Fresh off finishing Mass Effect, I launched straight into Mass Effect 2 – and, as previously mentioned, almost lost Camp NaNoWriMo as a result. I imported my Commander Shepard from the first game, which meant that not only were his appearance and background carried over, but so were the decisions he made. Ramifications of these decisions could be seen here and there, but perhaps they will prove to be more critical in Mass Effect 3.
The game begins shortly after the events of the last one: Commander Shepard and his crew are sent off into space once again to monitor continuing geth activity, when they are attacked by a mystery ship. The Normandy is destroyed, and while most of the crew escapes, Shepard is sucked out into space and apparently killed. Two years later, Shepard wakes up in a laboratory, having been recovered and restored to life by the controversial pro-human organisation Cerberus. Human colonies are being attacked and abducted by mystery aliens called Collectors, and Cerberus reckon that Shepard is the only man who can successfully lead a mission against them. Provided with a new Normandy, and a crew of old and new faces, Shepard sets out to do just that.
On a superficial level, the gaming style is quite similar to the first one: travelling across the galaxy, engaging in third-person shooting combat with a variety of weapons and squad members, and engaging in various side missions gained from various sources. Many of the finer details, however, are quite different, often in the name of making the game more challenging. For example, the infinite ammo from the first game is gone, so you have to watch your shots, though there is usually plenty of ammo to pick up in the field. Galactic travel is also quite different: while you can move between regions using mass relays as you did before, you manually move the Normandy around within a system, while travelling between systems in a region requires fuel.
There is the additional task of surveying planets for elements, which involves methodically scanning them and dropping probes where you find high concentrations of material. It’s tedious but necessary work, as you will spend these elements on essential upgrades for weapons, defence and the Normandy itself. Regarding weapons, there’s a greater variety of them this time round, and I found sniper rifles to be much more effective than before – thus, my Shepard could live up to his training as an Infiltrator by blowing enemies’ heads off from long distance. The issues I found with the first game were mostly absent here: there’s a greater variety of enemies, a new environment with every mission, and my squad members didn’t tend to get in my way.
Shepard has an even bigger crew to work with in this game, which he recruits bit by bit. While every crew member who survived the first game makes an appearance in this one, only a couple will actually join the crew here. This leaves room for lots of new characters, who manage to be even more diverse and interesting than the first game. Favourites of mine included fast-talking salarian scientist Dr Mordin Solus; and Jack, a vicious, antisocial, former Cerberus test subject. Each of these characters comes with a loyalty mission which you complete to unlock additional abilities for them; this also allows you to get to know each one even better.
And you may get to know one very well indeed, as there is once again the opportunity for romance in this game. As neither of the two romance options for male Shepard from the first game – Ashley and Liara – were available in such a capacity here, my Shepard had to start afresh. He chose his adorkable quarian friend Tali, a particularly touching romance since Tali permanently wears an environmental protection suit which completely conceals her face, so no judging by appearances. (That probably wouldn’t be the case with alternate love interest Miranda, who happens to be very well endowed.) A slight disappointment was Shepard’s subsequent relationship with Jack, as it appeared she was unwilling to open up and be friendly with him if he wasn’t considering her as a love interest. I also kept Shepard on the Paragon path, though since he judged each situation based on what I would do, he also picked up a few Renegade points here and there – I’m not sure what that says about me.
Aside from the boring planet mining and some underwhelming side missions, I found Mass Effect 2 highly addictive, and now it’s off to find out how the epic story concludes in Mass Effect 3! Rating: 4.5/5.