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Game Rant’s Dominic Licorish reviews Mass Effect 2: Arrival

Mass Effect 2 was without a doubt 2010’s game of the year, picking up the coveted GOTY award from multiple awards shows and gaming sites, including us. Mass Effect is also quickly becoming a multimedia franchise, with books, comics, and even a planned film. BioWare’s dedication to the Mass Effect universe is one of the series’ many highlights, as they have continued to build off of the main games and extend them with oodles of DLC. To that end, the developer promised that content would be provided to bridge the gap between Mass Effect 2 and the highly anticipated Mass Effect 3, set to release later this year.

Their final send-off to Mass Effect 2 is called Arrival, and whether it’s worth the money for you to purchase this final chapter depends on several things, but mostly on how much love you have for Mass Effect as a series. Fans will undoubtedly be satisfied by Arrival, but for those who are on the fence about purchasing the Arrival, let’s take a look at why BioWare deserves your money, without spoiling anything.

Arrival brings the Mass Effect story more directly back to the main threat of the series: the Reapers. The few details and screenshots BioWare dangled over our noses built up a wave of excitement, and one can tell that BioWare made this pack as a love letter to the fans.

Mass Effect 2 Arrival Review Admiral Hackett

Admiral Hackett Needs Your Help... Again

It’s a short chapter, taking at the most a couple hours to  complete, but BioWare has made sure to pack the whole thing full of the goodness we’ve come to expect from the series. It’s got Commander Shepard’s defiant heroism, big decisions with massive repercussions, well-directed cinematics and voice-acting, and last but not least, explosive combat.

The DLC begins with Systems Alliance Admiral Hackett contacting Shepard on the Normandy. However, unlike the previous times Hackett has asked a favor from the hero, he requests that the message be taken in the privacy of Shepard’s quarters. Once there, Hackett explains to Shepard that an alliance black-ops agent named Dr. Amanda Kenson has been captured and is being held in a Batarian prison on charges of terrorism.

The Batarians have harbored hatred against humanity throughout the series, and due to the delicate nature of Human-Batarian relations, Hackett can’t go through normal channels to get Dr. Kenson back. Shepard is an ideal pick for the mission because Dr. Kenson was studying Shepard’s old pals, the Reapers. The mission is too sensitive to involve a team of people, so it’ll be Shepard running solo on this one. He has to get to Kenson, confirm whatever discovery she has made, and report back to Admiral Hackett for the pat on the back. However, things don’t go as perfectly as planned.

Mass Effect 2 Arrival Review Dr. Amanda Kenson

Rescue Dr. Amanda Kenson from Captivity

The game play doesn’t deviate much from what we’re used to with Mass Effect 2, but the subtle difference in play style due to the lack of teammates is refreshing. It also offers a real sense of satisfaction when you clear waves of enemies all by yourself. In addition to a quick trigger finger, gamers will be forced to think tactically and quickly to avoid being flanked. One pleasantly surprising difference in enemy behavior is with the YMIR heavy mech. Instead of lumbering towards players in an unstoppable death march, making cover near-useless, the developers made them stop advancing after a certain distance, supposedly to go easy on the overwhelmed Shepard.

The developers also give players a bit of an incentive for approaching situations differently. For instance, there is an achievement/trophy that involves using a bit of stealth to get the job done instead of blowing holes in everyone’s faces. While on the topic, I should mention that there is an achievement/trophy for completing the DLC. Without spoiling anything, all I can say is that it is aptly named.

The pack’s story is well paced, and it rewards players by building up tension and setting the mood for Mass Effect 3. It’s clear that the Reapers are literally on the galaxy’s doorstep, and an iconic dialogue between Shepard and Harbinger, as well as the solo nature of the mission, make it clear that while defeating the reapers will take a tremendous effort by many people — that countless men and women will have to lay down their lives — it is Commander Shepard that stands tall for us all. It is on his shoulders that the galaxy rests.

Mass Effect 2 Arrival Review Harbinger

Shepard and Harbinger Exchange Pleasantries and Promises

The DLC comes to a close the way Mass Effect always seems to end: a spectacular explosion followed by a conversation in which the consequences of actions are discussed and speculated on. And the consequences in this one are BIG, as opposed to the previous two major DLC packs, Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker. The fact that the game play isn’t very different means that one’s decision to buy relies heavily on how much they care about the Mass Effect universe. As a major Mass Effect fan, buying the novels as well as reading the comics,  it was a no-brainer for me.

However, as much as it is an enjoyable mission, it could have been just a bit longer and had more ties to Mass Effect 3 — especially considering that it is the last DLC for Mass Effect 2. Though it doesn’t quite achieve the wonder first inspired by the original Mass Effect, Arrival is still a great piece of work, and highly recommended for fans of the series.

Mass Effect 2: Arrival is available on Xbox Live Marketplace for 560 Microsoft points, on PSN for $6.99, and on PC for 560 BioWare points.

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