Thoughts on Mass Effect 2

Though Mass Effect 2 is old news, I am reminded of it because I recently managed to pry the DVD out of my drive, so it is sitting on a pile of other games on my desk. I don’t mean that it was in my drive because I loved it so much, but that I literally had to pry it from my Sony DVD drive which refuses to open if something has been in there more than a few minutes. Luckily I also have a Samsung DVD drive that works reliably for short-term disks. Anyway, on to the game.

I quite enjoyed Mass Effect 2, probably even more than Mass Effect 1. The problem with Mass Effect 1 was that the writers went to so much trouble putting together encyclopedia entries for every thing or concept in the game and I felt guilty for not bothering to read many of them. I think Bioware has learned its lesson, so Mass Effect 2, while still having a large amount of information, doesn’t do as much to shove it down your throat.

I liked the combat, and the team members were pretty good. In general, the missions varied from good to great and featured lots of cover-based shooting against various nasty enemies. The boss fights were pretty awesome, as well.

I also liked the new Normandy, with its captain’s cabin to store trophies and fish and such, Overall, the important parts of the game were better than those on ME1.

So what was bad? Well, scanning planets in order to mine them was the most tedious, carpal tunnel syndrome inducing activity ever. Essentially, you have to hold down the mouse button while sweeping over swaths of a planet from orbit. It is a horrible interface. It probably would be better on a console with a game pad, but I played on a PC, so it was awful! Curses on developer that thought it was a good idea!

The other thing I didn’t like was that some of the missions to help your companions can’t be “won.” In other words, if you do the right thing, you piss off the companion, who then won’t be as fully capable in later fights. If you make the companion happy, people die or other bad things happen. Even in conversations with some crew members, the conflict is manufactured so that you will have to choose one over another, making one dislike you. While this isn’t a show stopper, it is an artificial way to add drama that the writers could have done better.

Finally, there is a point towards the end of the game where half your crew is captured. If you delay too long in rescuing them (as part of the final sequence), half or almost all will die (depending on your actions). And, as you rescue them, you have to choose team members to escort them back to the Normandy. If you make a bad choice, those companions, and perhaps some crew, will be killed. I only prevented these bad things by looking at some wiki or another for hints.

But overall, Mass Effect 2 is an excellent game and a lot of fun.

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