The Mass Effect trilogy is arguably the pinnacle of videogame narrative—your decisions from game to game form a special narrative of the epic adventure of Commander Shepard. How he or she behaves and acts is up to you, and dictate the unforeseen outcomes of this spectacular space opera.
Developer Bioware has never rested on its laurels, despite being the creative force behind some of the grandest RPGs ever, namely the Dragon Age series, the Baldur’s Gate series, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Mass Effect 2 saw a few radical changes from the previous entry; traditional role-playing aspects like armor and weapons customization are streamlined so that the limited selection play and feel significantly different. Only one class can use every weapon—the Soldier class—though the other selectable classes are bolstered by formidable super-powered abilities. Experience points are rewarded less frequently, resulting in a more appreciable gain when you level up.Loyalty quests not only provide insight into your team and build deeper relationships, but also allow for some intriguing moral dilemmas. Though Mass Effect 2 lacks the deep multiplayer experience of Mass Effect 3, it is certainly not lacking in content. Due to the mind-blowing range of outcomes, alliances, and moral choices you make, there is so much to explore even after completing the lengthy 20-40 hour epic campaign. Scouring the galaxy for side quests is a blast, especially loyalty quests. After you acquire a new teammate, you have the option of doing a personal mission for them. These scenarios are another highlight of Mass Effect 2, as they not only provide insight into your team and build deeper relationships, but also allow for some intriguing moral dilemmas.
The dynamic conversations are absolutely enthralling; the voice work, the facial expressions, and the range of outcomes make Mass Effect one of the most cinematic games ever. It’s mesmerizing watching the incredible dialogue unfold between stunningly rendered aliens and the rest of the human cast. Your character’s moral leaning towards virtuous Paragon or roguish Renegade greatly affects your interactions within the world. Whereas taking Paragon actions sees Shepard offering aide and counsel, a Renegade speaks more through violence and aggression.Combat is fun and is open to numerous approaches.Combat is fun and is open to numerous approaches. You can play as a sniper capable of cloaking and slowing time to a crawl, or a frontal assault-style commando, with a teleporting rush attack and a brutalizing shotgun. Also, tech and biotic powers—Mass Effect’s version of magic—allow for even more possibilities. Incendiary blasts, kinetic barriers, telekinesis, and robotic drones are among the litany of abilities available to you and your teammates.
In Mass Effect 2, combat has deep customization and personalization, but it also has an added layer of strategy. You can allow your two accompanying team members to use their individual powers unrestricted, or you can take a more active role. At any time during combat, you can freely pause the action and issue orders to your squad to specifically target certain enemies and designate which powers they use. Of course, on the normal difficulty levels, your squad does a fair job of using the appropriate abilities, though on harder difficulties it is almost essential to play the extra strategic role in orchestrating firefights. It’s very satisfying commanding your team to, in one swift action, burn up an enemy’s body army, suspend them helplessly in midair, then finish them by unleashing a biotic burst that hurls them into a wall.The audio in Mass Effect 2 is fantastic in every respect.The audio in Mass Effect 2 is fantastic in every respect. An impressive ensemble cast that includes Martin Sheen, Seth Green, Yvonne Strahovski (Dexter, Chuck), and Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica fame, who incidentally plays the role of your ship’s A.I. companion. The soundtrack is suitably evocative, ranging from quiet and contemplative as you marvel at extraterrestrial vistas, to thrilling synthetic swells as intense gun fights crackle and pulse around you. The array of blasters and alien devices at your disposal also sound great and punchy.
Mass Effect 2 has a great structure, both from a narrative and gameplay perspective, and is great fun to replay, even if you’ve played the entire trilogy to completion. The intense endgame experience is memorable for its crescendoing action, and also its dramatic finale as your in-game decisions and actions determine who ultimately lives and dies (and who continues on into the next game). Mass Effect 2 is at the height of video game storytelling, as gamers are treated to a galaxy to make their own.