I’ve played probably half way through Mass Effect 2 (ME2), but I’ve been distracted by Saints Row the Third (SR3). Since this means I may never finish ME2, I thought I’d throw down all those things that have been circling my head before I forget.
It’s interesting to see the evolution from Mass Effect (ME) and towards Mass Effect 3 (ME3). They’ve taken out some sections, changed a few sections, and added some new things.
They appear to have removed the MAKO sections entirely. At least, I’ve had no driving, and the only vehicle parts have been in cut-scenes. This makes me sad as I really enjoyed those bits. Instead of using the MAKO to find mineral deposits, you can now scan a planet.
Now, I’ve heard that this is boring, dull, and not very much fun at all. For others, perhaps. While the MAKO was more fun, I’m rather enjoying the scanning sections. I think it’s because it uses a combination of visual (pretty graphs), auditory and tactile (controller vibration) to help you narrow in on larger mineral deposits. It actually feels like skill is involved – even if there really isn’t much needed – and feels satisfying once the larger deposits are found.
The way you navigate space has changed, as you now have a mini ship that you pilot around systems. This means you can pilot the Normandy 2 to an Unknown planet to scan, or to a target planet to land. I’m in favour of this change as it really feels more like things in this Universe are connected, rather than a series of (albeit pretty and graphical) menu selections.
This also introduces the Fuel Depots where you can buy fuel (for inter-system travel). This means that travelling between systems within a cluster is now slightly more tactical as you could easily run out of fuel. Having said that, I’m not sure it adds that much to the game.
Also introduced is the silly idea of being able to occasionally take a Paragon or Renegade action during a cutscene. I mentioned this before, but I will say that they got it “more right” in ME3. In ME2 the prompts for these quick-time events can pop up very briefly, or (in at least one case) last for at least half of a cut-scene. That last one really annoyed me as I was not going to take that Renegade action then, and I wanted the pretty bright prompt to go away. They didn’t get it right in ME3, but at least they made it somewhat better.
ME2 is where they introduced the idea that weapons use standard ‘heat sink’ clips, instead of the ME idea that weapons have infinite ammunition, but overheat. What this means is that heat sinks are effectively your ammunition, and without them, your guns are empty. I really think this was a silly move as it just takes us back to the way most shooters work. With the overheating mechanism you never really ran out of ammunition, but this came at a cost of managing the heat in your weapon. This made it more tactical and made the battles feel more interesting to me.
I like that they’ve expanded the ‘hacking’ idea too. You now have two possibilities: a system might be ‘hack’able, or ‘bypass’able.
Bypass is essentially a memory game. As you hover over a circuit ‘pin’ you see a symbol on it. You have to find the other pin with the same symbol. Match up all three or four, and you’ve bypassed whatever lock is in your way.
Hacking, on the other hand, is pattern matching. You are shown a ‘screen’ of code and you have to find that on a slowly scrolling view of other screens. Some of the screens that are scrolling past give you an automatic ‘failure’, so you have to avoid them. The code comes in a few colours, so you have both colour and placement on each screen to help guide you.
In terms of story, I think ME2 is the best of the series. This isn’t because of less plot holes, but because there are more characters that I like, or find interesting, and whom I can become invested in. The loyalty missions for Grunt, Jack and Mordin have been interesting and fun. Sure, they mostly boil down (as do most ME missions) to ‘shoot things’, but when you get to the dialogue and choices, it really opens those characters up.
So, these may be my final thoughts on ME2. It depends on whether I can really get involved in SR3, or if this is just a passing fling.