Mass Effect is one of my all-time favorite games. Outside of having a fun plot and great combat mechanics, it is also set in one of the best, most original universes I’ve ever had the joy to play in. So I have really high hopes for Mass Effect 2. A brief overview of this post:
- I imported my original Shepard from the first Mass Effect, but made changes to both class and appearance.
- I cranked the difficulty up to the max. It’s fun!
- Fuck you, Steve Blum.
- On the whole, I’ve really enjoyed the first few hours of the game.
Death Is Only the Beginning
Last week, my wife was reading a fantasy novel and said (and I paraphrase here, she didn’t actually curse), “You know how some books start out with a simple guy leading a simple life, and then crazy shit changes all that within the first few pages? Sometimes I wish it’d just stay simple and ordinary.”
Mass Effect 2 is no different. You know that ship and that crew you love? GONE.
Most of the crew – except Pressly, sadness – are able to escape, but Shepard doesn’t make it out. So right off the bat, you’ve died in a cut scene.
Only to be reborn via the Cerberus-funded, ominously-named “Project Lazarus.” I remember Cerberus; in the first game, I had the distinct privilege of killing many of their operatives. I’m a little jaded about the idea – I was just becoming a well-respected SPECTRE agent! I fought hard to make a good name for myself and humanity, and now I’m in debt to a terrorist organization.
That said, Project Lazarus does give you the unique ability to modify your original, imported ME character.
I was never really happy with the appearance of my first femShep; I felt she looked too much like the default. Furthermore, I loved the original Engineer class because of how dependent hacking was on tech ability, but I wasn’t really feeling the second game’s ‘yay you get a combat drone’ approach to the same class. So I got a complete makeover and changed to a Sentinel.
I am really pleased with the results, check out this screen-cap of Shepard and Jacob talking:
However, I have a confession to make: I didn’t come up with that great face all on my own. The Mass Effect Face Database has a great collection of good looking Shepards, and the ‘ID code’ feature BioWare implemented makes creating a copy face very, very easy.
To The MAX
The other modification I made was changing the difficulty to Insane. The older I get, the more joy I get out of hard games. I also usually play games only once. This was my chance to actually try it out.
I read that the intricacies of the game’s combat system really shine on the Insane difficultly, and this is completely true. Your enemies are heavily armored/shielded, they are smart, they use cover well, and their health regenerates like crazy. Every. Single. Fight. feels epic. Taking down a commonplace gang of Vorcha filth took me like 15 minutes and required I utilize my entire party’s repertoire of abilities. I’m not going back to an easier setting; this level of difficulty really make me play the game, in a way that the I didn’t have to in the first game.
Fuck You, Steve Blum
One upon a time, I watched the anime Cowboy Bebop, and I really enjoyed it. One of the things that made it so enjoyable was Steve Blum, the English voice actor for the show’s main character.
Unfortunately for me, 1) Mr. Blum has one of the most distinctive voices ever, and 2) he’s in f-ing everything. So of course he’s in Mass Effect – right off the bat, too, voicing the untrustworthy Dr. Wilson.
Fortunately, for me…
Unfortunately for me, IMDB has informed me that he also did the voice for Grunt. I hope this isn’t going to be a problem.
So far, I’ve really enjoyed ME2. I mean, it’s a BioWare game: the plot is great, the voice acting is great, the gameplay is fun.
An old favorite feature has returned: I really liked the news chatter of the first game, and the comm channel in the Omega space station does not disappoint, especially with its terribly biased xenos news reporter. “Mercenary groups are converging on Archangel in an attempt to kill the meddling bastard once and for all. Who is he? Who gives a shit.” The conversation options are still really nice, too. “With barely contained terror: you drive a hard bargain, human.”
That said, I’m a little disappointed that the RPG elements took such a back seat to the FPS parts of the game. I’m not saying that the shooter aspect isn’t well done (it is!), I just feel that the leveling up was really dummied down. Also, I’ve read that the economies of scarcity are very much at play – regardless of how much you do, you’ll never have enough money to buy all the upgrades for everything. We’ll just have to wait and see how that affects my enjoyment of the game.