I started Mass Effect 2 almost immediately after beating the first game. Obviously, I imported my Shepard from the previous game, which was surprisingly easy (even though I had to look up instructions online). The game then took me to a screen confirming my old file. I assumed that this was the character creation screen, and spent a very long time trying to change my class. Finally, I gave up and began the game.
Mass Effect 2 starts with an attack on The Normandy. This is when I realized the benefits of playing the entire trilogy. Let me give you some back-story. Almost a year ago, I was told by a friend that I had to try Mass Effect 2. Additionally, I was also intrigued by the imagery of The Illusive Man. So I downloaded the demo on my Xbox. I was…underwhelmed. The demo starts with the attack, but I just couldn’t stand the long cutscenes, and running across the burning Normandy was sloppy. I hated it. Fast-forwarding a year, everything has changed. The start of the game caught my attention like no other. Just seeing my crew (or at least the ones that survived), and my ship gave me a sense of nostalgia. Completely unjustified nostalgia, considering that I just finished the last game. Running through the burning ship was bizarre, since I knew its layout by heart. When I played the demo, it felt restricted and linear. Now, I knew exactly where to go. Everything made sense. Playing the first game made this experience that much better.
Anyway, when the actual character customization came around, I only changed my class. My appearance was left untouched. After the initial panic of the burning Normandy, you wake up in a hospital-like lab. It is under attack and you have to escape it. This is where the game introduces Cerberus, the pro-humanity organization that revived Shepard from the dead. Already, I felt that the incredible universe that the original Mass Effect created was thickening. Throughout the game, more and more about this organization is revealed. As always in this series, it simply feels organic and believable.
Initially, my squad was made up of Jacob and Miranda. I like both of them. They are both kind and obedient. I hope I don’t have to chose between them like I did with Ash and Alenko. Speaking of which, it was fascinating to hear about my old crew when I requested information. Some, like Joker, joined Cerberus. Some, like Ash, are still with the Alliance.
Anyway, the game revolves around the threat of The Collectors, who are assumed to work with The Reapers. I recently invaded a ‘downed’ Collector ship, which really opens your eyes to the scale and immersion of the series. Other than this, most of the game is centered around recruitment and character back-story. Of all the people I have recruited, Thane is my favorite. He is a dying assassin, and just asked if we can stop his son from living a similar life. Undoubtedly, I will help him. Each character has a request, but I don’t believe they are all mandatory. Either way, I couldn’t ignore my crew, especially after asking for their aid in battle
My new crew has far more personality than the previous game. For example, I have a tough-as-nails ex-convict aboard, and she absolutely hates my guts. To replace Wrex, I have Grunt, who is the “Frankenstein’s Monster” of the game. Overall, I am very impressed with what I’ve got. They all feel so powerful and useful in combat, which has been completely fixed since the first game.
One last thing worth mentioning is the new Normandy. Cerberus has provided me with a remodel, and it is better in every sense. In the previous Mass Effect Chronicles, I mentioned that the Normandy felt like home. This applies even more in Mass Effect 2. Now Commander Shepard has his own suite, and the supporting characters all have their rooms and bunks. There are even gender-assigned washrooms. In every sense, Mass Effect 2 is a step up from its predecessor.