Mar 282013

Mass Effect 2 continues the epic story of Commander Shepard, the player-defined hero who thwarted a massive plot to destroy the galaxy in the original Mass Effect. Players always knew that Shepard’s story wasn’t over. The Reapers are still coming, and only Shepard and her crew believe it, so they’re the only ones who can stop them. But when the Normandy is destroyed in an attack by mysterious aliens, Shepard will find her allegiance to the Alliance challenged, and she’ll need a whole new crew to win the fight this time.

The brilliance of Mass Effect 2 is that it essentially clears the board. Shepard was a hero by the end of the first game, and she had the respect of almost every race in the galaxy, but now, two years later (don’t worry, the time gap is explained at the beginning of the game), that respect doesn’t count for much. No one trusts Shepard anymore, least of all the Council and the Alliance, but the Reapers are still planning an invasion, and someone has to stop it. This forces Shepard to make a deal with a shady organization known as Cerberus and their leader, the Illusive Man. Shepard has to recruit a whole new team and find new resources in order to take the fight to the Reapers this time around, and this allows the player to continue Shepard’s journey without it seeming redundant.

The Illusive Man is Shepard’s new ally.

It’s easy to understand why a player might be wary of a whole new adventure for Shepard. Throughout the course of the original Mass Effect, Shepard made friends and enemies, and it’s likely that players will want to see these same faces again. They are there, although some of them are only cameos, and there are many new interesting characters to meet as well. Even though Mass Effect 2 can feel like an interlude, that’s what it’s supposed to be, so don’t be afraid to dive in and give it a chance.

In addition to continuing an excellent story, Mass Effect 2 includes a lot of improvements that make it more enjoyable for gamers. Several tedious features from the original game have been streamlined for more efficient gameplay. In Mass Effect, the inventory was massive, but there were hardly any unique items, making it a chore to sort through. In Mass Effect 2, the inventory system has been completely eliminated. Every Shepard gets the same suit of armor, and new pieces are available for purchase at various stores and can be equipped in her personal quarters, and squad members no longer have armor. Weapons are found during missions and made available to the various characters, and there are no longer upgrades for ammo since those have been turned into class powers. Research projects offer the chance to increase damage for each type of weapon, as well as biotic and tech powers, so there is still the chance to upgrade throughout the game.

Sidequests have also been streamlined. Rather than having to drive a vehicle over a planet’s surface to find points of interest, planets with sidequests will be identified by the game, and then the player has to find the sidequest with a probe. This way the player can go directly to the quest, rather than searching for it. Probes also let you mine for resources to complete research projects, which is unfortunately a change in the game that is still tedious, but necessary to get all the skills you’ll need to finish the game.

Combat has been revamped.

Combat has also been revamped in Mass Effect 2. The same character classes are still available, but there are fewer powers for each class, and each power now has two versions that can be chosen from once it is completely leveled up. This allows you to customize your class more based on the way you like to play. In addition, combat is faster and more challenging, with more skilled enemies and various environmental hazards thrown into the mix to complicate things. All of these changes make for a great gaming experience, whether you’ve played the original Mass Effect or not.

The new level up screen.

Mass Effect 2 is a game that should not be missed, whether you’re an old fan or new to the franchise. It is a fantastic gaming experience.

Grade: 9.5/10

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