Mass Effect 2
Don’t read any of this if you haven’t finished the game yet (and care).
Everything written here is based on the initial PC retail release version, previous to any patch (that might be released later on).
All in all, Mass Effect 2 could just be the best game I’ve ever played. But it’s really hard to say, isn’t it? It’s not like one could compare this with another genre or even with other great role-playing games. Too intense weighs the effect of being able to continue everything from part 1 in 2. Because of it this game is simply a little more than just an ordinary sequel every vivid player is used to. They’ll really have a hard time to do a better 3. The next game will be great if they manage to just make it as good. BioWare has left the field far behind, where story or atmosphere could still be enhanced, a whole while ago. Mass Effect is a great example to illustrate this. All problems and letdowns are of a whole other type. The negative parts mostly come down to a lack of time to polish (or even finish) certain pieces of the game (and if you don’t stick to deadlines, there’s the fear of becoming Duke Nukem Forever). There is no lack of talent that could explain that. And of course focusing on DLC brings more cash than doing vast patches, which will still roll out “everything” that couldn’t be accomplished in the initial development cycle. And let’s face it, as sad as it is, these real world issues won’t change. They’ve come to stay. There probably will never be the game that makes good on all those wishes (I mentioned many times before), while being on time for release and having “low”/expected budget. I’m convinced that most glitches still left in this game attribute to these ugly “real world” issues.
Although it’s almost a month after release now, it remains a mystery, how “Kasumi” or the Hammerhead will still change this game. Getting a new character at this point might be very weird, since all of them were recruited to do the “suicide” mission, which my character survived along the entire crew and squad (the game can go on after the credits, similar to GTA). Shepard: “Hi, I’m Commander Shepard and I came to recruit you for the suicide mission that I already did and easily survived! Wanna come?” Kasumi: “Sure I’ll come! It sounds as if you really need me and as if the mission you already did could fail without me!”
Sci fi: The women can be blue, green, purple, yellow, red… as long as they’ve got cleavage.
The whole emphasis of this game danced around being on a suicide mission, having to throw the entire team into one… Whatever. What stuck in mind was, that the survival of all the heroes was nothing that could be taken for granted. Everyone, even all of them, could ultimately die (as THE official ending). The player would have to work for their well-being and make certain decisions throughout the entire game (if he/she intended to prevent this). Having 100% of the crew alive at the end of the game (including non-squad mates like Yeoman Kelly or Dr. Chakwas) could be considered an accomplishment. So what happens at the end, with no losses on the team/crew? A huge party? No! Absolutely nothing. Shepard walks past some of his mates and then the credits start rolling! I want my party goddammit! These people just survived a presumed suicide mission against all odds completely unharmed, they just stuck it to the (illusive) man! BIG TIME. And they just move on like they don’t care? That’s weak folks. This is my only big minus in this game (the rest I consider all more or less inevitable for such massive titles, or at least less important). Short: GIVE ME MY ULTIMATE KICK ASS CELEBRATION!
Importing Save Games
I finished my second playthrough of ME2 and used a new character this time. Playing ME2 without imported (ME1) character, is like eating food without spices. All the people (that could be saved) died, the colonies failed, the council is gone (I played ME1 as “100% paragon” = everyone that could be helped/saved/supported was) and everything feels like ME1 never happened, except for the one thing Shepard did at the Citadel (at the end of the first game). So whoever cares enough about the game, has no choice but to play them all, since only this will grant the full experience (something BioWare won’t cry about, I guess).
I’m glad though, that importing a former save game had such a huge impact (and I’m not addressing starting with more credits/experience/resources – nice, but not that important). I didn’t expect it to be taken this seriously. I encountered so many people I was sure I’d never see again (some even bring small quests). An incredible accomplishment by the developers. The more unexpected the return of some person from the (seemingly) most random sidequest was, the more “adrenaline rush” I got. The galactic news were equally formidable. I can only imagine how many versions and lines they must have recorded to have one for every possible occurrence and decision from both games. From here on in I gotta say that there probably never existed a game to do all this. This is a real unique attribute, which (right now) sets this game apart from all the others. A few other games allowed importing former characters, but nothing of this magnitude. Nothing, that carried over more, than just “simple” character values. No decisions specific players made during their game.
Typically, games that offered story decisions during one game, just declared one version of the story as canon for the next part and thus started over. Like pilots from Wing Commander III were alive in IV, although they died for some players. With FMV, this level of detail was very hard to accomplish. Still, even if a 3D engine helps here, the voice work must stay pretty complex.
At last it should be mentioned, that the information some game “tests” gave, that the player would choose certain aspects by answering questions in the beginning of the game, if he wasn’t using an imported ME1 save game, is wrong. The mentioned sequence in the game only allows to answer in the usual positive/neutral/negative fashion. No story aspects will be set by this. At best it earns some paragon/renegade points.
Save games are limited to 52 for every character (or career as it is called in game). Quite funny, because the Unreal Engine 3.5 produces the smallest save game files EVER (which is great). 20-40 KB per file and you are done. I admit that 52 is usually a lot, but one advantage of current architectures is, that there’s no need for such limits anymore. Saving should work until the hard drive is full.
Conrad, “The Fan” from the Mass Effect 1 Citadel reacts always as if his quest was closed by choosing renegade options. The game doesn’t flag it for paragon characters…
All rooms on the Normandy are locked, as long as no recruits are in them. The Commander has no access, but every stranger gets in as soon as they are on board? That’s a strange design decision… The lift already says which people are on which deck, so it can’t be to make them easier to find. Normandy is not that big anyway.
Though the Dragon Age: Origins installation is even bigger than that of Mass Effect 2, it comes on 2 DVDs instead of 1 (like DAO).
The mouse wheel doesn’t work in Mass Effect 2 menus (especially annoying in long text/codex entries), though it does switch weapons during actual gameplay. Since ME1 had mouse wheel support everywhere, IIRC, this doesn’t make any sense. 10 year old Deus Ex pulls this one off, a standard like this shouldn’t be ignored by such a masterful title as ME2.
Clipping Bugs. Again, ME1 had none. Some glitches are always inevitable in gigantic projects, but being stuck in a wall should raise some concerns in testing… Well, at least no one can claim they didn’t change the game engine at all. :P
The Blood Dragon Armor looks fucking awesome, this goes without saying… But… All this extensive facial animation work and the player is to look at the cylon visor only for the entire game? No way man. Because of that, I switched back to the N7 armor after a few missions. This one can be customized in many ways (which makes it the most desirable armor in the whole game – despite all the optional types, IMHO).
The message “New Content Available” is always shown in the game menu (this time I won’t go into my general dislike of DLC further), even if all DLCs are already installed. Since the game is connected to the company’s servers, it could know that nothing has changed and only show this message if something is actually new…
Run and use is the same button! Therefore I noticed how I got conditioned to walk most of the time, although I wanted to run, just so I wouldn’t activate something by accident.
The cut scene playing when leaving Illium cannot be aborted by pressing space. Same goes for BioWare and EA logos at the game startup. Players have to endure those every single time.
Liara T’Soni seems to have another voice (at first), but imdb claims it to be the same voice actress playing her in ME1. Maybe she had a cold or something…
“Helpful messages” like “press x to do y” appear for the entire game and not just for a tutorial, where players would still need it. Can’t be turned off either. After scanning 10.000 planets I KNOW THAT PRESSING LEFT FIRES A PROBE!!!
Mordin’s mission on Tuchanka can leave the player stuck, if he decides to stay (to maybe properly loot the place) instead of choosing the dialog option to go immediately. Pressing F (the button to return to Normandy – what the hell happened to N) doesn’t work, in that instance. Only reloading and replaying that part with choosing the other dialog option (and leave a terminal unlooted) helps. Happened only in 1 of my 2 playthroughs.