Earlier, I talked about revisiting Mass Effect and naturally thought to follow it up with a revisit to Mass Effect 2. Mass Effect 2 was released in 2010, and for many people, is the favorite of the original three games. It made many changes to gameplay, the graphics and look were updated, and many new characters were introduced while favorites from Mass Effect were further developed. Overall there is a lot of appeal with this game. However, I am torn on agreeing (but also disagreeing) with it being “the best” of the three.
Not long after the events of the first game, we take over Shepard, who is hunting down rogue geth. They are attacked by an unknown enemy, and Shepard sacrifices themselves to save Joker. Two years later, Shepard wakes up on a space station that is under attack and is confused. Turns out that Shepard did indeed die in the attack, but Cerberus (enemy from the first game) believes Shepard is the best hope for humanity. Shepard also discovers that while being brought back, the council has gone into denial about what they witnessed/experienced. They are convinced the attack on the citadel was an isolated incident and still don’t believe Shepard about the Reapers. Shepard is forced to put their feelings aside about Cerberus to work with them to find out why humans are disappearing all over the galaxy and what, if any, proof they can find of the Reapers and when that war will come.
This is an interesting backdrop for the plot, but the problem is… this game is one long side mission. It introduces new enemies, The Collectors, who do indeed work with The Reapers, but you discover very little about The Reapers plans or anything that does much to tie game one to game three. Instead, you are hyper-focused on The Collectors and saving people. It’s a giant side quest in the war with The Reapers, and it’s kind of irksome. That is not to say the plot is bad, it’s not, it just is what it is.
Aside from that, by and large, the missions themselves also feel like a series of side quests. Only a handful of moments in the game serve to progress the story, specifically dealing with The Collectors and what is happening to various human colonies. Once again, a game that feels like a giant side quest instead of an actual bridge between 1 and 3.
This bothers me. It doesn’t bother me because what is there is unenjoyable, but it does speak to the idea that I have always felt like Bioware did not have the three games mapped out. Mass Effect set up something that I felt 2 almost entirely ignored, and 3 only sort of managed to tie back to and close out. The overall trilogy feels disjointed purely from a plot perspective, and I think it started here.
I am also not a huge fan of all the gameplay changes they made. I was greatly disappointed with them cutting down on powers and the way you level up. I personally preferred the way that powers, leveling, and determining your character was the best in Mass Effect. However, actually using powers and the literal gameplay is an improvement. For the most part, things are smoother. However, the cover system is more forced on the player moving forward with 2 and 3 and poorly done, which bothers me.
I am also mixed on the way you do planets. On the one hand, the Mako was a mess to drive, but the freedom to really explore planets was rather cool. This game is much more linear, and planets serve as single destinations (overall) rather than explore and find things on side planets and the like. Again, this is countered by the bad driving and also how open and empty a lot of that exploring could feel. So while I miss that aspect, it might actually be better that they did away with it. Mass Effect 2 also has several city locations that you can explore, much like The Citadel in the first game, which I really appreciate.
So where is the part where I might actually agree that this is the best? Mostly in the characters. Mass Effect 2 went to great lengths to develop the characters further than Mass Effect had. Other than two of them, you have to track people down to recruit them, then attempt to build their loyalty. Their personalities are more distinct this time around, and honestly, it adds so much to the experience with how much time you can spend bonding and discussing with them. I am a sucker for good characters, and this game has them.
(Also, not for nothing but this game has one of the best in-game romances LOL)
It is also just a fun game. For all my issues with some of the gameplay changes, it is still an enjoyable game to play. It can be a little tough at times, much harder than the first, but I had a good time playing it from start to finish.
So bottom line? I love this game, much like the series overall. I have some pretty key and significant problems, but all that is good comes in and still manages to push me into love. I cannot stress how much I love the characters and how much they add to the experience and give something extra to it.
I would like (with the upcoming remaster) for some of the gameplay elements to be considered, but I fear that instead of Mass Effect 2 and 3 mimicking parts of 1, they will just completely redo 1 more like the later games… which I might be the only person who will be super disappointed with that. I do hope they at least tighten up the cover system, however.
I am always glad after revisiting this game and eagerly await the upcoming remaster, which we should get early next year, but we will see. In the meantime, I recommend going back through or maybe putting the Legendary Edition on your radar if you missed this series.