Content of the article: "Mass Effect 2 has been…okay (Light Spoilers)"
I completely skipped over the Mass Effect series during its heyday, and it wasn't until 2 years ago that I even touched the first one, which I played through mostly, but never finished. This year I finally decided to try the series out in earnest. I played through 1, ended up really liking it, and excitedly jumped into 2 knowing it had the reputation of being the best in the series. Right off the bat it left a taste ranging from bland to bad in my mouth. I haven't quite finished the game yet, but I'm not sure I'm even going to at this point.
I'm playing on PC and it feels like Bioware made the PC version as a complete afterthought. The default FOV is nauseating, the game has 3 fixed settings for mouse sensitivity, and aim acceleration is baked into the game. All of these can be fixed with ini tweaks, but the fact that they weren't default options is pretty embarrassing even by 2010 standards.
It seems pretty well agreed upon that the main story is weak compared to the first, and instead relies on the companions and side content to fill everything out, which I wholeheartedly agree with. The main hook of the story is somewhat interesting, but it feels too much like Cerberus comes out of left field. In ME1 they were a rogue spec ops group, then in ME2 they are building even more advanced versions of the most advanced Alliance ships, somehow all in secret. I know the galaxy is a big place, but this just feels inconsistent with the world established in the first game. Again, I haven't finished it so I can't really critique how the story ends at all.
So here's the real meat of the game, and sadly, it doesn't do much for me. The game features a huge cast of characters, and the characters themselves are interesting but the way they are presented is not. Character development comes from exposition dump by talking to them between missions. It feels like companions talk less during missions than in ME1, they rarely interject during conversations which I think really helped flesh out the characters in ME1 and even older Bioware games (KOTOR, BG2). Additionally, the companions don't really talk to each other like they do in ME1.
All of these serve as a sort of keystone to companion character development, but they mostly feel pretty generic as far as both game play and story goes. Game play wise they tend to be pretty short missions without any real variety (run through narrow corridor, shoot enemies, find optional weapon or upgrade), and the the end of each quest feels pretty black and white in terms of choice. There's usually an obvious right or wrong answer, and this is further reinforced with paragon/renegade options.
I did particularly like Mordin's mission though. Mordin is a pretty interesting character with a rich back story and some good internal conflict. I like how his story is tied to a major in-universe event (the genophage), which helps his story in terms of world building.
Call me crazy, but I think ME2's combat is decidedly less fun (not necessarily "worse") than ME1. ME2 was designed much more like a standard cover shooter where you establish a foot hold in the area and just shoot and throw out powers until everyone is dead. I thought ME1 was much more fun because it was so frantic. In ME1 I would pop my defensive ability (barrier, immunity, etc) then run around like a mad man throwing out powers and grenades and just gunning everything down with master marksman active.
I do think some of the powers are more fun in 2, however. As a vanguard I'm having quite a bit of fun with shockwave and charge, it's just too bad everything runs off the same cooldown.
I actually appreciate the streamlining of some of these elements, namely the skill trees and inventory system. I think the skill tree is better for focusing on active abilities rather than tons of small percentage increases like in ME1. I miss being able to modify my weapons with upgrades and ammo, but I don't miss the absolute bloated mess of its inventory system. I like having one cool looking suit of armor that I can modify, rather than a dozen different sets of space pajamas with slightly different stats.
All in all I think Mass Effect 2 is an okay game. It's certainly not bad in any respect, but it doesn't feel great anywhere. I think my opinion is a combination of playing this game 10 years after its release (not usually a big issue for me anyway), and also have its reputation precede it. It doesn't feel like it takes any risks or pushes the envelope anywhere.
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