It seems odd that I’m writing up my first impressions of a game I’ve already spent over seven hours with. Not that it feels like seven hours. In truth, I feel like I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what Mass Effect 2 has to offer.
BioWare are masters of the RPG so it was slightly surprising to realise that much of the RPG elements that were featured in the first Mass Effect have been stripped from this sequel. No more complicated equipment upgrade systems. Far fewer ranks and character upgrade paths. No more gathering – or carrying – masses of loot. You can’t grind for experience, there’s a set amount for each mission and it’s all awarded on mission-completion. They’ve even refined the combat system and controls so they are the equal of any existing cover-based third person shooter. It’s almost as if they made an action game.
Without giving too much away (there’s a full review on the way and my notes are already piling up), Mass Effect 2 is fantastic in almost every way imaginable. It balances the slower-paced dialogue and diplomacy sections perfectly with the action set-pieces and it does it in a way which makes you aware that this isn’t a story you’re playing through. This is your story and it’s evolving around you based on the decisions you made during those slower dialogue sections.
For fans of the first game it is most easily described as fairly similar with all those little annoyances removed and a whole lot of polish added. For newcomers it is best described as the intelligent dialogue and complicated diplomacy from Star Trek: The Next Generation teamed up with the sex-appeal and action sequences from the latest Star Trek movie.
Take the best bits from any space-based science fiction you can think of. Now forget about lightsabers. Everything else is in there in some form and it is explained in a way that is believable and logical.
The fiction in this universe goes deeper than any other game I’ve experienced and while it may take a while for players to get up to speed (or even come back up to speed after playing the first game) if you immerse yourself in that fiction you will be rewarded with a complete and comprehensive universe to surround your experience of the game. Don’t be daunted by the fact that this is a sequel either. While the experience is certainly bolstered by having played through the first one, you can also jump right in at this point in the saga and it will explain everything you need to know smoothly and simply.
Mass Effect 2 doesn’t really innovate in the world of entertainment or science fiction, borrowing a lot of its elements from the great populist sci-fi epics. There are Force-like powers, Trek-like scans and even District 9-like inter-special inequalities. However, in the world of video games there really is nothing else like it.
I will, of course, reserve full judgement for the full review which is coming after I’ve had time to give the game my complete attention. In the meantime, if you’re at a loose end and you like the sound of an action game with plenty of intelligence and a dialogue-heavy storyline which seems like it will shape up to be an epic then Mass Effect 2 is absolutely the game for you.
Is that enough writing now, can I go back to playing it?
More Mass Effect 2 Launch coverage on TSA: