Mass Effect 2 (spoileriffic)

Okay, after I posted about ME1, Dave linked to this super-spoilleriffic post that really ripped into some of the story choice made in ME2. I’m going to talk about his points below (after the cut, because they are extensive), but first I want to address my own first impressions of the game, which I posted last week. They are:

  • I need to keep the ME2 disk in the drive to play? Really?

Yeah, this didn’t end up being a huge problem, because really who uses their drive for anything but installations anymore? Still, it strikes me as really … well, retro. Not in a good way.

  • I have to keep track of ammo? You considered that a critical need for improving the gameplay experience over ME1?

I realize it really isn’t a huge deal in the game, because they work pretty hard to hit that sweet spot where you’re not out of ammo but not leaving any ammo behind. Still, playing as an infiltrator, my two main weapons are a sniper rifle and a heavy pistol, so I was dealing with small clips constantly. (Especially until about halfway through the game when I realized that my tech “incinerate” didn’t suck anymore.)

Did it ruin the fun? Not at all? Did it increase fun? Ehhhhhh…

  • I’m working for the evilest group of humans I ever encountered in the first game? Really?

In a game balanced between playing a “Paragon” and a “Renegade”, I actually found it easy to play a hardcore Paragon while working ‘with’ Cerberus. Ever chance I had to tell my ‘partners’ to fuck off, I did so. I gave anyone who asked for it access to their private data, made the least advantageous-to-them choices, and eventually made off with not only their biggest financial investment (me), but also an advanced starship and… oh yeah, I’d say about 25 to 30% of their employees.

I feel as though my time with them was well spent.

  • From what I saw of the skills table, there is very little customization/choice available during the leveling process, and I didn’t see anything like the Charm/Intimidation pair from ME1 that expanded my dialog options. This makes me sad simply because those options and what I did with them made my ME1 experience really memorable.

There are fewer skills, but they ‘branch’ at the top, once you max them out, and that actually made for a lot of different kinds of customization.

Warning: beyond this point, I will utterly spoil a whole lot of the plot elements in the game. *I* was spoiled by this post before I played it, but that’s fine, because that kind of thing doesn’t bother me much, but you are not me, and if you have any intention of every playing this game (and you should, because it’s probably the best game out there right now), you may want to stop reading now.

Now, on to that other post’s points:

1) Your entire body is pulverized, but they bring you back exactly as you were before.

Well… that’s your choice, I suppose. I did not end up coming back as I had before. Facial reconstruction and all that, you know.

2) Your ship is destroyed, but they build you a new one that’s very similar and then give it the same name. (Except the new one has the CERBERUS LOGO stenciled on the side, which is a bit odd for a super-secret shadow organization. Somehow this doesn’t cause constant problems for you every time you try to dock somewhere civilized.)

Well, yeah: it was the most advanced ship in the fleet at the time it was built (all of two years ago), so damn new that the ME1 story starts during its first shakedown run – why NOT copy it?

And they didn’t name the ship; you did. It’s called ‘grieving process’, and totally made sense to me.

And you know? It took me almost a week to finally figure out where the Cerberus logo was on the side the ship. Clearly it didn’t bother me.

Also, Cerberus is not a super-secret organization; Cerberus is… well, pick from a list of “famous”, “infamous”, and “notorious”. They might do bad things covertly, but they are a well-known entity — reminded me of Blackwater, actually.

Finally, I only docked at one ‘civilized’ place, once, during the entire game. And they were mad at me already.

3) You’re declared dead, but when you show up again the Alliance accepts you and your new career working for their enemy.

Nnnnope.

Your old buddy gets you reinstated as a Spectre, which basically means “you can do whatever you want, but you get no funding”, which… yeah, that’s (a) how it worked back in the old days, and (b) that’s what you’ve been doing already.  (They actually make a joke at one point about how the Spectres are a bit of a joke in the intel-community because the Spectres have to pay their own bills.  And anyway, that’s the Citadel, not the Alliance.)

When I ran into my old human allies from the first game (special agents of the human Alliance), they were PISSED OFF at me. That was not a fun meeting.

4) All of your original crew resign the Alliance and (on their own, apparently) join up with this terrorist organization.

Umm… let me think about this for a second. All of the original crew…

No.

Joker is back. And the Doctor is back. That’s it.

Joker joined Cerberus because after you died the Alliance broke up the crew, said that the whole Reaper threat was a hoax, and grounded him from flying. Joker. For whom flying is everything.  Then Cerberus comes along and says “listen, you’re a hero, and a great pilot; come work for us.” Of course he did.

And the Doctor flat out says (once you get her talking) that she came along to stay with Joker, cuz let’s be honest: the candybones pilot needs a doctor around, and the doctor likes having someone stable and constant in her life. She’s his mom, basically.

Lots of other guys were recruited by Cerberus because they were “Shepard sympathizers”, but they weren’t from the Normandy crew.

Cerberus and The Illusive Man, or “They call me T.I.M.”

Eh. Is he mentioned in the first game? No. He’s the shadowy power at the top; of course he’s not. He is mentioned (apparently) in the two books that coexist in the ME universe, all of which ties together.

Really, I had no problem with the Cerberus story element, except that (once you find out more about them, near the end of the game), they just don’t seem numerous enough. I mean, you’d need more people than the game says they have, just to do nothing but gather intel. I dunno.

More of the guy’s gripes

I’m not at all keen on the notion of a Shepard who is the only one who KICKS ENOUGH ASS to take on the Reapers.

In all seriousness, I didn’t know what the hell the reviewer was talking about until I started a new character to play as more of a renegade. Okay, yeah, if you play him as a renegade, there’s a lot of talk about Kicking Ass and hosing down the galaxy with bullets until the problem goes away.

That is not how was for me on my first play through. The “paragon” Shepard is a leader of men… hell, of aliens, of machines… Of everyone. I convinced a crimelord to become a social worker. I rehabilitated a dirty prison guard. I changed the path of an entire people. Two entire peoples, actually.

All with my mouth.

No, not like that.

Anyway — my personal experience with ME2 is that Shepard is a someone with the leadership skills, raw charisma, and vision to unite pretty much anyone he comes in contact with. He is a force, and it has nothing to do with the weapons he’s carrying.

The collectors weren’t mentioned in the last game.

Yes they were, just by a different name. They were the main mystery of the last game, just as they were the main mystery of ME2.

[The final boss made no sense.] Remember the goal: 1) Reach the Citadel and open the relay to let the other Reapers through. 2) Win!

Except that isn’t their ultimate goal. The real goal is to perpetually add to the Reaper population, one Reaper every 50 thousand years, built as a synthetic construct comprised of reaper tech and the gestalt of the most dominant species currently extant in the universe.

It is weird? Yeah. Is it sufficiently alien enough as a ‘thing’ that I buy it as a plot point? Also, yeah.

I don’t know why they made it look like a big human, though. That was kinda cheesy and stupid, especially when all the other reapers look exactly the same. Aside from THAT, it was fine.

The final “choice” in the game

The original poster goes on a bit about how the final choice in the game was totally binary: “destroy the horrible tech” or “give the horrible tech to the horrible organization you can’t trust”. He wanted a “keep the tech and study it yourself to find a weakness”.

To which I say: “eh”. I’d have still blown the fucking thing sky high. The only guy loyal to me who could study this stuff was Mordin, and frankly I don’t think he’d want to be within a mile of it. Once you see one of your favorite crew members melting inside a tube to feed into the Big Bad, you pretty much lose all interest in finding out how the tech works; you blow that shit up. Cracka-boom.

And… come on; it’s a Bioware game, which means you’re only half playing a game, and half reading a story/watching a movie. A really GOOD story/movie.

(Also, the fact that you have the option to keep the tech and study it or not simply means that keeping it or not keeping it won’t have much effect in the third game. Obviously. Let’s think like game designers for a second — that’s just how it works. The game is, as it must be, on rails. They are nearly invisible most of the time, but they’re there.)

I will, however, cede this point:

Even if you accept all the events I’ve nitpicked, the worst part is nothing happens. The plot does not move forward. By the end of the game we’ve got the same captain, same ship, same problems, same setup. Council is still useless. Alliance is still apathetic. Shepard & Co are the only ones who care. The Reapers are still out there.

Yes. Granted. I think that’s a fair beef.  It’s about thirty gameplay hours of exposition and set up for the end of the trilogy and, fun as it is, that’s kind of weak.

Except… you know… it’s a game. At times it’s got strong movie and story elements, but at its heart it’s still a game, and sometimes (I look back at a 4.5-years-long DnD campaign), you just show up to kill the bad guys and take their stuff, be awesome, and it doesn’t advance the plot much. Failing of the medium, I guess.

So, I’ll forgive em.

With That Said

I can’t easily express how much fun this game is, and expressing myself with words is what I do.

This was the most fun I’ve ever had playing a single person game, and it ranks in perhaps the top three to five gaming experiences for me in any category. In all seriousness, this thing is like The Matrix or Star Wars of computer RPGs – a must-see.

That may be the afterglow talking, but damn it’s good. Damn.


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