Review by TheFifthPerson
"A Masterclass From Bioware"
Warning: Cannot guarantee spoiler free! Players of the original Mass Effect (ME) remember the great story, memorable and believable characters and well handled romance (for the most part). Unfortunately they will probably remember clunky cover controls, graphical quirks and of course...Mako (even typing the name sends chills down my spine). So we will approach this new ME game with excitement but also with a good deal of apprehension. Well don't fear, ME II is a brilliant masterpiece (excuse the tautology) of a game with most of the original's quirks fixed and, for the most part fixed well. Graphics are excellent with colourful and imaginative worlds, especially Illium which deserves a special mention, and of course the colourful and imaginative races which help to create a living, breathing Milky Way and fill the black vacuum of space with colour and awe-inspiring grace. To side track briefly it is this attention to detail which creates truly great games with excellent stories which you can get lost in. The Codex of great games should be filled with imaginative history and excellent integration of the in-game races. This is what separates Bioware and Bethesda from other production companies like Lionhead (Fable) and Capcom (Devil May Cry, Lost Planet).
Back to topic, ME II has fixed the combat which can now be confidently played as a third person cover shooter. Much to the annoyance of a small handful of hardcore RPG enthusiasts the RPG section has been eh...trimmed down? AC II has more RPG elements. The inventory system is basically the same (which it is to say that it has done away with it all together) as AC II's and levelling has been stripped to amoeba sized proportions to make way for a more combat oriented game. But these aspects are certainly not caveats as much as just different. But don't worry as this is refreshing and you will soon appreciate the care that has gone into other areas of the game. Okay, *controversial statement* to the must important aspect of a RPG: Story. Right, so this is the second part of a trilogy (think Empire Strikes Back leading to "Luke, I am your uncle" or something alike to this) so the story, to adhere to the "taboo of society" (to quote Golding) will not be as groundbreaking as the original or as heartbreaking and moving as the third. But as this is one of the best second in series stories I have played (or seen to comply with the aforementioned Star Wars parallelism). You pick up two years after the first game (oh and for virgins of the trilogy you don't need to play the first as you can create a new character and after some nice questions you will be able to play as normal.
References to the previous instalment will come up in conversation every now and then but it's nothing to worry about) and are now working for the pro human splinter group Cerberus and answer to the chain smoking (medicine has really caught up as if he was in present time and not 200 years in the future he would be dying from Atheroma the way that he inhales the nasty stuff) "Illusive Man" and you will be kept busy attending to the small matter of entire human colony worlds disappearing. And don't worry: the game's mechanical, genocidal antagonists are back. This time the reapers are working through the "Collectors" (they have left the poor Geth alone). You will amass a new team and some faces from the old game will return (don't give me those puppy dog eyes, play the game to see if Tali and Liara are back and are potential relationships). Most of the characters are nothing compared to ME's original with the exceptions of Dr. Mordin Solous (a fast talking Salarian scientist: pay particular attention to his Gilbert and Sullivan inspired song, which is exactly what it sounds like), Legion (a Geth who joins your team and gives the Geth another dimension to the Terminatoresque persona employed by them in the original) and perhaps Thane (The troubled Drell assassin with an excellent back story). The loyalty missions allow you to explore the pasts of characters and are the story telling highlight and in companion with the numerous side quests and DLCs make ME II a fully fleshed out chef d'uvre.
To follow the excepted pattern of reviews I must now reach the negative "but" section. Don't worry as the caveats are nit picks to allow for a more well rounded review experience (which I hope you have enjoyed and if you have read thus far well done to you, the Blue Peter badge is arriving in the post and you will be overjoyed to hear the review is finally closing as it has already outstayed its welcome). The replacement for the Mako is the new probing system which is reasonably tedious at best but is a large improvement over the Mako. Some graphical quirks mar the experience slightly and occasional cover conundrums will leave you feeling hard done by but these issues are really unimportant. The game world, despite existing in an entire galaxy does feel slightly smaller than perhaps Oblivion as it is not as open ended but it still feels appropriately colossal. In summery, this is one of the finest RPGs I have ever played and I implore you to try this game. This is that gaming experience that will keep you up at night and draw you into orbit so that you can't escape.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 05/26/11
Game Release: Mass Effect 2 (EU, 01/29/10)
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