Developer Q&A with Producer Jesse Houston and Game Designer Christina Norman
- Length of Main Story – Houston mentions that the main quest in the first Mass Effect was roughly 30 hours (even though it took me around 60, but I like to explore). He says there is about one and a half times more game in Mass Effect 2, however, blowing through the main story will actually make the game shorter than the first one. That said, he said he can’t imagine people wanting to do that and reiterated the fact that this is a “suicide mission.” I fully anticipate spending at least 75 hours on my game, if not more.
- Armor Customization – Players will be able to customize their armor in many ways. Not only will we be able to change the colors and patterns of different pieces, but we will actually also be able to mix-and-match pieces to get the sort of stats we want. Some special sets, however, don’t come in pieces but will be pretty powerful. I, for one, can’t wait to put my Blood Dragon Armor from Dragon Age: Origins into use.
- DLC – Houston claims there is a lot in the works. He mentions the Cerberus Network that was recently announced that will allow players the chance to get news and downloads for the game. He also says that they learned quite a bit about how to do DLC from Mass Effect and have some exciting stuff for Mass Effect 2. I was pretty disappointed with the DLC for Mass Effect, so I am happy to hear this.
- Ammo – There is ammo in the game, though it’s not called that and works a bit differently. Mass Effect 2 uses a “heat sink system,” where guns will fire until they overheat, and then players will eject some sort of canister, reload another, and begin firing. One of the big things is that each gun won’t have it’s own type of “ammo,” as the canisters will be evenly distributed between all your guns. The one exception are heavy weapons. Sounds good to me, since I wasn’t a huge fan of the first game’s system.
- Save Game Imports – We’ve heard a lot about how your decisions and character stats will be able to be imported into Mass Effect 2 from Mass Effect, but one thing I didn’t know is that your paragon or renegade status will also be brought in. Houston was quick to point out that players who haven’t played the first game won’t feel left out if they simply start with Mass Effect 2, but that the choices made by those importing their saves will simply enhance the richness of the world. The thought that choices from Mass Effect will affect Mass Effect 3 just makes me giddy inside.
- Shared Power Cooldown System – All powers in Mass Effect 2 will share a cooldown, but the cooldown will be much, much shorter than the ones from the first game. BioWare’s reasoning behind this was to keep people from never using their abilities only to “dump” them all right before a big fight.
- Customization for the Normandy – This is something I was unaware of and thought was pretty cool. Throughout your travels players will be able to find and buy things they can then use to decorate the inside of Normandy, including Shepard’s cabin. Two examples were given: Shepard will be able to find model ships that will be displayed in his cabin as well as getting pet fish that will, according to Houston, have to be fed. Great, now I can almost kill my virtual pets like I do my real ones.
- Difference between PC and 360 Versions – Very little difference, according to Norman. Unlike the first game, which was ported to PC sometime after the 360 release, both versions were developed simultaneously in-house. There may be a little difference in the graphics area (with the PC pulling slightly ahead), but Norman says it’s not overly noticeable.
- Morals and Choices – Those of you that played the first game probably remember some pretty huge moral choices that the player has to make (with one in particular being especially memorable). Houston says that there will be a lot more choices for the player to make in Mass Effect 2 that will impact the world and story, many of which will be morally ambiguous. This is the stuff that will tear me apart. I literally sat and stared at my screen for about fifteen minutes before making the big choice in Mass Effect. Tears may be had during Mass Effect 2.
- Ending – Obviously the ending will be epic, concluding with Shepard’s suicide mission. However, Houston says, if Shepard does not die, players will be free to explore the game past the ending and participate in any DLC. Looks like you will just have to load an earlier save for DLC if your Shepard dies like in the first game. It was a bit annoying to have to reload a save to play the DLC in the first game, so I welcome this change. Hopefully I can keep my Shepard alive.
I came away very impressed with this playthrough. Though I have seen many gameplay videos, you really can’t get a complete feeling of how the combat flows unless you see someone playing it in real-time. The Q&A was just icing on the cake, and we got some interesting answers to a few questions that haven’t really been asked. The best thing, in my opinion, was getting to listen to the developers talk about a game they clearly loved working on and hearing their passion come out in the responses to questions. BioWare is one of those companies that’s dedication to the gaming market really makes it awesome to be a gamer right now. And if Dragon Age: Origins didn’t make you believe that, then I’m sure Mass Effect 2 will next Tuesday.
Mass Effect 2 will release for the PC and Xbox 360 in North America on January 26th, in Australia on January 28th, and finally Europe on January 29th.