And Their 2.5 Children.

02/21/2010

I picked up Mass Effect 2 a couple days ago, and pretty much immediately fell in love with it. I’m not going to compare it to ME1, mostly because I never finished that game, but boy is there a lot to talk about still.

I guess the most important thing is: if you love roleplaying, buy this game. No, really. Don’t be fooled by the realtime shooting combat system, this game is bursting at the seems with roleplaying material. The Good’o’meter in the game (or Paragon/Renagade) is very dynamic, allowing you to gain in both simultaneously, though to achieve full marks in one you more or less have to abandon the other.

What they do with the system though… man. To start, as you become sufficiently good (or bad) you unlock special conversation options. Basically the game’s way of saying “Hey, your solution to most problems is to break people’s knees. No one would normally be stupid enough to try it on this guy, but you just might!”.  Some quests cannot even be completed unless you are sufficiently good/bad. What really tipped this over the edge though, was the cinematic options. Normally, the game will have a sort of scripted conversation, where some guy yapps at you about how awesome you are, or how dumb you are, or the price of cheese,  and you sort of just sit there and listen. No matter what your opinion on the topic is, your character patiently waits until the person is done speaking/acting, and then responds. Not anymore. No, you can preform (at specific times, but they crop up often) actions in the middle of other character’s sequences. For example, at one point some bitch ran up and started randing about what a terrible person I was. In the middle of her rant, I punched her in the face. (She would have continued talking had I not) It was one of the most satisfying moments I have ever had playing a game.

There’s also the NPCs. BioWare did a fantastic job of creating little dialogs all over that make the world seem really… real. Advertisements for things having nothing to do with the game (like skin cream), douchy customers being delt with by uncomfortable salespeople, idle musings about this and that between friends, even a video game store in one of the cities.

The difficulties are nice as well. In my infinite wisdom I decided learning the game on “Insanity” was a good idea, but once I got a handle on the basic game controls, I was pleased to discover that the encounters can in fact be overcome with cleaver use of mechanics/environment, rather than just abusing some particular aspect of the encounter. The composition of your parts also can vastly affect the style of your combat. Be it carefully sitting behind cover and taking enemies down one by one, charging in and blowing everything up at once, or providing cover while one of your team gets inside their defenses, all are viable options. And of course, if the combat is just not for you, the “Casual” setting is specifically described as being for people that just want the plot, not to spend hours trying to kill manz.

Of course, there are downsides. The AI, while not stupid, is very glitchy. When working properly, your teammates move and fire in a fairly coordinated and intelligent fashion. Then occasionally they decide it’s a good idea to charge a fortified enemy position. Somewhat laterally. Possibly through fire. The good news is fights are often easier to beat without trying to keep your teammates alive.

Then there’s the harvesting system. Manually scanning worlds for resources to upgrade your shit it entertaining for about… 10 seconds. After that it makes me want to claw my eyes out. Luckily after you beat the game all new characters starts with a great deal of these resources, but still. Tedious.

The graphics are gorgeous, the music is well done, and I think games have finally figured out the whole character customization thing (somewhere between Oblivion and Duke Nukem). In short, if you have any interest in running around in space, be it To Meet New and Interesting People and Then Kill Them, or to become immersed in a vibrant universe, Mass Effect 2 is well worth it.

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