• Review: Mass Effect 2

    Mass Effect 2 Hello there, dear readers. Today i am continuing my franchise review of Mass Effect franchise. Under the scope today is Mass Effect 2 and its story dlc-s (not those weapon/outfit ones). Happy reading!

    Mass Effect 2

    Basic introduction

    SSV Normandy

    As its 2007 year predessessor, Mass Effect 2 is action-RPG and 3rd person shooter where you can explore galaxy. It was released in 2010, developed by Bioware, published by EA. As was case with ME1, you can also explore galaxy.

    System requirements (from Steam page):

      • MINIMUM:
      • OS: Windows XP SP3 / Windows Vista SP1 / Windows 7
      • Processor: 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo or equivalent AMD CPU
      • Memory: 1 GB RAM for Windows XP / 2 GB RAM for Windows Vista and Windows 7
      • Graphics: 256 MB (with Pixel Shader 3.0 support)
      • DirectX®: DirectX 9.0c August 2008 (included)
      • Hard Drive: 15 GB
      • Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible
      • Supported Chipsets: NVIDIA GeForce 6800 or greater; ATI Radeon X1600 Pro or greater. Please note that NVIDIA GeForce 7300, 8100, 8200, 8300, 8400, and 9300; ATI Radeon HD3200, and HD4350 are below minimum system requirements. Updates to your video and sound card drivers may be required.

    • OS: Windows XP SP3 / Windows Vista SP1 / Windows 7
    • Processor: 2.6+ GHz Core 2 Duo Intel or equivalent AMD CPU
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT, NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT, or better recommended
    • DirectX®: DirectX 9.0c August 2008 (included)
    • Hard Drive: 15 GB
    • Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible


    Last moments of SSV Normandy SR-1

    Story follows up Mass Effect 1-s ending. After defeat of Saren and reaper named Sovereign, Commander Shepard is sent to eliminate remaining pockets of Geth (in case you dont remember, they were big bad in Mass Effect 1). On one such mission, Normandy (Shepard's ship) is attacked by unknown enemy. Attack leads to screenshot above- crew is evacuated and you have to take last steps trough SSV Normandy to reach and save Joker, the pilot of Normandy. You succeed, but then... you die. And Normandy is destroyed.

    Seems like story is over, right? that took whopping 10 minutes! ok, time to go home everyone, this is what you payed your money for. Oh, wait. Commander Shepard is then retrieved and revived by terrorist group known as Cerberus (you had few run-ins with them in original Mass Effect, if you did sidequests) in project Lazarus, project called to life only to bring Commander Shepard back. Not only that, but they also give you a new Normandy (SR-2) and new crew. Cerberus also points you to enemy who killed you- the Collectors, race rarely seen. Even moreso- they appear to be working for Reapers, mechanical race who eliminates advanced life every 50 000 years. In addition, Collectors have been abducting entire human colonies and Cerberus- as pro-human terrorist group- wants you (Commander Shepard) to put an end to it.

    Basically what happens after that is you go around recruiting crewmembers and doing loyalty missions for them (optional), all while trying to get trough Omega-4 relay, relay which leads to Collector base and where no ship has ever returned. Suicide mission if there was any.
    Story is more straightforward in Mass Effect with less assignments (though still fair ammount of it). Still, be warned- time is constant factor in Mass Effect 2. You may not notice it in first playtrough, but you might want to push on all main missions until all sidequests are dealt with, as some missions auto-start. Sidequests can affect ending a lot though and trough it- Mass Effect 3 story.
    Story is also very immersive with its unique start (really, whoever tought of that, thumbs up) and its interesting approach on many aspects without losing importance of choices made earlier.

    Choice system also returns from Mass Effect 1 and is improved. As with ME1, you can be paragon (positive, heroic), renegade (bold, does whatever is nessessary to win) and mixture of two with your answers and actions. Yes, actions, as you arent now only limited to static conversation/action choices like in ME-1 where you chose action or answer on wheel. Now you also have prompts (wont depend on renegade/paragon levels, though they do affect them)- renegade actions being generally brutal-ish while paragon actions try to do positive thing. These are timed and happen during cutscenes, so keep your hands ready if you dont want to miss them.

    Speaking of choices, every action you took in ME1 still counts- provided you import save. That includes side missions and such as well as major choices (such as who you saved on Virmire or if you chose to save the council).

    Romance also makes a return, with more romance options this time around (3 for both male and femsheps). For example, if you romanced someone in ME1, it will continue in ME2, despite the fact that they cannot be your squadmates (except for Liara T'Soni, if you have Shadow broker DLC and even that is limited to it). Presuming, however, that you havent had relationship in ME1, main romance options (all squadmates) for male Shepard are Miranda Lawson, human, Cerberus officer, leader of project Lazarus (same project that brought you back), Tali'Zorah vas Neema (nar Rayya in ME1), young quarian technician who is one of 2 returning squadmates from ME1 and Jack (its a she btw), also known as subject zero, powerful biotic and ex-con.
    FemShep's main love interests are Jacob Taylor, Cerberus operative who also worked in project Lazarus as bodyguard, Garrus Vakarian, turian former C-sec employee returning from ME1 and last but not least, Thane Krios, drell assassin.
    And like that wasnt enough, in addition to main love interests, there are also others that are considered secondary (probably because they dont care about gender or give certain achievement), such as Kelly Chambers, yeoman of Normandy SR-2 (only non-squadmate love interest up to ME2), Samara, an asari justicar (asari equivelant of warrior monk, according to her) or Morinth, daughter of Samara and ardat-yakshi. True, Morinth is unadvisable love interest, as (bit of a spoiler here) Samara's loyalty mission basically aims to kill her (so its either her or Samara), plus shes evil, plus she has rare condition that gives being she joined with only few days to live and these are not pleasant at all. Oh and she kills Shepard if you woo her.
    Kelly Chambers is bit of a special case- you can romance her to point where you two have lunch in Shepard's cabin and after which she feeds your fish- however that doesnt rule out other romances. As for Samara- well, no romance scene from what i've heard.
    Anyways, romancing is bit more relaxed here than it was in ME1- there is less chance of accidental wooing like it was case in ME1 (goddamit Kaidan), as you can quite easily tell if you are romancing someone and put an halt to it before "locking in" to relationship.

    Bit of a spoiler, but it is possible to save all of your crew and squadmates, but its also possible for all to die, depending on your actions troughout the game and choices in final mission. Which is very interesting, because this is real rarity when it comes to choice-based games. And i like it. A lot. Oh and Jeff "Joker" Moreau kicks ass.


    combat screen

    I will divide it into chapters for easier reading.

    Combat- there is more combat here than there was in ME1. Also combat has improved a lot, with it being more mobile and faster, with more options on weapons and armour as well, with each weapon acting differently and helmet not being accessuary anymore. Weapons also got rid of heating system (now guns use heat clips instead to store heat in them), which can be viewed both as positive or negative- personally, i prefer clip system as it is faster and gives each gun unique feel. There are also fair ammount of variety in enemies and their tactics, plus powers and teammates are now much more useful with each teammate giving unique bonuses and abilities to fight.
    On negative side, it does make game bit too easy on easier levels, especially since many enemies are just running at you or sitting in same area. That said, they can give quite a challenge if you are not careful and are static yourself, but nonethless, easy level comparison-wise, this is weakest AI on easy level in triology.

    Teammates- compared to original Mass Effect, where you had only 6 squadmates at any given time, you can now have total of 12 squadmates (2 of which are DLC characters, but more on that later), with some temporary squadmates for some missions.
    Squadmates are (excluding already mentioned ones, i.e Garrus, Jack, Tali, Miranda, Jacob, Samara/Morinth and Thane as well as 2 DLC characters)-
    Grunt, a tube-grown krogan (designed to be perfect)
    Legion, a geth infiltration unit (yup, you read it correctly. a geth)
    and last but not least, Mordin Solus, salarian scientist and former special tasks group member
    Each squadmember- as already mentioned- has unique combat capabilities and also offers upgrades, plus they are otherwise nice to chat to so chat them up. And if you are nice to Mordin, he can sing to you (one of those many great fun moments in ME universe) or give you sex advice (no joke).
    Other notable non-mentioned crew members are Karin Chakwas, doctor who also served in original Normandy during ME1, Jeff "Joker" Moreau, pilot of both Normandys, EDI- ship's AI (biggest. troll. ever. Who said AI-s cant be trolls?), Kenneth Donnely and Gabriella Daniels (those two have some great conversations, with Kenneth having rather dirty mind, while Gabby doesnt take that). So all in all, there is lot to do even between missions just exploring the ship.

    Exploration- or should i say navigation. Exploration is basically reduced to bare minimum, excluding main areas, such as Citadel. As for ME1 style, where you landed on planet with Mako? These are gone. No more Mako. Mako died with SR-1. Now you hold your mouse button wherever you want to go on star system map and between systems. Slower, but better than just right click, right click, left click, left click. Now you also have 2 resources to worry about when exploring- fuel, which allows you move between star systems in same cluster and also probes, which allow you to collect resources. So yeah, now you dont land on planets anymore, but you kinda have to explore them with probes if you want better stuff- go to planet, scan planet for 4 elements shown, launch probes. Occasionally pick up odd signal. I reccommend rocky planets, as they usually have more stuff on them. Kinda disappointing that you dont land anymore, but what can you do... Still better than another mountain climbing sim.

    Economy- there wasnt lot of point mentioning it in ME1, where it didnt matter as much, but ME2 has actually useful economy system with new weapons, armour and decorations for your cabin. Last option- i was very happy with that. You can buy fish, ship models and space hamster. These things gave me actually reason to go into cabin between each mission. And i really love space hamster. *squeek*

    Customisation- When in ME1 your customisation was limited by what armour looked best for you and had best stats, then now you can customise your setup from armour used to weapons. You can even piece your armour together from multiple pieces, change its material (material change doesnt change stats though) and colours. In addition to that, you can also choose your off-duty clothing. Plus you can change teammate's looks as well- though only for pre-set looks
    Of course you can customise your character at very start as well, even if you imported save. Also another customisation option is selected to choices you make- since you died and were resurrected, you have scars. Renegade actions open up scars, revealing glowing cybernetics underneath (some parts only), while paragon actions heal scars. Of course you can always just buy certain machine that heals scars so that it doesnt matter what choices you make (in case you want to be paragon, but want to see your Shepard without scars).

    Sound and graphics

    Illusive man in his hideout- leader of Cerberus

    Graphics are gorgeus, even without considering the fact its 5 year old game by now. True, you can see some graphical glitches (same sort of "jumping" as was in ME1, though much less) and pixelated areas, but overall, its very nice to look at. Cutscenes are even prettier and amazing.
    As for sound, music isnt anything special and is actually bad side mediocre in my opinion (not bad, just bad-ish), as its mostly mellow music (which does fit when exploring), mixed with electronic music from sound systems. Galaxy exploring music is actually good though.
    Voice acting and other sounds, however... whole different matter. When Mass Effect 1 had good voice acting with some flops, then Mass Effect 2 really shined in it. Top class voice acting, especially from Jennifer Hale (FemShep).


    Commander Shepard talking to Illusive man

    As promised, i also review story DLC-s for ME2. Now, there are multiple of those, but i'll list them:
    Zaeed- the price of revenge (free, adds Zaeed, seasoned mercenary as squadmember)
    Kasumi- the stolen memory (560 bioware points, adds Kasumi Goto, best thief in galaxy and also evening wear off-duty clothing for Shepard)
    Firewalker pack (free)
    Overlord (560 bioware points)
    Lair of the Shadow Broker (800 bioware points)
    Arrival (560 bioware points)
    Normandy Crash Site (free)

    Now, you can install them all despite where you bought the game (steam or origin, doesnt matter, as you can buy DLC from bioware site directly). However, i do have gripe with fact HOW you buy those DLC-s. Namely, bioware points. As you can see, DLC listed here costs 2480 bioware points. But how much is that in real money? 24.80. Can you buy them directly? No can do, you have to first buy bioware points (which conviniently come only in pre-set size packages, such as 560, 800 and 1600, which have price tags of get rid of 2 0-s), which then and only then can you use to buy DLC. Not a fan of that system at all.
    At least good news is that in my opinion, they are worth it in most part- i often had more fun playing DLC than in lot of parts of game- and i had lots of fun in main story.

    Zaeed & Kasumi DLC-s

    firefight in Kasumi DLC- when did Shepard become a bondgirl?

    These two DLC-s are basically only to add new squadmates- namely Zaeed and Kasumi. Zaeed's mission takes you to hunt for Blue suns (mercenary group Zaeed was co-creator of) leader, while Kasumi DLC takes you to party, trying to recover memory of her dead boyfriend/husband. Both DLC-s are fun enough and offer few more extra hours to campaign. I definetly reccommend Kasumi's dlc though, because it has very interesting concept.

    Firewalker pack & Overlord

    Hammerhead- main vehicle in both DLC-s
    Firewalker pack adds 5 missions and Hammerhead vehicle for planet exploration- yes, that means surface-side exploration was added as DLC and even that only on handful of planets. Firewalker DLC-s basically consist on you driving Hammerhead and having few combat situations as well, while gathering some data you need to find Prothean artifact. Not too interesting or challenging, but it does offer planetside view and its free, so thats something. Hammerhead itself is very maneuvarable vehicle, that can jump, speed up and move sideways. It only has cannon and isnt very well shielded so in combat you have to move or die unlike in Mako, which could take tons of hits.
    Overlord DLC is bit of a different story- it has you driving in Hammerhead a lot, yes, but there is also lot of on-foot combat and actual story addition, which does add you evening-full of activity, in case you want to explore that beatiful nature as well (picture above is from Overlord DLC). Its story revolves around experiment with geth gone wrong, but not exactly the way you'd expect. Overall, its really well done. Especially view.

    Lair of the Shadow Broker

    Normandy SR-2 approaching Illium

    Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC focuses on Liara T'Soni trying to take down a being only known as Shadow broker, codename for being or organisation that has best information network in galaxy. It offers few funny moments, climbing outside of a ship in thunderstorm and encounter with species only seen twice in entire franchise (including this DLC). It offered quite a bit "wow" moments and decent ammount of playtime, plus extra resources and intel. Best DLC for ME2, though Arrival is not that far behind.

    Normandy crash site

    remains of SSV Normandy SR-1
    This DLC is probably the saddest. Remember start of the game? Well, now you go trough SR-1's last resting place, having flashbacks with all the moments spent with SR-1. Theres no combat, no firefight, just you walking trough ruins, trying to find good spot to place a memorial and also to find dog tags of all people who lost their lives in that attack. Simple in design, yet effective, reminding you that while ME franchise can be fun, action-rich, it can also pace down and gut-punch you emotionally.


    Normandy SR-2 heading for Mass Relay

    The Reapers are coming. We've heard this mantra since Mass Effect 1. Well, now they are finally here. Shepard is sent by Admiral Hackett to investigate missing deep cover agent in batarian space, feared to be imprisoned. When Shepard gets there, it becomes clear theres more at stake.. But things are never that easy. How will you stop the reapers? Bit of shorter than rest of DLC-s, yet probably most interesting one.


    Mission accomplished screen

    Mass Effect 2 is brilliant game that is incredibly immersive and diverse, even more so than original Mass Effect. Its really hard to find flaws without some serious nitpicking and it does offer literally over a week of fun if you play it every waking moment, more so if you spread it out. DLC is also great in most part, despite its rather high cost and pain in purchasing.
    All in all, i seriously reccommend this game

    Score: 10/10


    See full gallery here: http://imgur.com/a/5UgOr

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Goodbye SR-1


    Normandy SR-2

    Shepard, meet EDI

    interior of Normandy and Galaxy map

    Planet exploration- scanning for elements

    star system exploring

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Humble Warrior's Avatar
      Humble Warrior -
      Good review although I wouldn`t give it 10 out of 10. 9 out of 10. For two reasons...

      It`s not really an rpg, it`s way too light in that department.

      The 1 button to do two very close jobs. It might be fine on a joypad, but on keyboard only just works. Can`t see why it couldn`t be separated. I only just got through ME 2 with that mechanic.

      This is even worse in Mass Effect 3 which I found impossible to play because having 3 actions on one button was sheer stupidity. I couldn`t do anything and kept being killed because I was jumping when I wanted hide or running when I want to jump. That ruined Mass Effect 3 for me. Had to rage quit before I was even a third into the story. never played again.

      I wonder if there`s a mod that separates the buttons?
    1. Mangalore's Avatar
      Mangalore -
      Good and detailed review but maybe too heavy leaning on tech

      Those games shine because of narration and story and there are two things Mass Effect 2 really needs to get blame for:
      - It's main plot is dog food and serves no purpose to the trilogy plot. You can cut it out and it's just a time jump between ME1 and ME3 with nothing important missing.
      - Questionable DLC policy messing with the actual story content and narration. Lair of the Shadowbroker was ripped out of the game. The initial dialogue with Liara before that DLC clearly shows gaping holes to be filled later. Even if the DLC wasn't done there they delilvered a messy, not polished product with the one ME1 potential character you could actually still talk with. The last DLC is equally bad because without it the ME3 start makes little sense. In a similar vein the start of ME2 is clearly the marketing department writing the god damn story. Something that makes no sense at all and has no actual impact on the story but obviously creates massive hypes in pre sale trailers.

      I have little problems with the gameplay or characters but ME2 and also ME3 have big problems in their underlying narration compared to ME1 which might be very stereotypical but at least tells that well.