Friday, January 29, 2010

Mass Effect 2 Impressions

By Kirk Hamilton

I thought I'd post and update a spoiler-free collection of thoughts from my time with Mass Effect 2, a.k.a. the game I've anticipated more than any other game ever. From the outset, I'd like to point out that I am in no way impartial in my impressions of this game, since I loved the first one and, from the look of things, the second one just may be the best game I've ever played.

I'm a few hours in as "Blade Shepard," (shut up) my renegade soldier I imported in ME1. You're given the opportunity to change class, and so I did, so good old Blade has been reconstituted as a biotics-and-shotgun-wielding vanguard. I've probably finished six or seven of the main story quests, and have six people in my party.  If I had to guess, I'd put myself at 25-30% into the main storyline, with only a bare bit of sidequesting under my belt.

Without further ado, random impressions and thoughts (and again, aside from some vague allusions and character references, I'll keep it spoiler-free):

Update, 2/4/2010:
  • Much farther into the game now, probably gonna have more spoilers.  Fair warning.
  • I have a full party, except for one, who I'm betting is the geth dude from the trailers. Thanks, trailers, for doing your damndest to spoil everything, btw.
  • I remain blown away by the wonderful humor of this game. It's been written with such obvious joy and love, and frequently makes me laugh out loud - exceptionally rare for a non-Tim Schafer game. The batchelor party on Illum was great, and the callback to the Elcor Shakespeare Company (perhaps my favorite gag from the first game) and just killed me. And the TV show with the Hanar spectre! "This one cannot remember if its heat sink has been ejected.  This one is wondering if you are feeling fortunate."  HA
  • True fan-test - while the new music is all great, the first time I pulled up the galaxy map, I thought "If they really listened to the fans, this music will be the same."  The synths faded in, and I smiled.
  • Thane is very cool, and the first time he did his "perfect memory" thing was a hell of a moment.
  • Tali, also, has been made a lot more badass.  It's interesting that they chose to keep the two least interesting characters from the first game, and worked so hard to make them much more interesting.  Very good call.
  • I've only a few loyalty quests left, and they have been, without question, the strongest part of the game. I care much, much less about the collectors than I did about Miranda's sister or Samara's daughter.  Interesting how at its heart, this appears to be a game about family. Joss Whedon would be proud.
  • Loved having a drink with Dr. Chacwas.  I always wanted to talk with her more in the first game.
  • This is the first time I've played as "evil" on my first playthrough, and it is working for me.  Actually, this playthrough feels definitive, much moreso than any previous BioWare game. Much less incentive for a second go-round with a paragon.
  • The Gamestop-of-the-future gag is pretty great. "Trade in your used games for 2 credits!"
  • Adam Baldwin kills it as Kal'Reegar.  Looking over his work on Firefly, Chuck, and ME2, it's clear that the man knows how to make a few lines go a long way. "That's just insulting." hee.
  • The ability to re-spec your character for minimal cost is very appreciated.
  • It may be the most divisive new addition, but I find myself enjoying the planet-surveying.  Maybe it's just because I like hearing Number Six say "Probe Away."
  • The little jet you use to fly down to planets is so cute!  Not exactly "badass," though - it looks like some sort of hoppy mechanical aardvark during the loading screens.
  • After every mission, I go check in with Joker.  It's like getting to finish a mission, then call up Seth Green and say, "Dude, how sweet was that?"
  • Garrus continues to be the coolest dude in the Terminus systems.  "I had range, but... she had flexibility."  DO EET, dude.
  • God, looking over these posts, I'm such a total ME fanboy.  Oh, well.
  • Last thought - I'm getting worried that, close as I am to the end, I'm going to make some choice now that will wind up getting Mordin killed. If that happens, I will cry a thousand tears and reload a previous save, because I will not lose him in Mass Effect 3.
Earlier Thoughts:
  • This game has the best introduction sequence I've ever seen, possibly with the exception of Uncharted 2.
  • Combat and Teammate AI have been upgraded from "Broken" to "Dang, Quite Good."
  • The Vanguard's charge might be the most satisfying special move I've ever seen in a game.
  • The game is 300% funnier than the original.  It might be BioWare's funniest game, funnier even than Jade Empire.
  • Interestingly, it's also 300% grittier and darker than the first game. The humor offsets a much more ominous, adrift tone
  • The game's lead writer, Drew Karpyshyn, deserves some serious, hearty recognition.  I cannot believe the depth and quality of the writing. It is eclipses even Dragon Age in terms of wit, verve, and dedication to character.
  • The space stations actually feel populated this time around.
  • Every time Shepard 2.0 is reunited with a character from the first game, it thrills. Especially the first one. 
  • The new music is absolutely great. As with the first game, Jack Wall and his team have outdone themselves.
  • I've seen or encountered over 20 callbacks to my playthrough of ME1, and I'm not that far into the game.  They weren't kidding about your choices carrying over. It's truly remarkable. 
  • Finally, I get to fight alongside a Salarian!  And not just that, the funniest, most interesting Salarian character ever.
  • Miranda is a much more interesting character than I'd anticipated. Yvonne Strahovski does really great work with her, and I dig the accent.
  • You probably already know that Garrus is back. What you may not know is that the game has done the impossible and made him cool.
  • The streamlined travel and inventory systems are very, very appreciated.  There's no fat - it's entirely made up of the good stuff.
  • I will never get tired of hearing Martin Sheen smoke cigarettes and talk.  His Illusive Man scratches an X-Files itch that I'd forgotten was there.


maviolo said...

I am in love with you for being in love with this game at the same level of love as me.

Axel Sheppard

Anonymous said...

Garrus always was cool.

Anonymous said...

He absolutely was not always cool. ME1 was all "C-Sec blah blah corruption blah blah I suck."
Now he's a bad ass

Kirk Hamilton said...

Yeah, I gotta say, he talked a good game in the first game about "doing whatever it takes" and "ignoring the rules," but when it came down to it, he was kinda a dork.

And now in the sequel, he's rocking the badass scars, all "We settled the fight later in our bunk. I had range but... she had flexibility."

HA, wut? Rock on with your bad self, Garrus.

Kirk Hamilton said...

@maviolo - aw, thanks! Love the name Axel Shepard, makes me picture Eddie Murphy and hear the dulcet tones of Harold Faltermeyer...

Myth said...

I made some (apparently?) poor choices in the last battle. I lost Zaeed and Mordin. Zaeed's death was really very touching, and I think a more appropriate character moment than saving him.

Mordin's death was much less dramatic but more powerful.

Beat the game Thursday, loaded it up and beat it again this afternoon. Made the right choices this time and ended up saving everyone (partially for the achievement and partially because Mordin is too fun to let die).