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Mass Effect 2

Hey guys. Sorry I haven’t been updating much as of late. I’ve been pretty busy with work and my other writing projects that I haven’t had much time to look at older things to review. I do have a few things I might want to review very soon (specifically Wolf’s Rain and possibly the Dark Crystal). But right now I want to talk about a game I just got this past Tuesday that has managed to steal whatever free time I did have before: Mass Effect 2. I have not yet finished the game, but I’m about 30 hours in. If you’ve read all the reviews so far, you probably have heard its a game now. However, I’ve played nearly all of Bioware’s games for the modern console and I would have to say that thus far, this is the best game Bioware has ever made in my opinion. And, although I haven’t finished it yet, it’s already a contender for my favorite video game sequel of all time.

Assuming you’ve never heard of Mass Effect, this series is Bioware’s take on the traditional space opera while still managing to be original and well developed with its setting. There’s a bunch of alien races, all of which are interesting, and the world is well defined and clearly thought through (they even have a Codex in their games that is essentially like a personal Hitchhiker’s Guide for more detailed information about the things you come across in the game). Mass Effect 1 was a good game with a pretty good story, but suffered from several flaws (the inventory system, the frequent “elevator” load times, the inventory system, driving the Mako, the inventory system, needlessly having to drive around uninteresting planets with the Mako, the inventory system, the goddamn inventory system).

Mass Effect 2 is one of the rare sequels that pretty much improves on every aspect of the original rather than just recycling the same formula again and again. It has a lot going for it. First of all, one of the main selling points is that you can import your character from Mass Effect 1 into 2 to “continue the story” of that specific character, with choices made in the previous game affecting this one. When I heard this, I thought it was pretty cool and expected major decisions from the first game to affect the second game, which it does. What I did not expect is that if you import a character from the first game, the second game doesn’t just reference major choices from the first game, it references sidequest and seemingly inconsequential choices from the first game that you wouldn’t expect. You even get to run into the annoying reporter from the first game, who you had the option to Falcon Punch before. If you did that, she remembers it (also, you have the option to punch said reporter again, which just proves why the choices in the game are awesome). The game has a LOT of stuff like this. I even received in game emails from secondary character from the first game I didn’t even remember at first, but still referenced choices I made. This game is really the first video game sequel I’ve seen where you know for certain your actions in the last game “mattered” and had consequences on that fictional world, which is not easy to do for a video game. Importing a character definately gives you a good feeling of nostalgia and satisfaction to continue your own character (and his/her allies) story arc.

Which brings me to my next point: the writing in this game is awesome. Now, if you know anything about Bioware, that’s not much of a surprise. But Bioware really stepped up their game this time. Not only are the dialogue choices for Shepard often amusing or funny, but all the characters in the game are really fleshed out and go through very good character development. Every single party member in the game has a quest you can go on to learn more about that character and help them on a more personal venture. Which isn’t that impressive…were it not for the fact that these optional quest each happen to be almost as long and involved as the main story missions. They have cutscenes, choices, and help you get in touch with the characters. Even if you don’t like a specific character, you’ll find it hard not to sympathize with them in their quests.

And, the big improvement, is the gameplay. The irritating as all hell inventory system from the first game is gone. Instead, this game employs a “research” system where you craft weapons, weapon mods, armor, and other upgrades using rare resources you get from mining resources with probes on planets you can scan (scanning and probing the planets is admittedly not the most fun part of the game to me, but it’s better than driving around irritating terrain with that damn Mako from the first game). Aside from that, there are no items to get aside from research schematics so you can craft better upgrades, which makes things a lot more streamlined and requires none of the inventory management busywork that I hated in the first game. The combat is also better, making it easier to use skills and giving weapons ammo to make it less tricky to use. The combats very fast paced, exciting, and your squad members act fairly intelligent.

All in all, this is a good game that I recommend to any RPG fan. I have not seen an RPG done this well with an enthralling story such as this in a long time.  However, if you’re interested in getting this game, I urge you to play Mass Effect 1 first and transfer over the character. Trust me, you will feel a lot more satisfaction from it by seeing the benefits and consequences of your actions in the first game. It’s a fantastic game and, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go play more of it.

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