Game Rant’s Robert Keyes reviews Mass Effect 2
Before it even released, the hype surrounding the long-awaiting sequel to BioWare’s 2007 hit game Mass Effect suggested that Mass Effect 2 would easily be a game of the year contender for 2010. Does it meet expectations? In short, it surpasses them for the most part, while not quite meeting them in a few areas.
Mass Effect 2 sets out to continue the story of Commander Shepard in his/her quest to hinder the impending threat known as the Reapers. It continues the epic story of the first game and paves the way for the trilogy conclusion to come, but doesn’t offer as much of a main story as its predecessor. Instead, most of the game is focused on the supporting characters and Shepard’s endeavor to recruit them and earn their trust in preparation for the biggest mission of their lives.
Mass Effect is one of our favorite games on the Xbox 360 to date. It brought something completely new to the table and offered countless hours of gameplay from RPG style character progression through experience, stats, powers, weapons, armor to 3rd person team-based combat, and even vehicular exploration and combat. It took what was amazing about Knights of the Old Republic in terms of storytelling and character development in a sci-fi space adventure and shattered the conventions and limitations set before it. Did Mass Effect 2 continue the trend? Read on to find out!
Mass Effect 2 opens up with an incredible and shocking introduction to Commander Shepard and his memorable teammates from the first game. The events here change Shepard forever and give players an entirely new perspective, now working for Cerberus, the extremist pro-human organization you battled on several occasions in the first game. After the intro, you’re thrown right into the action and this is where the game excels.
The action/combat bits are clearly the most noticeable improvement over the first Mass Effect but there are slightly less opportunities to enjoy this aspect of the game. Gone are the planets to drive around on that provided long-range combat, and also gone are the variety of weapons and weapon upgrades, instead replaced with abilities that allow you to change ammo types, depending on what class of character you play as.
As you progress, players no longer upgrade individual weapons with different mods for Shepard or his/her teammates. You also never get to pick up new armor for you or your team to upgrade. All of these RPG elements surrounding inventory management are nearly completely removed from Mass Effect 2 in BioWare’s attempt at streamlining the gameplay and for some, including me, this is my first major problem with the game. As a lengthy RPG where the characters are important, an economy, weapons, inventory and progression through make you feel as though your character and team are getting stronger or more powerful as you get deeper into the game and travel the universe.
Mass Effect 2 features approximately two dozen clusters, each usually containing several star systems to explore. This is how you can find a few smaller side-missions and about a hundred other planets to scan for mineral deposits. Part of the fun of the journey is seeing only a few clusters to explore at the beginning of the game, only to see the map littered with destinations as you progress.
Traversing the vast expanse now involves a fueling system for the new Normandy which you deplete while traveling within a cluster from one star system to another. This is an unnecessary gameplay element, but it does add another layer into plotting out your travels and in selecting your next missions or areas to search for resources, which takes us to what may be the most contentious issue of Mass Effect 2: Planet Scanning.
When entering a new star system, all of the planets will be “unexplored” until you fly to them and click to read their description. Then you can begin the scanning process if you wish to do so. BioWare added an incredibly unsatisfying system here where you have to scan around the planet until you see spikes show up on the chart which reveal heavy deposits of minerals.
When you start seeing a spike in one of the four resources, you focus your scanning reticule to get the highest spike possible on the chart and launch a probe to reap the rewards. It was neat for the first two planets, but the dozens afterward really made us miss the option to land on planets and drive around, fighting enemies.