After blazing my way through the first game in the Mass Effect Legendary Edition compilation there was little to stop me from continuing on into the sequel. Mass Effect 2 is generally considered to be the best of the trilogy and my own thoughts about what works in its favour is that it was allowed more freedom thanks to being bookended by games which had to start revealing the plot threads and then bring them all back together again. That opportunity to be different becomes clear in the opening sequence which takes a turn that I doubt many expected when first playing and revisiting it I have to admire the writers for their willingness to choose the path they did. It may not really change anything but it does allow for a minor reset to characters, relationships and motivations.
Having originally played the trilogy on the Xbox 360 it was interesting to see what was different in the sequel seeing as it was based on the PC version that was a result of EA’s buyout of BioWare – the first game on release was a Microsoft published exclusive. I still chose to import my ME character and save, which brought across my choices and a number of handy resources. For players wanting a head start on the second game, the import can be VERY helpful; in my case I had maxed out my credits in Mass Effect so I was able to spend a lot on useful gear early in the game. It was nice to experience the comic book style recap which I think originally appeared alongside the PlayStation 3 and PC versions of the game – it might be unnecessary now but it’s still a part of the trilogy’s history.
Without giving much away Shepard now finds himself allied with Cerberus, a highly secretive human focused organisation briefly mentioned in Mass Effect, who have tasked him with investigating a number of colonies whose inhabitants have disappeared. With a new ship and crew they need to find the truth and learn more about the mysterious Collectors who are behind it.
Things I like
- Missions feel like self contained episodes. I suppose you could say they’re not too different from the previous game but in Mass Effect 2 a lot of them have opening and closing cutscenes plus a mission completion screen with its tally of what you’ve done and earned. It makes it a lot easier to know when you’re done without always relying on your journal. For players wanting to take on the game in smaller doses it’s really useful.
- How weapons are handled is simpler but smarter. Instead of having to find the next level of the same weapon and mods (as in Mass Effect) this time around a gun is a gun but you can research enhancements to boost its capabilities. It means you’re no longer spending time selling or disposing of outdated versions and your whole team will always have access to the best. I makes it a lot easier to identify your favourite guns and you can comfortably stick with them for most of the game.
- Loyalty missions are awesome. These missions not only give you a chance to learn more about the recruited crew member you’re helping out but are different enough to keep things fresh. They also provide a bonus with an additional ability too for your crew so it’s worth getting into them as soon as you can. Having the (previously) DLC characters Kasumi and Zaeed part of the game right away is a nice bonus and are probably the quickest to complete now too.
- All the DLC is there. Though it was advertised as such I was still pleasantly surprised to find a few items such as the armour which was previously a bonus for players who owned Dragon Age II. I played through all the story DLC for ME2 on 360 when they were released (mostly after I had finished the game) but having them all available from the start will make this a very different experience.
Things I don’t like
- The map travel and scanning mechanics are filler. I can understand upgrading them from the point and click of the original game but the attempts here do nothing except stretch out the game by forcing players to spend more time and resources on fuel and probes to get the materials they need.
- The lack of the Mako makes the worlds seem smaller. Mass Effect‘s crew vehicle divided players thanks to its less than friendly controls and often desolate spaces to explore using it but one thing it did do was provide players with larger worlds to explore. The areas you now travel through admittedly have more detail but feel more confined too. Though the Firewalker DLC does remedy the lack of vehicle missions to a degree, most players will be spending time on their feet.
- The game could have done with a clear antagonist from the start. Mass Effect benefited a lot from having Saren, the rogue agent, being identified as your adversary from the first mission in the game. The Collectors don’t present as an immediate threat while you’re assembling your crew so the urgency in pursuing them is not as strong.
When Mass Effect 2 was first released it was a massive leap forward for the series technically as well as bringing in a lot of general improvements to gameplay. Now that the Legendary Edition has substantially improved the first game, the differences don’t feel as profound but the game still stands as an impressive follow up that succeeds by trying to avoid repeating on the first game and does well in setting up the final part of the trilogy
Mass Effect Legendary Edition is out now for PC, Xbox and PlayStation. Played on an Xbox Series X.