Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mass Effect 2

This was a very good -- probably even great -- game that just didn't live up to all the hype. If you believe most reviewers, this wasn't just the best game of 2010, but maybe the greatest title in the history of the videogame industry. I read reviews calling it perfect, a masterpiece, and totally and completely superior to the original game. I certainly enjoyed and it have no regrets about buying it and playing through it, but I still liked the first one better, since for every advance that leaped this one forward , it still took one or two steps back in other ways.

Mass Effect 2 takes place right after the epic finale of the first game, shaking things up with the death of the main character and the destruction of the Normandy, the starship we called home over the entire first game. Of course, within minutes, your character is resurrected and the ship is put back together, with a new artificial intelligence system being the only noticeable change. Those two things kind of became the hallmark of this game's plot: Lots of stuff happens, that ultimately mean nothing and have zero impact on anything. The entire game itself lacks any kind of real forward momentum, overall story arc, or ultimate conclusion. There is little more than a retread of the Collector/Reaper threat from the first game, but this time around we get no real main villain to follow or care about. The actual focus on the game play is 90% spent on assembling various crew members, until you finally reach a point where the game decides the actual story should start, at which point it ends after one mission. All things considered, this game's story is really poorly told and fairly boring and unengaging.

But at least the gameplay is awesome, upping the action and tweaked the controls from Mass Effect 1. Battles were often a chore in that game, since the cover system was somewhat broken and the aiming often felt off. This time around, the game is a true action masterpiece, with gameplay that gives the Gears of War franchise a close run for the money. There are a lot of weapons and "spells" to use, but I pretty much only used the battle and sniper riffles, finding no real use for anything else. Also, leveling up and finding items felt like more of a formality than anything else, since I never got much of a feeling of upgrading or leveling up at all. Also, the graphics are improved over the first game, having the same impeccable design, but with none of the stuttering or graphical tearing we saw before, although the level design was still boring, featuring totally linear paths through waves of the same four or five enemy designs that we kept seeing over, and over again.

So, I liked this game, since the graphics are fantastic, the action is fierce, and the overall sci-fi setting is a geek's dream. But I didn't love this game, because the story was poorly told and lacked dramatic thrust, the enemies were lame, and it did put too much of an emphasis on the action at the sacrifice of the RPG elements. But if you loved the first game, playing through this sequel is a no brainer that you won't regret.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

This kind of reminds me of the way people have responded to Dragon Age 2. I really can't comment, since I haven't played either Mass Effect game, though I have heard they're both awesome.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

I just heard that Mass Effect 3 is going to be Kinect enabled. Sounds pretty awesome. Now if only I had a Kinect...