A Heretical Opinion About Mass Effect 2

I first played through the Mass Effect trilogy in the summer of 2014, and it’s one of a very few series that I have enjoyed enough to let me play all of the entries back-to-back-to-back without needing any breaks.  I didn’t have any of the DLC at the time, however, so I’ve always been a little curious about how things would be changed and whether the things I’d been confused by in Mass Effect 3 might make more sense after playing through those extra story bits.

For the record: The opening to Mass Effect 3 ALONE makes way more sense if you’ve played the “Arrival” DLC for ME2.  I will not say anything else nice about the “Arrival” DLC, because I had a hard time extracting any fun from the “game” parts of it that were inconveniently sandwiched between the cutscenes.  It may just be the particular class I was playing in ME2, but there was an awful lot of “Arrival” that is just the slow wearing-down of rooms full of swarms of enemies with flamethrowers and rocket launchers and it just gets kind of tedious after a couple of rooms-full.

But I digress, and as I opened this post by implying that I had a heretical opinion about Mass Effect 2, it’s probably best that I get around to it:

Mass Effect is better than its sequel.  Yes, really.

ME2 does have some really good characters, and possibly the best single character MOMENT in the series – Legion’s introduction – but it also felt like the designers took complaints about the original game’s complexity far too seriously.  Skill trees are reduced to a bare handful of skills, combat no longer gives experience or gear, looting lockers and boxes gives a monotonous stream of credits rather than exciting randomized loot pinatas, the goofy fun of driving around planets in the Mako and reveling in its sheer disregard for gravity is replaced with endless planet scanning, and the occasionally-frustrating hacking minigame from ME1 is replaced with your choice of one of two minigames that are practically impossible to fail – but they NEED to be impossible to fail, because the level designers loved to stick the “bypass” minigame on doors that MUST be opened for story reasons, as opposed to only doors that lead to optional areas.

*deep breath*

Oh, and the final boss is just silly in context.  Normally, I would LOVE the 80s-heavy-metal-album-cover aesthetic, but in this universe?  It feels like the last boss fight from a forgotten 16-bit shooter.

Actually, I haven’t played all of the Contra games.  It might actually BE a boss fight from one of those.

I’m not going to say anything silly here, like claiming that ME2 is a BAD game in any respect.  It has a lot of highlights.

Miranda alone has a LOT of highlights.

BUT.  The first game was better, and anyone who wants to join my cult can pick up a flyer from the card table near the door.

Meanwhile, I am on to Mass Effect 3.  I’m particularly looking forward to “Leviathan” and “Citadel”, which I didn’t get to see the last time, and I may even try the multiplayer if anyone is still playing it.

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6 Responses to A Heretical Opinion About Mass Effect 2

  1. Pete Davison says:

    I agree entirely. The moment I started playing Mass Effect 2 after playing its predecessor, my immediate reaction was “ugh, this feels like a third-person shooter, not an RPG”. Yes, it had some cool moments… but taken as a complete package, I absolutely agree the first Mass Effect was way better in so many ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • baudattitude says:

      I was expecting this to be a more controversial post. 🙂 Good to get some positive reinforcement!

      I’ve only started replaying ME3 and it also feels like a shooter more than an RPG, but at least they made it a better-feeling shooter.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Pete Davison says:

        I haven’t played Mass Effect 3, I must admit. The way that game was released was what finally killed off my love for BioWare… or rather, what EA had done to them. The day-one DLC was just not something I wanted to support at all, particularly when it was something as important to the overall series lore as a Prothean.

        And, well, the less said about BioWare in 2018, the better…

        Like

      • baudattitude says:

        Mass Effect 3 is such a weird artifact of the gaming landscape at the time. They had a guaranteed audience of people who had gotten invested in “their” Shepherd, and EA went all-in on some really blatant cash grabs.

        I still thought it was a really satisfying game when I played it a few years ago, but it’s hard not to see all the the places where some suit looked at the game and said “we need to monetize this part”.

        Oh, well. Series is dead now. I picked up Mass Effect Andromeda for 10 bucks a while ago, will play it some time to see if it’s as much of a train wreck as everyone says.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree in a lot of ways. The second game felt dumbed down by comparison (funnily enough, look at Dragon Age followed by Dragon Age 2 for a similar thing) and lacked a significant amount of depth in character development. But I still had a hell of a good time playing it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • baudattitude says:

      I haven’t tried any of the DA games past the first, so thanks for the heads-up on DA2! I’ll know to adjust my expectations accordingly once I get around to that one.

      The funniest thing about replaying ME1 and 2 back-to-back was that I kept running into weird janky things in ME1, and I kept thinking about how much more polished ME2 was going to be and how all of these little annoyances would be gone… and then I get through ME2 and it’s like, I could have used a little more jank and a few more rough edges. That may say something about me, though.

      Liked by 1 person

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