Well, this is certainly a Bioware RPG, and if you really, really like the Bioware games you’re going to absolutely love this game, you’ll probably declare it Game Of The Year 2010, even though it clearly won’t be.
Come on, it isn’t that good.
Really, Bioware games haven’t changed a great deal since Knights of the Old Republic, this is a good thing you may say to yourself, but there are just better games now, the proverbial bar has been raised. Enter Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. Even if you’re a huge sci-fi fan and really hate post-apocalyptic aesthetics, please just admit to yourself now that in the Fallout 3 engine and the hands of Bethesda you’d get a superior game. You’ll feel better, honestly. That certainly doesn’t mean however, that Mass Effect 2 is poor or something that isn’t worth the purchase and effort, it is a very good game, impressive in its stability and the ability to push an XBox (the PC port I was playing has some, mostly minor, problems).
I should probably mention that I haven’t played the first one, but that’ll just help me to stay more objective and prevent the obvious comparisons to the first game. Instead I’m going to use the obvious comparisons to Knights’.
Many aspects of the game suffer the same problem, it’s very good, but falls short of being the best you’ve seen. The story is very well told and thought out, but the world is a bit less colourful than the Knights’, Star Wars based universe. The characters are very interesting and flesh out quite nicely, but aren’t as compelling as the Knights’ races, and the galactic politics of the Mass Effect universe just don’t quite reach the same levels of vibrancy that the Knights’ politics do. The graphics are sharp and the models are really lovely, but just not as interesting as Fallout (despite being better drawn). I wanted to complement the game on it’s variety of terrain, but really, it just blends together eventually, and the standard template isn’t interesting enough to get away with that. For some reason, after creating some, frankly, exceptionally good models and interesting Depth of Field enhanced backgrounds, they decided that the only way it could look better was to put a giant contrasty over-bloomed filter on it so you can no longer see the amazing level of details in the characters (well, amazing at least from the neck up, the difference in quality betwixt heads and bodies is actually quite pronounced).
To be fair though, the game does have an original storyline and the Star Wars universe is very mature and has been worked with for a long time to iron out problems and move away from plots that don’t work so well (those same plots they used for films one through three, apparently). So for an original story it is good, although a little derivitive of the genre generally, not always a bad thing, and anyway, the game does character development better than the overall story, and the story, whilst derivative is still very good, if a bit slow to reveal, but worth it since the finale is exquisite and sufficiently epic.
The force powers (yes, they are just force powers really, aren’t they) are less impressive than Knights’ and in the game feel rather underpowered and sometimes a little useless, for example, while the Adept class can hold his own, you’re really better off just being the Fighter guy, buffing your ammunition and Assault Rifling everything to death, it’s just quicker and more effective. The Engineer’s Drone is mostly pointless, and you end up using it so they shoot at the drone and not you while you blow it away with guns anyway (rather than just having more health and using an assault rifle). At no point do you do anything nearing the awesomeness of throwing a glowing sword at someone.
It’s very difficult to add some objective criticism to an over-hyped game like this and not make it sound like tired rubbish, so this is another disclaimer that this is a very good game, one you should buy, discounted if you’re not so into the Bioware formula, it is a mostly enjoyable experience with the few minor detractions being more than worth it.
Like mining for stuff, whomever thought it would be a good idea to, in a single player RPG, have the player have to scan, manually by moving a cursor over a planets’ surface, over and over for every planet, desperately needs to be shot. It is the most mind-numbingly dull mini-game I’ve seen in a while and adds absolutely nothing to the game. On the other hand, the title’s humour and ability to playfully approach in-game relationships are a joy and something I’d like to see more in every game. It does make you feel like you’re really interacting with the characters and getting to know them and is something that is equal to the Knights’ games for a change. Unfortunately when playing the game as it seems to want you to, either as fully paragon, or let’s be honest, good, or fully renegade (surprisingly, and that’s in a pleasant way, not evil. Authoritarian, and dickish, but not cartoonishly evil) you get to see the extreme sides of your relationship, but really we’re not fully one or the other, if you play it as you would in life, you’ll likely be, like me, mostly paragon and a little renegade. The problem being that you don’t get the full gamut of conversation either way and even less when you’re closer to neutral. The ‘good’ moral choices are mostly what we’d all accept to be morally correct although occasionally it would surprise me.
It is also, in my opinion, the only real reason to re-visit the game after completion, I haven’t felt much compulsion to go back to the game on the same moral side, except perhaps to rectify a few mistakes I’d made. It’s play-length isn’t bad though so you do get your money’s worth. There is undoubtedly DLC coming, so that should help too.
Come to think of it, even if you don’t like RPGs, get it anyway, I’m sick of shooters and want to see more RPGs.