I have no idea who this strapping young human man is.
It is finally time for Part 2 of my first Mass Effect trilogy playthrough! For those of you who missed Part 1, I am a renegade FemShep. So I’m not sure who this strange guy on the cover is, but oh well. I’m thoroughly enjoying being a badass chick traversing deep space with a ragtag group of aliens, (sort of) doing the bidding of Cerberus.
I vaguely recalled mention of the Cerberus group’s going-ons in the first game but didn’t think much of it. Well, they’re in full swing this installment. Why? Well, they spent billions of credits to bring Shepard back to life, that’s why. Wait, you might say, I don’t remember dying at the end of ME1. That’s right. There was no Shepard death in ME1’s conclusion. It’s a cut-scene thrown into the game’s opening to give you a reason to be in Cerberus’ debt. And to have gnarly, glowing red scars on your face if you’re a renegade character.
When approaching a sequel, I’m sure the main question going through our minds is, “How have they changed or expanded upon the first game?”
The most noticeable change after playing for a couple of hours is the complete dismissal of the RPG elements of the first game. And hey, they did suck. Instead of trying to fix the complete equipment and inventory mess, they basically got rid of it. In ME2, there is VERY minuscule amounts of equipping you have to worry about. Shepard’s gear is really all you mess with (of which there are only a few options). And the squad members only have 2 different side arms to equip. Again, not a lot of options here either. But I’m totally cool with it. Ain’t nobody got time to spend half an hour putting enhancements on everyone’s gear.
Spending less time in menus encouraged me to swap active squad members in and out. A lot. In ME1 I almost always stuck with the same group. Wrex and Tali, usually. Sometimes I’d swap in Liara, since she’s my main squeeze and all. But in ME2 I was swapping squad members more often than my underwear. Because, look at this huge roster!
To be fair, the characters on the far opposite ends are DLC, but still! Much more diverse than the original cast. Speaking of the original cast, if you look closely you’ll see a couple of familiar faces.
To answer my second most common sequel question, “Do the characters from the first game come back?”… As per the above image, two of them actually return as permanent squad members! Garrus (yawn) and Tali! Garrus’ personality is what I expected, but Tali’s grown some teeth and that pleasantly surprised me. Liara, the love of my Shepard’s life, has an interesting quest line with an even more interesting conclusion. I was given the option to continue our romance after she put me off for quite a bit. I decided to be loyal, and not sleep around like my Dragon Age character. About halfway through the quest line I was anticipating what ultimately ended up happening, and I actually thought it was quite satisfying while opening up a lot of room for events later on. I was a bit disappointed, though, with the lack of conversation AFTER all is said and done. There aren’t any follow-up conversations to have with her, despite the fact that there’s plenty of reasons to repeatedly visit her before the game is over.
I’m glad I chose Liara over Kaiden Alenko, who I was originally flirting with the idea of romancing. When I met up with him during the events of this game, he was a complete dick! Why? Because I was with Cerberus. Not that he gave me any time to explain what was going on. So screw him. My old battle buddy Wrex makes an appearance as well, if you do the right optional quest. Trust me, you’ll know it when you see it.
They also ditched the Mako. Which is all well and good, I guess, because riding around on planets looking for elements and things to do was time consuming and got boring quickly. The new method of scanning planets for events and elements gets to the point much quicker. Zipping around on the Hammerhead (Or whatever the rover-du-jour is called) was a little more satisfying, but still frustrating at times. There are some moments where you’ll battle geth and such with it. But, unlike the Mako, I didn’t see any sort of repair option. So fighting guys that can take it out in a few hits requires a lot of evasive maneuvers.
Want to know what wasn’t changed from the first Mass Effect? One of my biggest complaints, of course… assigning the X button to sprint! This time around, it’s annoying beyond words because it is the same button used for crouching. This means that after every battle scene I had to scour for loot at a deathly slow pace because if I wanted to run, god forbid, I’d hide behind every corner and crate. Even after every enemy was dead! Seriously, WTF? And in order to vault over something that looks like nothing more than a step up, you have to crouch first. The game never comes out and says so, of course, so imagine how much time I spent trying to figure that out myself. I guess I spend too much time playing games like Assassin’s Creed that do the jumping and climbing for me.
This is a much more accurate representation of MY Shepard… Not quite enough Renegade points though.
As per the above image, the skill point allocation is different, but didn’t receive a drastic makeover. Maxing any skill gives you a specialization option. Usually it’s choosing offensive vs. defensive, or more concentrated damage vs. spread damage. Either way, I appreciated having an extra buffing option at the end.
Each character has a grayed out ability listed on the bottom. This can only be accessible after doing their loyalty quest. Then, for a mere 5,000 Element Zero, Shepard can also learn the same ability! Not the only reason to do their loyalty quests, mind you. Completing them also alters how certain events play out at the end of the game. Not since Valkyrie Profile have I been so anxious about doing everything “right.” Way more with ME2 since I actually care about the characters, story, and having my file the way I want it when I load up Me3. Here’s hoping importing my save file won’t be the convoluted mess it was the first time. Epic fail, Bioware.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with the direction this trilogy has taken me so far. My list of gripes is significantly smaller than the first installment. I’m not sure how long it will take me to play and finish the conclusion, but I’m more than ready to witness this super controversial ending!