Monday, March 29, 2010

Oh Yeah, I Played Mass Effect 2 Back In January

In January, I took a week off of work to play Mass Effect 2. So when my co-workers were, in the weeks leading up to my vacation, asking me where I was going, I replied "All over the galaxy", and from most of them I got a weird look.
The other gamers there knew exactly what I meant.

The game itself was not only a great sci-fi game, it's just great sci-fi. The rugged space hero Shepherd once again assembles a crew to take on some great menace. Most of the game is his not only acquiring this crew, but winning their loyalty as well. There are other side missions, but not that many. Most of the planets are empty save for mineral resources, but checking out every one of them is a must in order to squeeze as much fun out of Mass Effect 2 as possible.

The creators of Mass Effect have said that it's a trilogy, which is usually a bad idea for game companies to do (did anyone ever see the last three Alternate Reality games?). However, the first chapter, the iPhone game, and Mass Effect 2 are so intertwined that for the first time in game history, it really feels like a larger tapestry is being painted here.

There are so many big and small things from the first game that carry over into the second that one can imagine the designers having a huge wall of post-it notes with strings connecting them to keep it all straight. Some minor characters return in small cameos that have a brief impact, and some of the major characters return with a huge emotional impact, giving the involved player a sense of regret that can only be experienced with the passage of time and the reality of old friends moving on.

The gameplay is less RPGish and more shooter-ish, and that's fine, because they've really refined all of those aspects and made them more fun than frustating. The cover mechanics are solid this time and the allies seem smarter. There are more variey to the ememies and the environments, and the graphics are breathtaking.

And the story is an epic of the grandest proportions, leaving the player ravenously hungry for the next installment. There's not much praise that I can heap on Mass Effect 2 that wasn't already said two months ago, but I will add that design-wise, it's another huge step forward in terms of episodic storytelling in videogames, and it's the kind of game I dreamed about playing back in the old days.

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