Mass Effect 2 – impressions

What I played of Mass Effect 1, I enjoyed.  But something about it did not grab me like other cames can.  It was a little too slow, clinical and  old-fashioned, even though the concept was an intriguing one.  You see, the Mass Effect games are basically Star Trek in all but name.  You take control of the captain of a starship (replace Kirk for Sheppard, and the Enterprise for the Normandy) and travel the galaxy completing missions, hiring new crew members, and over  the course of the game building up your abilities and upgrading weapons, whilst following a deep and complex narrative. 

Developer Bioware are masters of this kind of western-rpg, and this game blends action ala Gears Of War with story, customization and a large non-linear game world to explore at your leisure.  This time around, the game feels much more polished.  Character and enemy detail is excellent and the environments a step up from the first game as far as detail, lighting and overall atmosphere is concerned.  The game world still has a very angular, stilted feel to it though, something that is a Bioware Achilles heel and can lack the ‘personality’ of other games.  Sometimes the level design feels a bit randomly generated, especially during missions with very similar looking crates, walls, doors etc.  This can’t be said for some of the towns and cities though, such as they are here with night clubs and slums to explore, all filled with life and colour. 

Playing the game it feels immediately streamlined from the first, with a more casual emphasis on the item collecting and ability building, and the action, with heavy use of a well implemented cover system and a wealth of weapons and magical abilities feels easy to pick up and enjoyable.  I’m only a little way into the game so far, but have been drawn in by the missions and storyline so far, and the character design is excellent (even if the faces still look a bit ‘odd’ compared to say Enslaved or Half-Life), something that has come to be expected from Bioware.

RPGs have a funny relationship with me however, as I am usually well into them for a while, then get bored and end up never completing them.  Hopefully it will be different this time around, as this game deserves to be seen through to the end.

I picked up the recently released PS3 version which includes all previously released downloadable content from the XBOX 360.  In comparison to the 360 version, I have researched that the graphics are somewhat sharper, and the textures slightly improved.  Yet other than that there isn’t a great deal to make this the definitive version.  Cut-scenes do seem to suffer from frame-rate issues, and there are some programming bugs evident such as your character getting stuck in scenery, as well as some obvious texture pop-up.  A shame as this was a great chance by Bioware to pull out all the stops.  As it stands though I’d still recommend fans of western-rpgs or Bioware’s games to pick this up immediately.

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