‘Mass Effect’ delivers strong plotline in sequel
Only a few months into the year, one of the video game industry’s big contenders has shown itself.
Mass Effect 2, the sequel to the award-winning space epic from 2007, has started this year in gaming with a bang — a phrase that becomes all too literal as you watch the credits fade after its explosion filled ending. Although slightly flawed, it appears to be a strong candidate for game of the year.
The plot of Mass Effect 2 ties directly into the first installment, taking place just after those events and involving the same enemy and political environment. Mass Effect 2 relies the assumptions that gamers have experienced the Mass Effect universe. The sequel is enjoyable without playing the first one, but much of the experience is lost.
One of the big features of Mass Effect 2 is the ability to import your character from the first game so that the new story responds to your previous decisions. Most of the time, this feature can be a little ham-fisted and feels a little tacked on.
A great deal of the signs of this come from random interactions and short messages from characters in the first game reminding you of what you did for them. But it’s still a rewarding feature for fans of the first game.
One of the best elements to Mass Effect has always been its storytelling. In Mass Effect 2, however, the main plot and world have already been established, so the game focuses on character development. This is where the game shines brightest.
Some of the characters from Mass Effect make a return, but most are fresh faces. They are varied, interesting and pretty cool for the most part.
The game also has some great voice acting, even going so far as to bring in high-profile actors such as Seth Green, Carie-Ann Moss and Martin Sheen. On top of that, all of the character interactions are quite detailed, realistic, and sometimes even cinematic.
Mass Effect 2 is the second installment in a trilogy and it’s not hard for gamers to catch on to this while playing. The game’s creators appear to be experimenting with innovative elements, as they forgo old ones in an attempt to find the right balance for Mass Effect 3.
Mass Effect 2’s game play isn’t drastically different from the original. The firefights are somewhat smoother; mainly a side effect of Mass Effect’s massive overhaul of its inventory system.
But as always, the game’s action pieces are invigorating, as they combine easy-to-use sci-fi powers with gunfights and strategic cover (courtesy of the all too familiar video game chest high wall).
The RPG elements of this game have been massively toned down, though. While leveling up characters and choosing their abilities wasn’t a huge element of Mass Effect, it’s now nearly non-existent in the sequel. There are only a few abilities for your character to choose from and level up, and gamers eventually max all of them out. But even with this drastically bare bones leveling system, Mass Effect 2 feels great to play.
One of Mass Effect’s most brutally boring aspects — the vehicle-exploring missions — was completely remove and replaced by a lackluster mine scanning mini-game that is just as annoying, if easier and shorter. Passing these missions isn’t essential to beating the game, but it is required if you want to do everything. In the end, it just becomes a painfully boring speed bump in an otherwise highway of awesome.
With such a massive game comes a few glaringly bad glitches and technical issues. The biggest one, of course, is the infamously small text. The game is designed for large HDTVs so students who play on a small, standard-definition TV in a dorm should prepare themselves for sitting right in front of the screen trying to differentiate between “Palladium” and “Iridium.”
The graphics are amazing, but there are a lot of texture-popping moments. Plus, Mass Effect 2’s epic ending can run kind of catywompus during some of its faster moments.
The most glaring problem I experienced was that one of my characters didn’t gain his loyalty ability after I completed his loyalty mission. That didn’t stop me from beating the game, but it’s kind of a big glitch.
With a few flaws and a few experiments with the formula that have fallen flat, Mass Effect 2 still exceeds with its wonderfully detailed storytelling and immersive action. It’s a worthy sequel and fills me with excitement to see what Mass Effect 3 has in store for gamers.