A couple nights ago I finally finished Mass Effect 2, right after I had beaten Mass Effect 1. (Yes I know I’m late to the party.) After hearing such great things about the franchise, my expectations were high. I was not disappointed. Since I played both games consecutively, I’m just going to review both of them here.
Mass Effect is an RPG/third-person-shooter hybrid. Mass Effect 1 leans more towards RPG, while 2 leans closer to third-person-shooter. It might sound a bit awkward but it actually works quite well. The gameplay in 2 is better, however, because it is much more seamless and the action never gets interrupted like it does in 1. In 1, I was constantly comparing new weapons I obtained to see which one had higher stats, and I kept having to get rid of extra weapons when my inventory became full. This happened more often than it should have and interrupted the flow of gameplay. However, this problem is solved in 2, because your inventory is limitless, and all weapons and equipment are pretty balanced, and there are much fewer of them, making the decision process much simpler.
The main RPG aspect of the games is the level-up system: each time you level up, you gain points to spend on stats. I enjoyed this part of the game—being able to fully customize your character’s skills is very nice. It is even more streamlined in 2, which has fewer skills but bigger upgrades to them.
The last aspect of the gameplay I would like to mention is more story-based: in Mass Effect, story is what really shines. Player choice is at the forefront—you are able to choose paragon (good), neutral, or renegade (bad) during any dialogue tree, and you can make lasting decisions that actually affect future events, EVEN IN FUTURE GAMES. This is freaking awesome and blew my mind. I’ve never played a game where I had to think carefully about how my decisions would affect my playthrough of the next game in the series. Huge respect for Bioware.
And this isn’t one of those games where they say that your decisions matter but in the end they really don’t. (Although I’ve heard some things about Mass Effect 3…) Your decisions can mean life or death for your crewmates, or even entire species.
Mass Effect has one of the best narratives I have ever encountered in video games. The universe is just so detailed, it feels alive, breathing. Characters remember you and your actions, and they respond accordingly. The lore and background of each alien species is fascinating—you can read about the Mass Effect universe in your Codex if you’re intrigued. To me, it’s really the Star Wars of video games. This is the most realized sci-fi world I’ve experienced in a video game.
The fact that you control the story’s outcome every step of the way means that every player is going to have a different experience. One of my favorite things to do while playing was to talk to my friend about the choices he made, and how our stories diverged. It is incredible that Bioware was able to make the story come together so well. It also means that it has great replay value. If you start a new game, you can play a different class, a different gender, make different decisions, and you will have a completely new experience.
Graphics-wise, Mass Effect 2 is a huge step-up from 1, and it looked and ran beautifully on my PC. 2 did have a few annoying glitches that forced me to quit, and 1’s gameplay mechanics were pretty inferior compared to 2 (I hated the freaking Mako’s controls). But these complaints are minor compared to the incredible experience these games provided. They are seriously like nothing else I have ever played. If you haven’t played them yet, there’s no time like the present. Now I wait patiently for Mass Effect 3 to drop in price…
Mass Effect: 9.0
Mass Effect 2: 9.5