Mass Effect 2: Consumer of Time

10Feb10

So classes are taking up a lot of my time now. But I promised some people, so I’m now going to do the quintessential Mass Effect right here, and right now. Mass Effect was probably my favorite video game from the last decade. A sci-fi, role-playing game that combined real-time shooter levels with cinematic third-person conversations. You play as Commander Shepard, the first human Spectre (think a mixture of Jedi knight and Double 0 Agent) tasked by the galaxy’s ruling council of aliens to track down a rogue agent. Needless to say, the mission is a success that paves the way for Mass Effect 2.

The closet normal world comparison that I would make with the Mass Effect is those old “choose your adventure” books. Yes, you have to guide Shepard from point a to b, but there are multiple ways to do it. Each conversation in the game is based off a wheel of selections, you get multiple options on the next step with each conversation. Most of the choices are based off of paragon or renegade selections, so it’s up to you whether you want to be Luke Skywalker, Jack Bauer, or someone in between. You can also be a female Shepard as well, so the game really lets you create your own character.

But what makes Mass Effect the whole package is the universe. Underneath the plot line there is an extensive backstory. There are over ten sentient alien races in Mass Effect, each one has a distinctive look, culture, and history. New races introduced in this game include the Vorcha, who are feral, rodent-like scavengers and the Drell, philosophical amphibians with perfect memory. The game world has an underlying intelligence to it, which makes the dialogue just as interesting as the combat.

The goal in ME2 is to recruit a team of crack operatives for a possible suicide mission to save the galaxy from certain, impending annihilation. How you interact with these characters is your choice, some respond better to certain actions. An example would at one point you pick up an alien clone kept in a suspended-animation tank. It’s your choice whether or not to open the tank, but if you do, the alien will jump right out at you and pin you against the wall. A conversation opens up and while the goal is convince him to fight for you, if he gets too wild, you have to kill him.

One of Bioware’s talents as a video game designer is building up tension and ME2 takes this to a whole new level. My first play-through of the game, with the Shepard I beat the game with, I was on pins and needles the entire time, saving often and second guessing every single choice I made. Many of the other characters are mercenaries, assassins, and psychopaths; which was in direct conflict with my Shepard who plays it by the book. But that made it all the better when I completed the loyalty missions for them and understood their motives a bit more.

It is also possible to woo the members of your crew. Each gender of Shepard has three different romance options, the female Shepard having two alien suitors….oh boy. But like the rest of the game, the romance is handled with maturity and…

Well, that’s interesting. Yeah, the game has it’s flaws and peculiarities. As much as a gamer as I am, I’m stick not completely sure of the place of sex in video games yet. But you have to hand it to Bioware for trying. Also, this is a long fucking game. A normal play-through lasts at least 25 hours and that’s not even including all of the side missions.

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