had to assign some of your team members to additional squads for specific tasks. You’ll go in with two members of your team like always, but you might need a technical specialist to go behind the lines and open doors for you, a leader for a second “relieve squad”, or a protector to escort human abductees you saved from the collectors back to your ship. After I finished the game, I read a walkthrough about that part, and it seems there is a bit of choice there. In most cases, it is quite clear who to send: better send Tali as a technician than Grunt. If you don’t, people tend to die. I’m not sure whether that is a very compelling choice, but I guess it’s better than nothing. The choices being so obvious most of the time, I ended up losing not a single one of my team members, but it seems that potentially, you can end up losing most of your crew. In any case, there is some illusion of tactics going on, with squad assignment and radio contact between the different groups while you fight through the collector ship.

The final decision of the game is a bit weird: You were sent in to destroy a collector ship. Just before you set the fuse, the Illusive Man chimes in and suggests you save the ship so Cerberus could investigate its technology. I mulled over that decision for some time, getting up from my chair, having a coffee, walking around, and in the end decided to go through and blow it up.

There are definitely good reasons to save the ship: the argument that the technology might help in defeating the reapers and collectors, who sure as hell will come for you after you destroyed one of their ships, is compelling. Throwing away that opportunity might be a fatal mistake. Indeed, the final scene shows hundreds of collector ships moving in for an attack, setting the scene for the beginning of ME3, no doubt.

On the other hand, it seems that you are missing the most logical choice. You can either destroy the ship, or hand it over to Cerberus. Why not to the Council? I’d rather not hand something that important and powerful over to some dangerous race supremacy group. The Illusive Man confirmed my suspicion when he told me in the final debriefing of the game that I had sabotaged a chance for “human dominance”. That doesn’t sound like such a bad thing after all (the sabotage, not the dominance). I also thought about Mordin’s words on Tuchanka, when he suggested that part of the Krogan problem was that they got technology from outside before they were ready for it – a bit like many people say that with thermonuclear weapons, human technology has dangerously outpaced human morality. Finally, the other reaper ships in the game were dangerous even after they were “dead”; they still could warp the minds of organic life forms that stayed close to them. So, I think blowing it up maybe was the right decision after all.

Some final words on ME1 vs. ME2. Overall, ME2 had the better gameplay in my eyes, but I think I liked the ME1 story a bit better. I loved the political machinations that seemed to go on in the background in ME1. Talking with the council on several occasions, seeing how the different representatives and non-council ambassadors interacted, how they tried to move around blame and praise – I really liked that. I had the feeling I got a glimpse of interstellar and interracial politics. ME2 had me, for the most part, interact with some shady human supremacy group leader, and I learned very little about what other races and their representatives thought of that. I’d really love to see the focus more on the Council and different racial groups in ME3 again. I personally would also prefer a smaller team, and get richer interactions with each of the members instead. I understand that the large team probably is supposed to increase replayability, but I realized I’m not a replayer in this kind of game. I make my decisions the first time I play through and stick with them. If I’m curious about a decision, I might read up about the other path in a walkthrough afterwards. But I have no real interest in playing the game a second time, just to create an evil badass Shepard and see what the results are. Maybe I’m different from the average Bioware gamer in that respect?

What I’m Playing: Mass Effect 2 (Part 2)

Last time, I wrote about my opinions (I wouldn’t dare call it a “review”) in general. This time, like I promised, I’ll give each of the team member characters a short look, and explain why I like them, or why I don’t.

Miranda: I disliked her before she even opened her mouth (don’t shoot people without my consent!). It only went downhill from there. I’m not sure whether she has problems with my female Shepard, but it feels like she’s trying to wage a bitch battle. Her loyalty mission didn’t make her any more likable in my eyes. So you ran away from your father? That’s cool. But you hated him so much that you kidnapped your sister so she would grow up away from him? I think we passed the border into creepy territory somewhere there.

Jacob: I don’t dislike him. That said, I don’t like him either. I simply don’t care for him, he felt like a boring character. Generic mercenary/soldier type, not much behind the facade. Nah thanks. The loyalty mission concerning his father wasn’t bad, it just felt… weird. Like “60ies Star Trek episodes” weird. Other than that, I nearly hit on Jacob by mistake. Managed to get out of that predicament, though.

Mordin: Now this is probably my favorite character on the crew. He starts out as scientist-doctor-gunslinger. That’s not a completely new and revolutionary character type, but rare enough that you haven’t seen it ad nauseam. His back story is what really made him great, though. You find out that he has been on a secret project to improve the genophage, and is then confronted with the consequences of this decision during his loyalty mission. The development from staunchly in favor of his decision, over rationalization, to acceptance that it might have been morally wrong in the end is done quite well, and superbly well if you keep in mind this is a computer game (who, like it or not, are still typically lacking finesse in character development).

Garrus: Another favorite. He’s become darker since he left C-Sec, but not too dark in the “dark and brooding is sooo cool and mature” trope kind of way. In fact, my main problem with Garrus is that we don’t see more of him. In both games, I had him on my team on almost every mission, and there were a lot more offhand remarks from him in part 1. In addition, his loyalty mission is only so-so. It’s good, but for one of my favorite characters, I would’ve preferred something more involved. Oh well. I will see more of him soon, though. I decided to romance him. I was sad I couldn’t do that in part 1 already, given the awful choices back then. Their “love” story is a quirky mix of feelings and awkwardness, especially when Garrus tells you how he needs to do some research on how this is supposed to work. Mordin also chimes in and tells you he forwarded some reading material to your quarters, to make sure there are no accidents and injuries. Thanks, Mordin. That was slightly disturbing and insensitive – in fact, it felt a bit like a parent-teenager talk about birds and bees gone awry – but still thanks for caring that much.

Thane: Assassin with a conscience, a perfect memory, and a terminal illness. Oh, he also left his son when he was young and wants to reunite with him before he dies. Trope-o-meter: over 9000. Next!

Zaeed: Assassin/mercenary with no conscience, no perfect memory, and no terminal illness. Wants to go on a suicide mission to earn money. Wait, that’s even worse than Thane. There’s also the fact that he’s deep in my personal uncanny valley. He looks like someone I know (minus the scars), but I can’t put my finger on who it is.

Grunt: I have to admit, I have a sweet spot for the Krogan. Grunt is a bit of an odd one out, since he was bred and raised in a tube, which means he has problems fitting into Krogan society, what without a clan and all. Thankfully, Wrex, by now chief of the Urdnot clan, comes to rescue. Good thing Shepard and he are still on friendly terms. You’ll help Wrex get accepted into the clan during his loyalty mission, and learn a lot about how Wrex tries to reform Krogan society. I’m really looking forward to ME3 in that respect, I hope it won’t disappoint me and give some more insights of how the whole Rachni-Krogan-Turian-Salarian-genophage arc will continue. I have to admit, Grunt himself is a quite shallow character, although I felt there was at least a little bit of development due to the clan acceptance. But I could accept that since it meant more Krogan-focused stories.

Tali’Zorah: While Grunt got a Krogan bonus, Tali’Zorah has to fight against the Quarian malus. For some reason, the whole Quarian story and culture never interested me that much. Her loyalty mission gave a nice insight into the internals of Quarian culture, which I liked. Still, they’re more on the fringes of my interest, and so is Tali’Zorah. Creating a group of artificial intelligences that they cannot control, then tried to fight, only to be driven off their homeworld… tough luck? I wonder how the Quarian–Geth struggles will continue in ME3.

Jack: Hate. Her. So. Much. You thought Thane and Zaeed were paper-thin characters? Meet Jack. Poor poor girl was experimented on as a child, and that left her with horrible marks that now make her hate everybody. Which she shows by being extremely antisocial, insulting people, and killing whenever she can. Her greatest wish in life? To blow up the facility she was raised. *yawn*

Legion: I’ve just met him (it?), haven’t even done its loyalty mission yet, so I can’t say much. I fear though that you might meet too late in the game to see much character development. If that thing even has some sort of “character”.

So there you are. A list of why I do or don’t like the team characters. Sadly, there are more instances of the latter than the former. But I found enough interesting ones to form a team, and I guess that’s all that matters. I can happily go back to ignoring most of them and focus on those that I like.

What I’m Playing: Mass Effect 2 (Part1)

Yes, it’s another post in my ongoing series of “games I play years after they were released, because I heard about them at some point, and they were cheap on Steam”. I was pretty happy with the first part when I played it in December. Overall, that also holds true for the successor. To give the rest of the post some perspective, I’ve played about half to two-thirds through the game so far, I think. I did most of the missions (recruitment, loyalty, and side) up to the Reaper IFF.

Compared to part 1, there is an interesting mix of things that were simplified, and those that were made more complex. Combat, for example: Your teammates seem a lot more durable than in the first part, but maybe that’s because controlling them is a lot easier than back then. Instead of four commands (stay, group up, attack, move to position), you only got two (move, group up), and I hardly ever use them. My teammates seem smarter in their judgment. Overall, combat also feels easier than in the first part. Adrenaline is a very overpowered ability, if it allows someone like me, always bad at FPSs, to kill enemies by headshots more often than not. This time around, I never needed to reduce combat difficulty.

Control still sucks. In fact, it’s gotten worse. ME1 had keyboard hotkeys for some of the useful information screens (journal, squad). Mass Effect 2 again shows the godawful porting that console games get these days. Whenever I want to look at any of the screens that had a keyboard shortcut in part 1, I now have to hit Escape, then choose the desired screen from a menu with my mouse. Eww. The worst offender in that regard was the “Cerberus network” (I’ll probably talk about that and DLCs at a later point). To enter your credentials, you had to click the username field, type in your name. Click on the password field, enter password. Click on “Accept” button. Tab button? What’s this? Consoles don’t have it, so it must suck!

The research system is something I really like. It encourages exploration. If anything, I’d love to have more resource requirements to encourage it even more. I never had to go out of my way to farm resources, could always stay in those systems that I had to visit for missions anyway.

On the other hand, the number of weapons was severely reduced compared to ME1, and armor was completely removed. Yes, most weapons you could buy sucked, so you focused on the few models that didn’t, and which ones you could buy from vendors was luck-based. Still, I liked the choice and illusion of a bustling weapons market. Maybe ME3 could give us larger tech trees? I’d be all for that. But then, I play Civilization-type games, and I’m sure not all ME players do.

The story line is a bit of a dual-edged sword to me. Some parts of the story really irk me, like the involvement with Cerberus (who I try to stab in the back whenever possible), or the main story. I hope something interesting will come of the collector tie-in; so far, the story dawdles along without too much motivation. The side missions are nice, though. You have to do a mission for each team member to recruit them, and later revisit their back story via a “loyalty” mission that gives you some more insight into them. And that’s in spite of the fact I really dislike most of my crew members (or because of that?). But more about that next time.