Mass Effect 2 is the newest epic from Bioware and the continuation of a very promising series. Bioware has promised for a long time that consequences do indeed matter in the universe of Mass Effect. Your actions during the first title could have profound implications on the sequel which would then carry over to the third title in the trilogy. Immediately upon starting up Mass Effect 2 you are given the option to import your character from the original Mass Effect. With that being said this is not a requirement to play the game. If you don’t want to import your character, or if you didn’t play Mass Effect 1, then you can create a new character with his own background. If this is the case then your character will start under the default settings in regards to the decisions made during key moments in the original title. This will also affect which characters you might, or might not, see throughout your adventure. You do not need to have gone through Mass Effect 1 before playing Mass Effect 2, however, the story, as well as the events, won’t have the same impact on you if you go this route. You are also prompted to enter a code for the Cerberus Network. This network will be an in-game gateway for downloading additional content. You should find some new content waiting for you as soon as you activate your account. It should be noted though that the code that comes with the game is single use only. If you buy a used copy of the game, or rent it, then you will have to buy the license if you want to use the network. It’s similar to what EA did with the online franchise in the latest Madden title.
The story in Mass Effect 2 picks up two years after Commander Shepard repelled the invading Reapers who were bent on the destruction of organic life. You now have a new enemy to worry about who is abducting whole human colonies; the Reapers. You also have to become a part of an organization that you have fought against in the past. As soon as you start your journey you will immediately notice that everything is bigger and better then the original. Even your ship has been given an overhaul and is now approximately twice the size. It still has the same basic layout, there is just a lot more you can do and more places to explore. You now have your own quarters where you can take care of personal business such as check your messages, equip your amor, listen to music and take a look at your medals of honor. You won’t have access to every area in the beginning though. Some areas will require that you have a specific person on board, such as a scientist. The galaxy map is back and it has received a bit of an overhaul as well. Your ship represents the cursor on the screen and you can fly over to other planets in your system or go to another system altogether. This does require fuel though so you will have to strategize with how much fuel you currently have and whether you need to buy any for your impending trip. This is also where you will get a chance to investigate unexplored planets. As you go up to one you can start to scan the planet as well as launch probes to try and get as much information as you can. You can slowly scan the planet as you rotate it with the right thumb stick and then when you feel the controller rumble, launch a probe to find out what you just discovered. This is a great way to mine for minerals or maybe even find a place to land. The whole thing looks a lot cleaner this time around which is the story for the entire game.
As great as the original Mass Effect was it did have its share of technical issues. Bioware really upped the ante in the graphics department for Mass Effect 2 and the end result is stunning. The cinematics are done so well that I would like to watch them in a continuous stream as if it was an actual movie. Some of the cinematics are even interactive with you being given the choice of what you want to do and your decision will determine how that cinematic unfolds. The models in the game are done really well and the environments look great. The voice acting is top notch and the development team did an exceptional job at crafting all of the relationships between the many characters throughout the universe. They went back and worked on the conversation system as well and it is a bit easier for you to distinguish which answer will give you paragon points and which one will send you down the path of a renegade.
In terms of gameplay there were some changes that people might have to get used to. For starters, you now have regenerating health. You can also control your squad in real time now directing them where to take cover and which enemies to take out. You can still take cover, vault and sprint to the next cover area as you are trying to take out your enemy. The inventory system has also undergone a little bit of a makeover making it easier to do what you want in the heat of battle. If you can’t use a particular power against an enemy then it will turn red and not allow you to use it in that instance. It takes away some of the guesswork and should make combat more satisfying. One thing that became a little annoying for me in the original was when my weapon overheated. That problem has been addressed in Mass Effect 2 with thermal clips. Now you can just eject the thermal clips to quickly refresh your ammo supply. Speaking of ammo it is not unlimited in this game. As you take down enemies you will be able to run over and pick up the ammunition that they dropped or buy some at a later time. As you progress in the game you will earn more money as well as acquire more materials and you will be able to research even better armor and weapons for yourself and your squad. In addition to that you can upgrade the Normandy itself in certain areas allowing you to be better protected for when you participate in big battles. You also have the option of turning on “auto level up” or you can control how your characters develop. As you level up you will acquire skill points. You use these skill points to further augment your powers and skills or, perhaps, unlock new ones. It is also on this screen where you can look and see whether your decisions have been more on the paragon side or rather you have been acting like a renegade.
If you are someone that loves the lore of the Mass Effect universe and you like learning every single detail then you can do that by visiting your codex. Here is where you can read up on everything from the various alien races to the Citadel and Galactic government to planets and locations and much, much more. You also have your journal just like in the original title so you can keep track of which missions you still need to do and which ones you have completed. It would also be a good idea to talk to characters multiple times throughout your journey. I had Shepard flirting with his personal assistant and then later on when I came back to talk to her she referenced our past conversation and asked whether I thought her previous comments were ok or not. Every character that you speak and interact with has a history and it can be interesting learning all about it. You never know when a piece of information you pick up might come in handy or when a favor will be returned for a good deed you performed.
Overall, Mass Effect 2 is a title that everyone has to experience. As fun as the first title was it did have its own share of issues. It’s refreshing to see a development team take in all of the criticism from their previous title and use it to improve upon their concept for the sequel. I already have plans to go through this title multiple times to try and see as many of the different scenarios as I can. Bioware has raised the bar in terms of how to tell a story in a compelling and cinematic fashion. This title, not to mention the whole series, is incredibly ambitious and it is great thing when a company takes a chance and really hits it out of the park. The fact that your actions do have repercussions and that they will carry over to Mass Effect 3 is very exciting. One can only imagine what Bioware will come up with next as a final note in this trilogy.
Originally posted on Totally Gaming Network