Mass Effect 2 First Impressions

So I’m playing Mass Effect 2 right now. I’m at the beginning of the final stretch. I have my entire team, I did all the DLC and I did all the loyality missions. Here are my impressions so far.

Unintentionally Hilarious Mass Effect 2 Trailer Screenshot

Unintentionally Hilarious Mass Effect 2 Trailer Screenshot

For obvious reasons I looked very carefully at the interface. There are a few minor quibs. But so far, every single point I mentioned in my interface article has been fixed and improved upon. I’m pleasantly surprised about that.

Another area that clearly received some massive improvements is the combat. Bioware were talking about this and they weren’t exaggerating. The powers of your members are useful and feel very distinct. They allow you to approach enemies in very different ways. There is more strategy to the combat due to cover mechanics and careful level design. Enemies come in waves now which makes encounters feel more dynamic. Most importantly, weapons are actually meaningful and different now. They is far less of them now too. I have only 3 different assault rifles now. But each one feels distinct. That’s very good.

The flipside is that with all the improvements in combat, the entire game is all about combat now. The story arcs in missions feel like from a porn movie but with fire fights instead of sex. Any intriguing setup inevitably leads to a prolonged combat sequence. There are no real exploartion, mystery or diplomacy missions anymore. In this one mission I was invited to take place in a trial. I thought “Finally! Some tricky negotiations in the midst of all this shooting”. But nope, it turns out the trial had me swiftly sentenced to fighting robots. *sigh*

Another problem with the story is some serious disregard to what actually happened in the first part. Former crew members seem oddly distant. Not even hugs and kisses from my former paramour Liara. A DLC patches that specific instance but the problem remains. There is lots of retconning concerning technology. Suddenly no healing and weapons have ammo? And nobody believes the Reapers are real even after the equivalent of a space-9/11? And suddenly there are these Collectors which we haven’t heard a single word about in the first part? And then it turns they are so SUUUUPER important? It seems like sacrificed a lot of potential for emotional bonds to make Mass Effect 2 work. Like the cyber-zombie commander Shepard, the story looks like some sort of haphazardly revived corpse. It’s Mass Effect alright. But it’s a very different Mass Effect. And there is a lot about it I don’t enjoy as much.

But luckily there are good parts too. The Garrus mission was the first one that connected with me emotionally. The Shadow Broker DLC not only fixed the treatment of Liara, it was actually amazing in general. The improved interface and battle mechanics will make it easy for me to see this through to the end.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

5 responses to “Mass Effect 2 First Impressions”

  1. Shane

    I gave up on it. Annoying cut scenes would pop up in what I thought was the middle of a boss fight. The fights were long a drawn out and boring. The narrative felt sloppy. Exploraton and discovery was gone. For all of the “improvements” it didn’t feel better. I hated this game.

  2. Slavistix Translation Services

    Mass Effect 2 is a great game, intense and you just cant get enough of it when playing. There are some bugs, but as a whole it is brilliant. I am really looking forward to ME3!

  3. LTS

    In regards to weapons suddenly ‘having ammo’, that confused me a lot at first, but it’s actually explained in a small bit that for some reason was cut from the final game.

    “the Alliance retrofitted every weapon in service, making a full conversion to the thermal clip system. Thermal clips hold disposable universal heat sinks. Instead of waiting for an overheated weapon to cool down, combatants simply eject the spent heat sink and the clip feeds in a new one.”
    (first entry, Thermal clips)

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Yeah, I know. There is still a codex entry in the game that explains this. But it’s a flimsy excuse. For example, why do older weapons like the M-12 Locust from the Kazumi DLC, “the gun that killed two presidents” use thermal clips? Were the two presidents killed in the last two years?

      Even more problematic: why does the shipwrecked crew from Jacob’s loyalty mission use thermal clips (and security mechs). When they crashed 10 years ago, none of this technology existed.

      And how does Shepard know what a thermal clip is when he wakes up?

      1. LTS

        I’ll agree, it is a flimsy excuse, but at least they somewhat bothered to explain it. I’d take a crappy explanation any day over not mentioning it at all.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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