The Alliance Strikes Back.
Placing in GOTY list: first, 2010|Watch a Cullen Plays LIVE live stream of Mass Effect 2 right now here
So how do you describe one of the most engrossing trilogies to have ever been seen in gaming, let alone the finest to be seen on this cycle of consoles? Mass Effect was the epitome of both epic storytelling, a great set of characters, fantastic action gameplay and brilliantly-built worlds.
To put it another way, the Shepard trilogy was one big rollercoaster ride throughout its five-year journey, but if you had to describe experiencing the middle act of that trilogy – Mass Effect 2 – in rollercoaster terms, it’s that bit where you come off the big dip at the start of the ride and gets going from there.
Yeah, ME2 was used as a setup to help set up what was to follow against the Reapers two years later, but Mass Effect 2 was also the best example of the virtues the series did best. For a start, there was the worlds – Omega will be the place that is most remembered from the game, but there was also our first visit on the Krogan motherland of Tuchanka, visiting the Asari home of Illium, also for the first time, and returning back to Citadel.
It also helped bring together an amazing set of characters, both old and new (Illusive Man, Aria, Jack and Mordin the well-noted newbies), with the game’s endgame weighing more on the player’s shoulders. If they, as Shepard, couldn’t strengthen the Normandy enough with enough resources, some of the team will die with possibly more to follow on the Collectors’ base.
A lot of my team – including Tali – died in the suicide mission. Besides the loss of Tali, I was more or less determined to make sure that my Femshep saved Chambers from the base, though in retrospect of the game’s completion, I would have been mighty pissed if I didn’t save Garrus. I, thankfully, did save him and Chambers.
That endgame weighs on you because of the bond you help establish with your crew. They place their trust with their lives in your hands thanks to the bonds you begin to broker with them. That said, it wasn’t until Mass Effect 3 I began to realise how much my crew – which, again, I lost a good chunk of because I didn’t prepare the Normandy enough for passing the Omega relay or save from the Collectors – meant to me in turn. This was confounded earlier this year by the release of Mass Effect 3’s final DLC, Citadel.
One such complaint of Mass Effect 2 over the original was that it watered down the gameplay for more of an emphasis on action gameplay over the RPG-heavy stance it had in ME1. I had no issues with the gameplay. In fact, if anything, BioWare nailed it completely with ME2 (though truth be told, I am one of those folks who has a bigger emphasis on action so mission achieved?).
To be frank, Mass Effect 2 is the perfect BioWare game, at least in my view. It worked to the company’s strengths of storytelling, character development and world-building without the dramatics of disappointing endings and frustrating boss fights that more or less want to make you pull your hair out from within, throw your controller against the wall and be as creative at swearing that would make Malcolm Tucker beam like a proud father.
But I digress, I made note of the roller-coaster analogy at the top of the piece. Here’s another one for you: Mass Effect 2, more or less, feels like the Shepard trilogy’s version of The Empire Strikes Back. Again, no dramatics, just an awesome AAA blockbuster that was incredible to sink your teeth into for the 30-40 hours or so that the game has you for.
There’s a reason – or rather, various reasons – why this was my 2010 Game of the Year from January to December, y’know.
Highlight: Omega [“DONT. FUCK. WITH. ARIA.“]
More Game of the Generation articles will be arriving throughout the day up until 9pm GMT with the Game of the Generation. Find the full list so far here, with special and honourable mentions going live on the list along with the GOTG at 9pm.