You know, when I got too pessimistic about some game, I always thought “Maybe I’m getting too harsh, maybe I didn’t get what the developers wanted to say. Was I having a bad day or something?” but, when you get some news about it or try the newest version (or things finally click in, but that’s not the case here), I see that… well, I wasn’t so wrong at the first time.
That’s what happened with Mass Effect 2: It seems all my issues with the previous game were addressed.
First most “Assignments” are now out. On my first run, I may have found fewer than 10 of those (and even with that, they were just something like “talk to this guy, get an assignment, go to your mission and you’ll, eventually, stumble upon the solution for the assignment. Deliver when the mission is complete”. This also means that the number of missions are, in Mass Effect 2, way higher than in Mass Effect. But they fit, which is more important.
So your Shepard is getting a new team (almost new, some old faces appear again) and you have two missions for everyone: One is acquiring said teammate ’cause he/she is in trouble/being chased/cornered/trapped in some planet/under arrest. Then you have them to solve their troubles/kill their chasers/get out of the corner/get out of the planet/get out of jail. Then, after a while, you have a “loyalty” mission: Those missions deal with some old problem/issue that teammate have, so you go there and solve it. It works ’cause, except for two old faces (sorry, spoilers), you do need to prove you’re a good captain and you want your team to fight without any worries. So, story wise, it works pretty damn fine. Sure, out of the story, you can get more credits, which allow you to get better armor/weapons, some nice things to your room — there is a captain’s quarter now — and some research plans.
Second, mineral surveying, which I thought was pretty off, now is couple with the research plans, so they make sense going after now. Also, they completely removed the vehicle parts, so you don’t need to deal with the bouncy-bouncy tank. Also, it’s a damn fun minigame.
You have a scan, which will visually and aurally indicate when you’re near some usable mineral. Then, to retrieve said minerals, you use probes. Those probes can be bought in any fuel station — fuel now is required to jump between star systems, but I barely scratched my fuel tank, to be honest.
Another huge improvement is the removal of the silly Frogger-solver, which I didn’t mention in the previous take. To open locks or hack computers, you had a single frogger-like minigame. This is now gone, in favor of two new systems. The first is a “bypass” system, which requires connecting the right dots — like if you’re trying to short-circuit the lock. In practice, it’s nothing more than a memory game, but it fits the context by filling the lines when you find two of the same kind.
The second system is a “find the one that matches” with pieces of code, to bypass some firewall. Again, it works ’cause… well, it looks like code. All you need to do is navigate in the see of coming codes and find the ones that matches, while avoiding the red blocks.
A nice “quality of life” improvement is that fact that they added a NPC to tell you when one of the teammates have a new quest — like when they are finally ready to give you their loyalty mission. This means you don’t have to talk to Wrex every time trying to make him spit out some old story that will give some assignment — I know it’s fun talking to Wrex every time, but it gets tiring after a while.
So story is greatly improved, bad things are out… So it’s a 10/10?
No, not quite.
The game is still a corridor shooter. You still go around and, when you find some cover, it’s time to fight. It’s not even fun, as Katie Tiedrich form Awkward Zombie sums it. It works better than the original game, though, but the combat mechanics changed so much, I can’t be Rambo anymore and simply go around shooting everything.
The Paragon/Renegate system is still there, still providing the same functionality with an added “are you paying attention to this cutscene?” element: During some scripted dialogs (the ones you have no choice but sit there and hear whatever they have to say), you can get the chance to Renegate-interact or Paragon-interact, either by interrupting the person by shooting something (or them) or stopping them from shooting someone. The way you acquire said points, though, is a bit more confusing: On my second run, I decided to be a mean John Shepard (after beating the game with my all nice and cute Jane Shepard) and, even picking the dickish dialog options, I’d still got Paragon points. For example, when I found Tali in one of the first missions, I basically told her to fuck off. And then, to fuck her team. And then that, since they are a bunch of pussies, they should let real man deal with the problem. End result: 9 Renegate points and 2 Paragon points. WUT?
The inconsistency of those options are scattered all around. Not only that, but I knew, from reading the wiki, that if you don’t complete the loyalty missions of your teammates, they would die in the last meta-mission — which actually involves two or three different missions. I had in mind that one of the guys would die ’cause he said I was sending him in a suicide mission (but he was ok with that), only to see him survive the mission and then die with a rocket in the face in the post-mission cutscene. Yeah, I knew he would die, but that way was… weird. Later on, I wasn’t really trying to finish the mission, but just trying to save teammates. “Hm, ‘Send someone to escort survivors’? This means this guy will survive ’cause he will head back to the ship. Which one I like more…” It wasn’t a matter of “not sending the guy that I’ll probably need in the future”, it was more like “I want to save this guy”. Even more, in the very last mission, I was more worried about my companions dying than actually trying to finish it. “Oh God, oh God, don’t let this guy die.” And, in the very final cutscene, one of the guys that I didn’t expect to die, died. I mean, come on! I got his upgrades, I did his loyalty mission, I did talk to him every fucking time and he still died? The fuck!
This fucks up all the “your choices matter”, when it actually doesn’t. It’s more arbitrary than your real choice.
Another thing that annoyed me was the fact that they removed the shortcut to access your journal. I know it’s small, but that means that, to check your missions or whatever, you have to navigate through their menu, which is not good with thousands of things blinking (the Journal will blink if there is anything updated, like finding a new mission ’cause you found some random artifact or because you spoke with someone and there is a new entry to the Codex or someone in your team — including you — still have a single point available)
Also, they changed the reticule that shows some usable item/someone to talk to. Long gone are the days of the huge reticule, now you have a small one that is almost transparent. It will also capture anything in a huge arc in front of you and, even showing what you’re targeting, it’s a pain to see it.
Those two last points are small, I know, but you can’t deny that being completely random about success/failure or paragon/renegate is stupid. I complained about the rice options in the series before, but now it’s like you decide to have Australian rice and they deliver a half Australian, half Hydroponic bowl in front of you. Sure, both are rice but it’s not what you asked!
I enjoyed the game, but the way it ended burned more than the first one. The second run, still in its early stages, will be a pain to complete.
It was Mordin. I did his loyalty mission, I made him sing for me and he died in the end. And nobody said a freaking word about the escort needing a freaking doctor.