Mass Effect 2: A Masterpiece

mass-effect-2-xbox-360After nearly 55 hours of shooting, exploring and chatting up aliens, I’ve finally finished Mass Effect 2. I could have finished it a lot quicker, but I was having so much damn fun that I dawdled to discover everything it had to offer. What a game.

With a few rare exceptions, such as Minerva’s Den for Bioshock 2, I don’t tend to bother with downloadable content: a statement that I’m sure will appall most game publishers. But I became so enthralled with the depth and breadth of the Mass Effect universe that I hungrily downloaded all the extra content on offer (except of course for the pointless alternative outfits, more on those in a sec). And as soon as I’d finished the game, I happily bought all the DLC for Mass Effect 3 too. Yep EA, you got me good this time.

It’s difficult to over-emphasise how much of an improvement Mass Effect 2 is over its prequel. I came away from Mass Effect 1 feeling frustrated: genuinely interesting stories and characters were buried beneath shoddy game mechanics and dull missions. So all credit to BioWare for taking the criticisms on board and completely overhauling the game for the sequel – every mission now feels meaningful, the combat is ten times better, the galaxy feels like a place worth exploring, the finnicky inventory system has been simplified… I could go on an on. And most important of all, the choices you make in the first game carry over to the second one, directly affecting the characters you meet and the stories that play out. This decision is a stroke of genius because it makes every choice meaningful – make a bad decision and you’re forced to live with the consequence of your actions. If a key character dies, they stay dead for the whole trilogy (I’m thankful to report that I managed to make it through the game with all characters and crew intact: phew).

The graphics and combat mechanics have been massively improved.
The graphics and combat mechanics have been massively improved.

The one thing that drove my enjoyment of the game above all else was the excellent character development. The crew roster has been greatly expanded, and it was a real joy to track down characters from the previous game and see how they’re getting on. Every character has a long and detailed back story, and I could happily spend hours running around the decks of the Normandy, simply chatting to the crew. Particularly Mordin Solus, who has quickly become my favourite character, partly due to his spirited rendition of the Pirates of Penzance. And then there’s Shepard’s complicated love life, which is practically a metagame in itself. At one point I broke things off with Jack, and now she just bellows “F**K OFF!” every time I enter the room. I think I’m better off with Tali anyway.

The only criticism I’d level at the game is that they went a little bit too far when it came to simplifying the inventory. Now Shepard and co. are limited to just one set of armour each, with an unlockable alternative colour scheme, and the array of weapons is similarly slim. Extra weapons and armour are available via downloads… but for a price, of course. This is a step too far for me: I don’t mind paying for extra missions that add story content to the game, but I draw the line at buying a few bits of clothing that should have been in the main game to start with. Very cheeky.

Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed Mass Effect 2, which is easily one of the best games of the generation. Now onto number three…

Mordin: legend.
Mordin: legend.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly on the Mass Effect 1 criticism. My first playthrough ended abruptly, I couldn’t bear the clunkiness of it, the shoddy cover system, the poor inventory. It was only through watching my husband play Mass Effect 2 that made me want to go back to it, so I started over with the trilogy. I’m now onto my third playthrough of the trilogy. Unfortunately, going back and starting over a third time, after having so much fun with ME:2 and ME:3 (by far the most fun I’ve had with a gaming series since my childhood!) and going back to 1 to start over, I just find ME:1 awkward and I really can’t be bothered with going through the whole game again. ME:2 is a sublime piece of gaming, it will be hard to find a gaming experience like it. I’m looking forward to the 4th installment, I just hope it comes to the 360!

    1. Wow, a third playthrough, I applaud your dedication! I never normally bother playing through games a second time, but I’m already contemplating a second run through Mass Effect 2 as a Renegade FemShep. I’ll probably skip a second run of Mass Effect 1 though – like you say, the clunky mechanics make it a bit of a chore. Once is enough!

  2. And believe it or not, Mass Effect 3 is even better!! Hopefully I’ll get around to writing my review of it soon. I’d suggest if you’re gonna do another ME2 playthrough as a different character you do it before you start ME3 because, like going from ME1 to ME2, you won’t want to go back. 🙂 ME3 is definitely one of my new favorite games of all time.

    1. Excellent, I can’t wait! I’ve heard mixed things about ME3, so I’m glad to hear from someone who rates it as their favourite. Right, Xbox on, LET’S DO THIS THING.

      1. And the DLC is basically mandatory in my opinion… The Citadel is the only like, not plot-related DLC, but it is too hilarious and fan-servicey to miss!

  3. Ahh ME2 is easily my favourite Xbox 360 game. Interested to hear what you think of ME3 – a game containing my favourite and least favourite moments in the trilogy.

    1. Like I said above, it’s interesting that there are so many different opinions on ME3. Whether it turns out to be my favourite in the series or not, I’m looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about.

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