Mass inEFFECTual 2

Now don’t get me wrong, I am currently in LOVE with Bioware. I LOVE the Mass Effect Universe, its Characters, its peripheral Lore (Novels, Comics, iPhone games, Drew Karpyshyn etc). I can’t help being a little disappointed with Mass Effect 2. And heres why.

Mass Effect 1 storyline was EPIC

Mass Effect 1 had the MAKO

Mass Effect 1 had weapon and skill CHOICES to be made

Mass Effect 2 storyline is SUPPLEMENTARY

Mass Effect 2 trashes the MAKO

Mass Effect 2 has very LIMITED weapon choice and strict LIMITED skill choice.

ME1 felt like you were taking part in something big. And you were. ME2 sparks it off initially, until the first big reveal of the game happens, and then it seems to relax back and spend the rest of the time, exploring all the niche races and little sideplots, without advancing anything remotely EPIC. Even your motivation has changed. Even your imported character with the trouble they took to support the choices you made in the first game, feels very different to play.

I was one of the very few people who totally appreciated the value of the Mako. It was a precise exploration and combat tool out in the wastelands of alien planets. Nothing can match its power and versatility. It can climb up almost vertical slopes. It can traverse the most hostile of environments. It has jet packs!¬† A zooming cannon. An ability to circle strafe whilst accurately gunning down Geth. It was perfect. And the Halo-heads couldn’t handle anything more difficult than a Warthog, so it was derided and scorned until they cut it out of the second installment of the game.

Skillwise, I enjoyed the luxury of being able to mix and match skillsets, within the class structure. There were at least three branches per character, with Biotics, or amour, or weaponry, or specialisation and charm/intimidation. In ME2, you are funelled in quite a dull manner through 4 skills, and after maxing one of those a choice between two states of the higher skill. ME2 favours a more streamlined skill build, and a focus down an almost pre-determined path. You may as well  not have the choices, because the tree system almost forces you to pick some skills to advance to others. ME1 did this, but the trees you climbed were much more open sourced and multi-limbed. ME2 has you climbing simple ladders into a specific tree-house.

ME2 seems to be totally focussed on your serving the array of new companions, rather than any Space Opera epic storyline. Theres no lenghty involvement with story and areas, just short bitesize chunks of action with the relevant companion.

The game has become much more action orientated, and it plays more like a Gears of War or Army of Two clone. In fact it does mimick the aggro mechanism of Army of Two, except that all the aggro seems permenantly focussed on Shepherd no matter who you take out with you. And you will use this fact to good advantage later on in the game.

I realise they’ve taken what people most complained about in ME1, and they’ve tweaked it, and a lot of it is for the better. However, theres this nagging feeling that something is missing because of the streamlining. Something of the magic has been lost. Its more accessible, but not necessarily more engrossing or involving. It now serving quick bursts of popcorn action, with some almost pedestrian dialogue. Why would any action shooter fan want to sit through ME2’s dialogue? When they could be shooting or blowing things up in another game? I fear its the RPG fans who have lost out to this next incarnation.

More accessible, more buyers though. It has that.

And since I’m in LOVE with the Universe, the money raked in, will ensure more content, whether crafted in the mould of ME1 or spun out for the masses like ME2. I’ll still buy it, guarenteed. I am a Bioware Fanboy afterall.

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Ian Bowes / spelk