Canadian developer BioWare has never been shy of creating intricate stories set in vast worlds for your exploratory pleasure. This, the second in the promised Mass Effect trilogy, is no exception to that usually successful rule. With its predecessor divided in its fan base, some raving at its successes and others criticising its flaws, anticipation over Mass Effect 2 has been high. The question is whether this darker, and even deeper, plot lives up to its hype?
There’s no disputing the emotional rollercoaster that Mass Effect 2 offers to any who pick up their controller to brave its 30 plus hours of play. Inevitably you will encounter a series of disasters, and the tug on the heart strings you’ll face each time is very real, especially considering it may have been some of your decisions that have taken you to that point. BioWare has craftily, and highly successfully, placed character development at the top of its pile of priorities. Aside from the phenomenal voice acting, a part of this development lies in your ability to enjoy a side mission related to each character’s past as you meet them. So well crafted are these individual stories that you’re likely to forget the jeopardy that the universe is facing to enjoy them.
Your actions within Mass Effect 2 can change the flow of the game, and not purely those actions that seem large and consequential at the time. Even your conversations can effect which ethical side you steer toward, be it paragon or renegade. Depending on which side you favour more often, a range of different conversations will become available, providing new and different ways to solve problems and progress through the game. What’s more, if you’ve played the original Mass Effect and saved your character, the option to import means that the decisions you made in this game’s predecessor can change some of the gameplay in its sequel.
The first Mass Effect game, while strong in its RPG elements, was always lacking in the third-person shooter action that made up a reasonable portion of it. Fortunately BioWare has paid attention to this criticism, working hard to greatly enhance the battles within this title. Mass Effect 2 could stand toe to toe with some of the other great shooters on the market today, and many inclusions lean toward this being the preferred style of play. Your health will regenerate automatically, for example; a trait common to other pure action games around. This focus on the action elements may lead to the belief that the RPG side of things has been put to the side. However, in reality it seems that the role-playing functionality has simply been tightened up and improved, to the point that hours spent manoeuvring through menus is a thing of the past.
Finding fault with Mass Effect 2 is difficult. While you may still find the occasional glitch in combat and could become frustrated with the long loading times, on the whole this is a title that anyone will find enjoyment in. The improvements to the combat system may make the game feel more like an action title, but with character development sure to suck you in, and actions affecting the overall outcomes, even the most dedicated to the RPG cause will love this game.