This weekend I finished up Mass Effect 2. I was reasonably satisfied, but also somewhat disappointed.
While Mass Effect 2 is generally lauded as the superior product, I would say it’s more of a matter of give and take between the two games.
- One annoying aspect of Mass Effect 1 was the cumbersome inventory. Mass Effect 2 compensates by eliminating the inventory entirely and replacing it with an upgrade mechanism. I’m grateful for the lack of bloat, but disappointed in the resulting hit to depth.
- Traveling the planet surface in Mass Effect 1 involved a great deal of cumbersome driving. Mass Effect 2 removed planet travel entirely. You take a shuttle directly to your destinations, and ore is recovered via a simple mini-game. It feels as though a substantial mode of play is missing, making Mass Effect 2 feels like half a game compared to the first.
- Mass Effect 2 improved the ground skirmish experience via a locational damage and reloading mechanic. However, it changed so radically that it feels like a different game entirely. The underlying RPG mechanics are as comparatively dumbed down as the new inventory is.
- There’s an overall shortage of content. I completely exhausted the content of the game (there’s nothing left to do at all anywhere in the game universe) with all the current DLC available installed. It took a little less than 21 hours.(Exploration missions are very minimal, with only about a half-dozen separate arcs of 1-3 missions to be found. Most of the content is related to the recruiting and loyalty missions behind party members. The main quest in Mass Effect 2′s is actually pretty short and forces the player to go through the party recruiting/loyalty arcs to compensate.)
- As a consequence of the main quest being so short, Mass Effect 2′s story is not as nearly as deep or gripping as the original. Though I’ve read reviews that praise the ending of Mass Effect 2, I felt it was barely satisfactory.
Overall, Mass Effect 2 flows better, but it lacks substance. Compared to the first game, the experience has less sense of exploring virtual space and more simply hammering through scenarios. If this is what we have to look forward to in Mass Effect 3, the magic of the original may have been lost forever.