Mass Effect 2 (ME2) is the second game in the Mass Effect series. Starring Commander Shepard as he’s been brought back from the dead to face down a new threat, The Collectors who work for The Reapers. It’s still a third person shooter in a sci-fi setting but it has improved in some ways.
We still skip around the universe, using Mass Relay travel points that allow us to jump between planet clusters. Some planets allowed on-foot travel, some needed vehicles and some were just for planting probes to gain resources to purchase character upgrades with. The universe exploration worked quite well and I could get the resources I needed with relative ease.
The combat feels smoother than the first game. I played the soldier class which had useless abilities in the first game but has elemental bullets which I regularly switched between. The cover mechanics weren’t great as Shepard would leave cover after getting hit which made it completely ineffective. The movement and shooting did feel satisfying though.
Companions were a mixed bag. Some had interesting lore, some had past experience of Shepard and some just came across as generic. The side quests in the game are largely just companion story missions to gain their trust, you didn’t have to earn these missions as it just took remembering to talk to your team. I imagine the game would have been pretty empty without taking an interest in the team. Luckily helping the team would change the last major story mission.
The missions had some variety too, combat was the general idea as we know, but there were stalking missions, stealth bits, conversation focused things and it remained fairly interesting throughout.
Conversations are the regular RPG pick a choice style of thing. I think the voice acting was stronger in this game. You can learn more lore or have conversations drag out if you wish. Sometimes your karma score would come into conversation with a choice to charm or intimidate being available. The karma system seemed to have a bit more of a noticeable presence in this game as some cutscenes could be interfered with in a good or evil way and Shepard would get facial scarring with glowing eyes lit in the colour of your dominant karma level. It gave the game a nice visual change.
There are also smaller things about the experience that have an impact, such as the minigames being matching puzzles that weren’t really fun but were optional so couldn’t spoil the rest of the game. The annoying car from the first game was replaced with a hovercraft which still wasn’t great for control but the hovercraft is miles better. Some planets even have weather effects that change the dynamic of exploration and combat, plus I never found a map that irritated me to navigate meaning I felt I was always making progress.
I didn’t like not having a minimap still, they gave us an objective direction arrow and the HUD was nice and clear but with a game like this I prefer a constant point of reference for location. The companions were powerful, however they rarely bothered to defend me or offer much help in combat, often choosing to complain at me for shooting them after they’d walked into my fire. There’s also a guy called The Elusive Man who drives the story, he got on my nerves early on by forcing story missions when I wanted to explore.
Overall, I can still see some things I’d want to improve but this game is on the better side of good. So many great ideas come together with a story that had me engaged this time. I think if there had been more non-teammate focused side content or just better teammates or better puzzle bits then I could have found this one great.