Customer Review

56 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Effect of the Masses..., March 29, 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Mass Effect 2 Platinum Hits (Video Game)
To start off, I want to make one thing clear; this review is targeted towards true RPG fans and people who loved the previous Mass Effect. If you are more of an action or FPS fan who generally enjoys qualities games (even if they do step outside of your comfort zone), then it would behoove you to go grab and play this game right now. Compared to most of the mediocre games out there these days, this game is an absolute gem. With that said, I will now continue with the true review.

Very few sequels can be categorized as `true sequels' in the essence that you may be playing as a different character with a different story and in some cases, a completely different universe. That is not the case with Mass Effect 2, where you once again take the role of Commander Shepard (whether you choose to be male of female) in his pursuit of the Reapers and peace across the galaxy. As an uber fan of the previous entry, I was expecting a similarly immersive experience that improved on the follies of the first entry.

Well, I have good news; Bioware listened to the critic's complaints and reworked almost everything to some degree. The bad news is that a lot of the best elements that made the first Mass Effect great got axed. As a result, ME2 (Mass Effect 2) is everything ME1 (Mass Effect 1) wasn't; it's well polished, fast paced and flashy. Unfortunately, ME2 exchanged these qualities for the depth, immersion and charm that characterized the first game. True fans of RPGs recognize that this is not a fair exchange and as such seriously tarnished the experience.

In the rest of this review, I will juxtapose everything in this game in relation to ME1. This is because, as with any true sequel, the predecessor is the game that set the standard and is the game that the sequel must live up to. So in essence, this is a review of both games. With that said, enjoy.

*** A summation of this review is provided at the bottom of the page. ***

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"The little things make all the difference in the universe."
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**Loading Screens**

ME1

Minimal and limited to when you selected a new planet or location and if I remember correctly it usually just showed you in the Citadel. Otherwise you simply walked from place to place or traveled via elevators or air lock (in and out of your ship). Transitions were seamless and provided entertaining conversations between team members and a high sense of realism.

ME2

The loading screens usually showed a flashy schematic of the ship or you presumably landing somewhere. They were aesthetic, but even that novelty wore off after seeing them a few times.

ADVANTAGE - Mass Effect 1; seamless transitions provide a greater level of immersion than loading screens. That was an innovation that should have been kept and expanded upon, not axed.

**Space Exploration**

ME1

You just used your galaxy map to click where you wanted to go.

ME2

Using an over the top view, you actually navigated your ship from galaxy to galaxy and from planet to planet. You needed fuel to bridge the gap to some outer galaxies and probes to explore planets.

ADVANTAGE - Mass Effect 2; This was one area where immersion and depth was actually improved, bravo.

**Outer Planet Exploration**

ME1

You used an all terrain vehicle called the Mako to explore the planets for cities, enemy bases and minerals. This process was tedious and combat in the Mako was flawed at best. It was a very `cool' concept executed very poorly.

ME2

On story planets you just warp straight into the city via loading screen. On foreign planets you `scan' the planet from the ship using a giant reticule and send out probes to find minerals and sometimes mission locations. An early upgrade allows you to speed up process, which effectively makes it a bit less tedious and soul sucking.

DRAW - Both of these exploration methods were flawed. Personally, I'd welcome a combination of the two in the third entry. An improved version of the Mako would be welcomed to enter bases on the story planets and provides a good change of pace. However for foreign planets I think being able to scan the entire planet with one probe would speed things up considerably.

**Inner Planet Exploration**

ADVANTAGE - Mass Effect 1; ME1's planets seemed much livelier and grandiose. Meaning, there were more NPCs walking around and everything was set up as an actual functioning city and ecosystem on a larger scale. In the second game, cities were much more abbreviated and robotic. There purpose for this seemed to be shortening the downtime between the fast paced story missions. They succeeded to that end, but the sacrifice in doing so was overall quality.

**Mini Games**

ME1

There was basically one quick time reaction mini game used for all hacking sections.

ME2

There a few different mini games that would show up when required to hack something. They were engaging, intelligent and actually fun...which is saying something as most the time I just find this sort of crap to just be in the way.

ADVANTAGE - Mass Effect 2; Big improvement here, nothing much else to say.

**Bugs and Glitches**

ME1

Almost every time you entered a new area in ME1 you could see the layers and textures dropping onto your characters and environment piece by piece. There was also numerous other random bug's and glitches and the occasional slow down in combat.

ME2

The game runs incredibly smoothly from beginning to end with few to no glitches at all. This might be a first for Bioware.

ADVANTAGE - Mass Effect 2; Well done Bioware, it would be nice to see this trend continue in all future games.

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"It is not the destination, but the journey that makes an experience worthwhile."
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**Story**

ADVANTAGE - Mass Effect 1; To be far, it is unrealistic to ever expect a sequel to contain a better story than the first entry in a trilogy; which is expected (and did so very well) to set the stage for events to come. With that said, I felt ME1's story was WAY better. Sarin was a worthy antagonist and the story contained revelation after revelation. You had to make many pivotal decisions affecting the good of the entire galaxy and, more importantly, future entries to the series. ME2 focused much more on the cast (which we'll get to in a second), it did not have an antagonist that I cared about and contained much fewer relevant story arcs.

**Characters**

ADVANTAGE - Mass Effect 2; While I loved the cast of the first game, this was what the second game concentrated on and they did a fabulous job in doing so. Your primary goal was to gather an elite squad with which to track down the reapers. All of the new characters are very unique, powerful and relevant. And a couple of my favorites from the first game made a triumphant return to your main party. Each character has a primary side quest associated with them, which helps flesh their back story out a bit and adds a ton of value to the game. Even the final events leading up to the games conclusion focus on its wonderful cast.

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"When all else fails, you can always start blowing stuff up!"
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**Battle System**

ME1

While ME1 did a great job integrating TPS action and RPG elements into a cohesive blend, the combat remained more focused on the RPG elements. You had a ton of skills and your success in battle was mostly based upon your manipulation and strategy of their execution. You could use all your skills independently and they recharged independently. There was no ammo, you simply had to make sure to not to overload your weapon by firing it too much or too fast. You are encouraged to focus your concentration on a single weapon as you have to flow experience into them to increase their accuracy, effectiveness and power up their weapon unique skills.

ME2

While still blending TPS and RPG elements, ME2 began to tip way more on the TPS end of the spectrum. Your characters have fewer skills and when you use one it forces all of your skills to recharge prior to using another. You now have ammo and no longer have to upgrade your weapons, which encourages you to use different weapons depending on the situation.

ADVANTAGE - Mass Effect 1; Many of the assessments I've made so far are hard to argue with, which is not the case here. Battles in ME2 are much faster paced and being encouraged to constantly switch weapons (which I did think was an improvement) provides battles with a heightened sense of intensity. I personally preferred the methodical and strategic combat of the first game though. It really irked me that you could only use one skill at a time in ME2 per character. I usually had a skill I preferred over another which meant that was the one I always used. Had I been allowed to use more than one at a time like you were able to in the first game, the battle system would have been much more satisfying.

**Customization**

ME1

There was a complex inventory system and you could customize each weapon and armor with several of its own upgrades. There were a ton of skills to upgrade which affected your battle prowess, infiltration and mediation skills. Later in the game you were able to choose a secondary specialization.

ME2

Inventory was axed, at your ship you can customize you armor with different helmets, chest plates, etcetera and even customize color and appearance. You could upgrade weapons or armor as a class amongst other things at an upgrade station. There were far less skills (4 for the main character and 3 for the secondary party members plus a skill that upgrades their stats) and there were no skills affecting outside of battle prowess. Later in the game you could choose to inherent one specialty skill from a team member.

ADVANTAGE - Mass Effect 1; This was a joke in my opinion. Yes, axing inventory made it easier to get back to the ever important slaughtering of enemies, but it greatly watered down a great product. And less skills means less thought, which once again waters down a great product. On a positive note, they did add a unique specific skill to each class in ME2, and for a couple of these classes, these are uber cool.

**Weapons**

ADVANTAGE - Mass Effect 2; I had to specify a section for this because this was a huge strength of the ME2 battle system. In the previous ME, certain weapons, such as the shotgun and sniper rifle weren't very useful because, respectively, you had to either get to close to your enemies or it was too tough to aim prior to pumping a ton of experience into the skill. Now there are powers directly associated with closing the gap between you and enemies fast and there is a much improved cover mechanic. Also, they've added power weapons and though you can only equip one at a time, the addition of rocket launchers and other powerful cool alien weapons is certainly a welcome addition.

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"In the end all that matters is value, the bang for your buck."
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**Relevant Content**

ME1

A run through of the first game could be done in about 10-15 hours if you just stuck to the main planets and played through what I like to call the `relevant content'. That being main quests and unique side quests along the main storyline. You could significantly increase your time spent if you explored a lot of planets in what is essentially pointless and fruitless filler.

ME2

If you do all the main quests and character specific side quests you could probably spend about 30+ hours finishing this game.

ADVANTAGE - Mass Effect 2; This isn't even close, ME2 has about 2X as much relevant content as its predecessor. This is a very significant upgrade and gives ME2 a huge boost in core value over its ME1.

**Replay Value**

DRAW - There was more depth and significant decisions in the first game and though significantly shorter in duration, the quality of the time spent was much higher. I played through ME1 three times trying to perfect my Shepard and relished every play through. I couldn't even get myself to complete my renegade (evil) play through of ME2, once was enough. With that said, ME2 contains a new game+ feature, which is very cool because you can start the game with all your best skills. And class specific skills could give you added motivation to give the game a second play through. My bias shifts me in the direction of ME1, but ME2 does have some nice incentives to play again.

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"Now for a shout out to all those other elements not worth talking to death..."
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THE DRAWS

With regard to graphics, music, voice acting, conversations and anything else I didn't mention both games executed tremendously well and deserve a high grade draw. That's it, that's all I have to say on that topic ;).

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"All things must come to an end, even this review"
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The best way I can describe this game, as a true fan of RPGs, is by saying it took one step forward and two steps backward. Before I elaborate further on that, here is a list of what was improved and what was made worse.

Juxtaposed to Mass Effect 1, Mass Effect 2 had...

+a better space exploration system
+better hacking mini games
+far smoother performance (flawless really)
+a deeper and more fleshed out character cast
+much faster paced battles with a better array of useful weaponry and cover mechanic
+some cool new character and class specific powers
+a much longer main story with more relevant content
+a new game+ option absent from ME1

-a much choppier and less immersive experience due to the elimination of seamless transitions replaced by loading screens
-a method of foreign planet exploration (scanning) that was just as flawed as the Mako
-lifeless and robotic feeling planets
-a much less engaging story
-considerably much less depth in its battles and customization

The purpose of these changes was obvious in my eyes, to make this game more appealing to a larger group of gamers and to that end they succeeded mightily. Mass Effect 2 is fast paced and the downtime between battles is made short. It is smooth and has powerful, interesting and well fleshed out character cast to fight alongside you. I just wish Bioware could have made their improvement without sucking so much of the depth and charm out of the experience. I also found that the frenetic pace was a little too much for what is still an RPG. As a gamer that almost exclusively plays RPGs, I find this to still be the strongest available experience recently released. It is, however, a disconcerting step away from entertaining the true fans of the genre, the fans who they should remain faithful to beyond all else because we'll be the ones still there when everybody shuffles on to the next fad.

I can strongly recommend this game to anyone, but for the true RPG fan I would suggest waiting until the price of admission drops. It is not so special or pertinent as to warrant the extra $$$.
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 6, 2010 9:16:45 AM PDT
zx2781 says:
An excellent review! I do miss the Mako though..I was a pro.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 22, 2010 9:14:12 PM PST
Agreed, great review. Though a few things should have been noted as your own opinion (you made it seem as everything was fact) it was all very accurate. Well done, a good read to remind me why I love ME before the third one comes out.

Posted on Jan 15, 2011 11:55:24 AM PST
I agree, excellent review! I also preferred the planet exploration in ME1. I did NOT get enough resources in ME2 to fully arm my ship for the final battle --- after launching 30+ probes on a handful of planets, it was so tedious and boring, I skipped the rest of the "resource" planets and only completed the "story" planets! I loved the continuity of your decisions from ME1 into ME2 and finishing up in ME3!

My interest in the Fable series has faded, but my interest in ME and Dragon Age has gone up even higher than it was before!
If Bioware goes out of business, I may have to shoot myself! LOL!

Posted on Jan 23, 2011 3:59:32 PM PST
NightOwl says:
Wow, Jeff I think I see the future, no wonder ME3 is in presales a year before its release. No what about your gaming mouse? Thanks

Posted on Jul 17, 2012 12:57:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 17, 2012 12:59:10 PM PDT
EPMoto2002 says:
For the most part I agree with your review. ME1 was a MUCH BETTER rpg. ME2 is a better "shooter" that minors in rpg. The one thing where I TOTALLY disagree is the "**Bugs and Glitches**" section. ME2 absolutely IS NOT the more stable, tested, and bug free game! Quite frankly ME2 (on 360 at least) is a mess!

There are more critical, mission breaking, game breaking bugs in ME2 than ME1. In fact, I can't think of a single time in ME1 where shoddy coding & terrible QC testing actually PREVENTS you from completing a mission (ie, you finished the quest but now you can't exit the planet and return to your ship! so now you're stuck)!!!!! You're only solution is to either restart the mission from scratch or reload an old saved game, hopefully a recent one!

In ME2, this type of critical game breaking bug happens A LOT!!! For instance on Mordin's recruitment mission, at the very end you hack a research PC to finish the mission. Afterwards you are presented the option to end the mission immediately & return to the ship (press A) OR to stay a bit longer (press B) to "look around some", maybe to pick up any spare loot. Well there's a wall safe in the room with several thousand credits so obviously you'd want to grab that before leaving... well guess what???? If you DO THEN YOU'RE SOL because now you CAN'T END THE MISSION! The onscreen prompts say to you can press the B button to exit, but pressing B just causes Shepard to melee attack!! LOL! Must now reload/restart the game. There's another mission where the game auto-saves JUST BEFORE you enter the final two rooms of a mission. Well if you happen to die or just exit the game and then reload that auto-save, guess what? NOW YOU'RE SOL!!!! Why? Because now the game is BUGGED and you can't trigger/activate the final two quest items necessary to end the mission (hacking a PC and grabbing the final loot item) because the game won't respond the press "A" button command!! LOL! Reload/Restart game....

I could go ON and On and On about these critical, game breaking bugs, but there are just so many. If you want to know all of them, just read the Mass Effect wikia page that outlines all the missions and all the freaking bugs. It's mind- boggling! And no, Bioware will not be patching this game. I JUST finished playing ME2 two years after game launch (07/2012) and these bugs haven't been patched and therefore never will.

My advice if you play ME2. SAVE YOUR GAME NEUROTICALLY & OFTEN!

There are also just tons of other sloppy, careless, buggy examples that are less critical but just as annoying in ME2 that didn't exist in ME1. For instance, in both ME1 & ME2 you are able to access your squads attack powers via the power wheel menu. It's an simple and efficient system in ME1. In ME2 it would be also EXCEPT that your squad mates' RELATIVE POSITIONS constantly & randomly CHANGE multiple times MID-mission! If you want to access Miranda's warp power, you never really know if it's on the upper-left side or the upper-right side unless you take the time to look. She might have started the mission one left side, but she'll flip-flop around randomly! This is a huge PITA during the heat of battle!

The situation is made even worst because u can map squad powers directly to the D-Pad. But b/c squad positions randomly switch around mid-battle, you never know WHICH squad member's power will be activated when pressing left or right on the D-pad unless you take the time to identify the tiny picture icons of your squad or you manually go into the power wheel menu (right shoulder button) which breaks the flow of battle. Again, this can be tough when everything is blowing up around you, and your health is in the toilet, and the stupid screen is all faded out and filled with HUGE RED TIGER STRIPES making screen readability even worse! By the way, this new "death screen fading out thing" is the SINGLE most annoying thing about ME2. Why the devs thought it necessary to red-out my screen when i'm taking damage is beyond annoying!! I KNOW I'm dying! That's why there's a health bar. I don't need my vision impaired, making an already bad situation (dying) even worse. Totally annoying!

Back to the point, the constantly changing positions of your teammates also screws up your command orders. Let's say you want to order Grunt into a front-line position close to fight (b/c he's a tank and can absorb huge amts of damage), but you want to order Miranda to fall back b/c she's rather weak in the shield dept. Well on more than one occasion, I accidentally ordered Miranda to her death because her relative squad position unknowingly switched in the heat of battle. This is just sloppy coding on the Dev's part!!!

This sloppy coding/sloppy game testing spills over into other areas. The expanding text/conversation trees have the occasional branching error. Sometimes the conversation choices switch around positions as you progress though the the dialog tree... something that NEVER happened in ME1. On at least two occasions that i can remember, ENTIRE dialog branches just disappeared depending on order in which they were selected. And NO! I'm not talking about paragon/renegade options that obviously close-off or open-up dialog options. I'm talking about general "investigate" dialog options in which you are SUPPOSED to explore EACH & EVERY dialog item in order to learn (ie... investigate)... but you can't if you happen to activate those dialog items in a certain order (in my case, top-down instead of bottom-to-top). Just sloppy code by Bioware!!!

Anyway, I've ranted too long. There are SO MANY bugs in ME2. I just don't have the time. ME2 IS a superior shooter and has streamlined MANY, MANY, MANY annoying features of ME1 like ridiculously long loading sections (1 min elevator rides), horrendous inventory mgmt system, tedious planet side/shipboard traversal, the dizzying array of nearly identical weapons/gear/stat items, etc.... But as a RPG, ME2 has lost a HUGE amount of scope and just sheer spark that ME1 possessed. ME1 WAS a fully realized universe. A living, breathing universe. ME2 is more like a collection of rooms or maybe a collection of strip malls tacked together. It just doesn't even feel alive. It's not a living/breathing city much less a fully realized galaxy.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 17, 2012 11:38:46 PM PDT
It is now been so long since I've played ME2 I wouldn't even have enough fuel to rebuke this post. From what remains in my memory stores though, my ME2 experience way very smooth and bug free aside from some stupid team AI (This doesn't bother me too much though, as I found it my job to do all the heavy lifting). This might be luck related from person to person, who knows. Thanks for your contribution though.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 19, 2012 12:36:52 PM PDT
EPMoto2002 says:
HA! Yeah I know. It's a really old game. But b/c I JUST finished playing ME1 & ME 2 back-to-back, I'm still pretty worked up about ME2's semi disappointment. Anyway, my overly long rant was written mostly for people like me... late comers trying to work through HUGE back catalogs. Now... to finish off Bioshock 1 & 2 and then circle back for ME3. Ha.

Posted on Apr 10, 2013 4:00:56 PM PDT
Strategos says:
Nice review with one big error. There IS a new game plus option in Mass Effect 1. I know because I imported a new game plus character from ME1 into ME2 and beat the game with her.

I agree that there are far fewer bugs in ME2 than 1. Really nasty bugs. I have found zero bugs in 2 so far. I think 1 was the better game for story, 2 was the better game for gameplay, and yes, some of the best parts of 1 were thrown out (I miss upgrading weapons and armor darn it!). That said the characterizations are far deeper in the second game and they are both very enjoyable.

Posted on Jun 12, 2014 4:18:53 PM PDT
Bob says:
Wow. Excellent review! Yes, ME2 was geat improvement over ME1 in terms of Gameplay and Characterization, but i feel like the series lost its soul for those very reasons. Personally, i would take a buggy, somewhat sloppy (in terms of gameplay) and very well written RPG that features a fully realized (and alive) universe over a well polished one with great gameplay and combat, but with a stagnant feeling game world and an uninteresting antagonist (Sovereign ripoff).

ME2s ending aced it, though. As awesome as the boss fight with Saren was, the impact your choices had on ME2s ending blew it away.
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