Mass Effect 2 raises stakes
Thesecond game in the Mass Effect trilogy takes place two years after Commander Shepard saved all of civilization from destruction by a horde of machines. This time, it’s just the fate of humanity that hangs in the balance. The Collectors, a xenophobic alien race, are abducting entire human colonies, and the commander is once again called upon to don the heroic mantle.
Developed by Edmonton’s BioWare, Mass Effect 2 (Electronic Arts; PC, Xbox 360; rated mature) will be released on Tuesday (January 26).
The action role-playing game can use any completed play-through of the first title that’s saved on your Xbox 360 or Windows PC, so you can continue the adventure with your particular Shepard, whether female or male. Your story choices come with you too. So, if any main characters in the first game perished during your fight against the mechanical geth and Reapers, don’t expect them to suddenly appear from beyond the grave in Mass Effect 2.
Instead, Commander Shepard has to assemble a team of up to 10 new squad members—up from six in the first game—to embark on what can only be considered a suicide mission.
At first blush you’ll think that just the story and the characters have changed, but you’ll soon realize that the controls and the combat have been greatly refined in the two years since Mass Effect was released. Combat is smoother and more like you’d expect from a pure first-person shooter, which makes the fighting a better experience for everyone, hard-core FPS players and RPG fans alike.
You can switch your weapons selection mid-mission, and the inventory management has been completely reorganized, so you’ll have an easier time making changes to your armour and firearms and adjusting the skills of your characters. There are two new hacking mini games—triggered when you want to access data pads and electronic locks—which are fun to play and will test your puzzle-solving abilities.
Exploration of the galaxy plays a more integral role in Mass Effect 2. The resources collected in side missions are used for research projects and weapon development by the characters. And certain missions result in your squad members becoming more loyal. The degree to which you and your team survive will depend on how much you invest in them. Gamers are advised to take a piece of advice from executive producer Casey Hudson: You reap what you sow. “If you invest the time in these characters that are on your crew, and in building up your ship”¦your chances of success go up,” Hudson told the Georgia Straight in an interview at BioWare’s offices in Edmonton.
Unlike the first game, Mass Effect 2 continues after the suicide mission has been completed. It’s an opportunity to keep exploring the galaxy, but you’d better make sure the characters you like survive that endgame. Hudson referred to it as a “crucible”. “You want to make sure all your people can pass through,” he said—Commander Shepard in particular. Hudson made it clear that the protagonist doesn’t necessarily survive the suicide mission, but he would only shrug when asked how the commander’s death would affect the story in Mass Effect 3.
BioWare has crafted a space opera of epic proportions that befits the franchise the developer created. Mass Effect 2 is dark and intense, a journey into danger and destruction. The stakes are high, but that means the rewards are commensurate. You won’t be disappointed.