What is the purpose of a sequel? Today, sequels usually serve one purpose; to make money. While this rings true across most industries, gamers are exposed to this philosophy more than anyone else. This is why Mass Effect 2 is one of the most notable titles of the current generation. The original Mass Effect was a great game with some unfortunate mechanical problems. Not only did BioWare address all major complaints from the first game, they seamlessly and appropriately expanding its rich lore. As a result of this expert craftsmanship, BioWare has truly set new industry standards for sequels and follow-ups. To this day, those standards have never been met.
As Naughty Dog can easily vouch for, the best stories are character-driven. This is where Mass Effect 2 shines. While the first game introduced the player to an incredible universe, Mass Effect 2 truly introduces the player to their crew; the supporting cast. There has never been such a strong sense of development for so many characters in a single game. While Uncharted 2 won Game Of The Year for its cinematic presentation and clever writing, Mass Effect 2 could have easily won for its sense of depth and immersion.
Admittedly, taking the time to know your crew can hurt the pacing of Shepard’s second adventure. This is where the developers made a risky decision; the structure of the game. Mass Effect 2’s missions can be categorized under three different headings; recruitment, development, and the main objective. Recruitment missions are mandatory, and help you form new members of The Normandy. Development missions are optional, but are highly recommended. It is here that Shepard learns about the past of his/her new crewmembers. Each new member has a task that they would like you to complete for them. Satisfying your crew gives them better odds throughout the main objective missions. Taking the time to help each member is beneficial, but prolongs the bulk of the game. Once again, this is a clear blow towards the game’s pacing.
Even so, this unique structure has its benefits. Throughout the game, the severity of the final mission is made very clear. In fact, the game refers to it as the “suicide mission” several times. If the player takes the time to develop each character, the game’s concluding hour will be one of the most tense experiences a gamer could possibly have. It keeps you on the edge of your seat while perfectly balancing gameplay and plot relevance.
As aforementioned, Mass Effect 2 addresses the issues critics had with the first game. In 2007’s Mass Effect, the combat was lacking and the gunplay could only be described as ‘loose’. Mass Effect 2 not only tighten the mechanics, but also cleaned the interface for a smoother firefight. Mass Effect 2 also places a strong emphasis on cover-based combat. For example, the original Mass Effect’s final moments has you running around a circular arena shooting at a single enemy, while Mass Effect 2 closes on an uneven platform covered in chest-high walls. This shift in focus actually controls the chaos, which was a common complaint with the original Mass Effect.
While on the subject of apparent improvements Mass Effect 2 has made, one must question the exclusion of the Mako. For those of you who have not played the first game, the Mako was a vehicle that critics often complained about. Unfortunately, BioWare “solved” the issue by making it disappear. While the Mako did control awfully, it also changed the pace of gameplay. The controls could have easily been altered and fixed.
Unlike the first game, Mass Effect 2’s tiny faults don’t hold it back. If the player transfers their Shepard from the first game, they will experience one of the most personal experiences in the industry. While the game does a decent job at recapping for newcomers, the experience will only have half the impact. BioWare clearly put so much passion into expanding Mass Effect’s universe, and the effort shows. Unapologetically, this was truly a game made for its fans. In doing so, Mass Effect 2 has surpassed far more than its predecessor.