Friday, August 29, 2014

Games Thirst Review: Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360)

When Mass Effect was released, it brought along for the ride excellent storytelling, a great cast of characters, pretty visuals, and top-notch voice actors. The game dealt players many surprises in that just when you thought everything was figured out, was safe, the game threw at you yet another jolt. It was a stellar effort.

Mass Effect 2 has a lot of what made the first experience an unforgettable one for many, the visuals are now upgraded and look obviously better, crisper. The voice actors are back and the story, although not as engaging as the first (we’ll get into that later), was still respectable.

You’re back as commander Shepard, just after the original game he (or she) dies but is soon reconstructed by the Cerberus organization. Several human colonies have disappeared and it’s now the job of Shepard to investigate the occurrence, and that journey leads the hero down another heroine adventure with great companions and exciting personalities for help along the way.

In all honesty, Bioware has gone all-out to make Mass Effect 2 an unforgettable world, refining many of the game’s original features so gamers don’t feel like they’re playing the same game. Most recognizable is the revamped battle system, one that strays away from the RPG elements and follow the third person shooter route.

The studio worked hard I know, but was its efforts too ambitious, or did the changes that were implemented raised the RPG to higher levels of excellence?

What Quenched My Thirst

It Drags You In – From the moment you start playing the game, you get the feeling that those characters are real people with real issues. Although just a game, the cast in ME2 are extremely engaging, very human – even some aliens you think would be given simple lines to talk and nothing more have stories to tell, stories that add the human touch to their role. Characters have problems, they miss their children, some seek revenge, others want peace and the list is long.

In the original game, players were allowed to sleep with companions they developed bonds with and the same remains in Mass Effect 2, this time though (at least for me), I really didn’t feel the need to dedicate time trying to sleep with any of them; to me it was more about getting to know their past, attitudes, what makes them tick, know what I mean?

The Star-Studded Cast - Like I said before, the game has been upgraded in almost every way, the cast in the first was great, but ME2 makes the original look rather novice. Think Wolverine voice actor Steve Blum, a perfect fit for Krogan Grunt. Courtenay Taylor? Yes she’s in as the wicked Sub Zero. Jennifer Hale is back and does an excellent job as the female Commander Shepard, and the brilliant Michael Beattie as Professor Mordin Solus.

War Has Changed, Combat Won’t Remain The Same – The most notable change from the first title is the combat system. In fact, Mass Effect 2 could be considered a third person shooter if you were to forget the special powers and skills. Master ducking and covering and you’re set to go, it’s that simple – yet can be complexed and extremely engaging. If you use your party’s powers effectively, you can form shields and barriers which makes for a more engaging battle system.

You want complex? Then Mass Effect 2 allows for advance squad-based type combat, but if you’re a simple guy, there’s always hiding behind something – take a shot and seek refuge again behind your wall, box or whatever’s available.

Story Is A Story In Itself – Bioware are masters of story-telling and in the Mass Effect franchise the developer’s skills are displayed on a grand stage. The world is huge and each character is colorful; colorful in multiple ways. You can feel there’s something bigger happening here, something you’re right in the middle of and one that’ll end in grand style.

If you played Mass Effect and still have your saved game, then make sure you carry it over to part 2 because a big emphasis is placed on decisions that you made in the first that influences how Commander Shepard, whether it’s a she or he turns out in the sequel.

Sadly, for those who didn’t experience the first, there’s no way to take advantage of the feature. That’s not to say newcomers to the franchise won’t enjoy it, the game just makes certain assumptions and your stage for battle is set, but truth be told, those who experienced the first title, will enjoy and understand Mass Effect 2 better.

Choices, We All Must Decide – Good over evil, the two choices are in most of our games but not many relay them better than the Mass Effect franchise. Established in the first, light over darkness is expounded upon in the second, and what’s even more intriguing is the way it ties into the progression of the game with each character and development of relationships seamlessly, be careful how you deal with your companions.

What Left A Bad Taste

Time To Change – Bioware has been using the same formula over and over again in all its RPGs, think Dragon Age, Jade Empire and you guessed it, Mass Effect. There’s a popular adage that says ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, while this might be true, there’s also the fact that too much of the same becomes mundane, boring and tired; it’s time Bioware change things up a bit. Touches here and there, give some variety, more choices and freedom. The combat system was altered to appeal to a younger audience but that alone won’t shake off this nagging feeling of ‘more-of-the-same’ that’s weighing on me.

Overall The characters were engaging, but the story this time around was less so. Like I said, you feel like you’re part of something bigger, thing is it did not give enough to make Mass Effect 2 all its own; It felt more like a transition to something else (Mass Effect 3), and although I understand what they were hoping to do, the game deserved the respect of standing alone.

Still Mass Effect 2 is a must buy for fans and newcomers alike, it is indeed the best RPG available in stores now. What Bioware accomplished this time around is building upon what was already good and making it better in a lot of ways. Rest assured you’ll enjoy Mass Effect 2 and if this title is any indication, part 3 will be something to behold.

Released on January 26th for PC and Xbox 360, Mass Effect 2 was developed by Bioware and Published by EA

About Ernice Gilbert

Ernice Gilbert here. Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Gamesthirst. Thanks for stopping by, make yourself at home!
  • coffeewithgames

    I don’t own a 360, but I could get it for my PC.

    I know the game has sex/nudity. Is it something that everybody encounters that plays it? Or is it based upon the choices you make in the game?

  • Ernice Gilbert

    Coffee, it’s based upon the choices you make. As you develop relationships with your companions, you can choose to venture that route or steer away.

    It’s up to you.

  • dlfootball72

    Only got a chance to play Mass Effect 2 for a little bit on friends xbox and agree with the score from what I saw this is one of best xbox exclusives to grace the green box good shooter element and good RPG element how can you go wrong with those two combinations

  • Ernice Gilbert

    It is one of the best titles on Xbox 360, if not the best.

    Great effort by Bioware, they must be applauded.

  • schme

    I agree completely with this review. So far it is one of my favourite games ever on xbox. Don’t forget that BioWare also said that they have even greater projects on the horizon.