Friday, February 15, 2013

Mass Effect 2

Commander Shepard, with Jack

When I finished Mass Effect a couple of weeks ago, I immediately started Mass Effect 2. I'd really enjoyed the setting and the story, and I wanted to continue with both.

That was both good and bad, I think. It was good because I could remember the characters so well. You can import your Mass Effect saved game into the sequel, so your character will look the same, and your actions in the first game will be remembered. I like that. And if it had been longer, I probably wouldn't have remembered who some of those people were.

Admittedly, most of those people weren't a big part of this story - especially the people who'd had a chance to die in the first one. Well, that makes sense, since a developer can't waste a lot of time on a character who won't exist for many players, but it's still a little disappointing.

Liara is a lot colder than she used to be.

I missed Liara, my asari lover in the first game. Shepard kept her picture on his desk - another way my actions in the first game influenced this one - and that was nice, but otherwise, she just showed up briefly (she'd moved on) and never joined us on the ship.

In Mass Effect 2, Shepard can apparently make love to just about every female - alien or not - on his ship. I don't know if he can choose them all or just one, because the whole idea seemed rather... unprofessional to me. He was, after all, the ship's captain and their superior. Plus, you're supposed to be saving the galaxy, not living the life of a spoiled playboy.

Anyway, for role-playing purposes, I chose to remain faithful to Liara. I have to admit, though, that I wonder what Tali looks like under her armor. You never even get to see her face. And although she's an alien, she clearly had it bad for Commander Shepard.

What does Tali look like under all that?

Anyway, playing the sequel so soon after Mass Effect was also bad, because the contrast with the first game made this one rather disappointing. Everything I didn't like about the first game was even worse in this one. And many of the things I liked were also worse - or missing altogether.

I won't say much about the setting and story here. You can read my review of Mass Effect, if you want. The setting is the same, and the story continues from what began in the first. In this one, though, you end up working for Cerberus, who were enemies - although not the enemy - in the first game.

I don't know. I didn't like the storyline in this one nearly as much, but it's the middle game of a trilogy, so that's not at all unexpected. And it wasn't the story that disappointed me.

Honest, this closeup of Miranda's butt was the game developers' idea.

Hmm,... where do I begin? For one thing, this was even more a movie in disguise than the first one. There were very long cut-scenes, which often happened without warning - and segued into or out of long conversations, too.

It's really frustrating when I can't make those decisions myself, or even save the game in the middle of them, since, as I say, they were very long. And the game took a lot longer to load than the first one, too - a lot longer (so I really didn't want to reload a saved game and go through all that again).

The combat was a little different in this one, but not better. In the first game, you had to worry about weapon overheating, so you had to pause occasionally. That worked well, I thought. In this one, though, you run out of ammunition (although they don't call it that).

You could pick up more as you went along, if you looked for it, but that didn't make much sense and wasn't fun at all. And since I'm a very bad shot, I was usually short of ammunition.

A change of clothing, but still this focus on Miranda's butt.

There are also three different kinds of defense - armor, biotics, and shields - in this game, and you were supposed to vary your ammunition or your attacks to match. I didn't like that, either. It seemed like a needless complication. But then, I'm terrible at those kinds of things, which might be why I don't like them.

Those mini-games I hated in Mass Effect? They were different in this game, and I did like these better, because they were easier. But the very long load times, whenever I failed and needed to reload a save, made them just as frustrating. (Why were the loads so short in the first game and so long in this one?)

Even worse, there were arcade sequences on some missions where you couldn't save the game. Now I'm really, really bad at arcade games, and since I couldn't save the game in the middle of them, I'd have to replay the whole thing if I failed near the end. Luckily, I was playing on Easy difficulty, so it wasn't that bad (or I would have quit long before the end), but it wasn't great, either.

Then there's Samara.

And then there were the changes they made to what I really liked in the first game. For example, I loved exploring planets in that little rover, the Mako, in Mass Effect. Well, you can't explore planets at all in this one.

Instead, they have you survey planets from orbit in what has to be the most boring, pointless exercise I've ever experienced in a game. What in the world were they thinking? You can't even walk around the Citadel in this game - not outside, at least, not anywhere beautiful or interesting.

There were all sorts of solar systems I never visited at all in Mass Effect 2, because there didn't seem to be any reason for it. In the first game, you could find random stuff - even quests - by exploring worlds, but I never found anything but minerals through surveying planets in this one (and I had far more of most minerals than I needed).


As I say, you can't explore planets at all in this one. And you can no longer find loot in Mass Effect 2. Well, you can, but it isn't anything... interesting. In the first game, you could find different kinds of weapons all over the place, and although that wasn't plausible, it was still fun. (Sometimes you can find schematics in this one, but it's just not the same.)

In the first game, I became fantastically wealthy, with no reason to spend money on anything. In this one, I never had enough money. In fact, I wasn't able to buy everything I needed wanted for the final mission, because I couldn't afford it. (And I was pretty much forced into the final mission, rather than choosing to do it on my own. I really hate that kind of thing.)


It's funny, after all that, to admit that I enjoyed the game - and that I actually finished it. Again, that's rare for me, but - again - this game is a lot shorter than most of the RPGs I play. It was about 25% longer than the first game - according to Steam, I've played it for 53 hours - but that's still pretty short.

That's OK with me, though. I wouldn't have finished if it had been much longer. No, I certainly didn't mind that.

But even though I enjoyed the game, I don't particularly like this kind of game. Yeah, I love the setting in these Mass Effect games, and the general storyline is great. But I don't especially like the gameplay. I liked this game as an interactive movie, but not much as a game.

And Mass Effect 2 is far worse in that respect than the first game. I have my objections about that one, too, as my review indicated, but the sequel took almost everything in the wrong direction, as far as I'm concerned. (You may, of course, think otherwise.)

Miranda, Shepard, and Joker

I'll probably wait till next winter to play Mass Effect 3. I won't have as much time, soon, and I've had enough of these now, anyway. Still, I must say that I'm surprised I enjoyed these two games as much as I did, since there's so much I don't like about them.

Games aren't movies, and they shouldn't try to be movies. But there's still something quite appealing about starring in your own movie, I guess. :)

Note: Check here for my thoughts on other games.

No comments: