Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Impression/Review: Mass Effect 2

Posted by deckard47 on February 21, 2010

A Real Villain!

Hi there. It’s been a while. Back to work.

I’ve recently finished a game (from this year!), which makes me think that the End of Days may be upon us. This, of course, means I need to prepare myself: when you all get Raptured, I’m going to steal all of your cats and live with them in the giant treehouse at Disneyland. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Sadly, I’m disappointed in Mass Effect 2. While it has its own issues regarding the way in which its characters and world are written (a clue: you can’t be gay unless you’re a hot blue alien Woman, and you can’t be a woman unless you’re Quarian, Human, or Asari), it left me unfulfilled in other ways.

There going to be spoilers here. So, yeah:

All I can think about right now is that final boss. Really? Really? A giant skinless T-800 Terminator wants to kill me? That’s what 30 plus hours of intense gamin’ and conversin’ gets me? In the first game, my nemesis, Saren, was the “boss.” Not only did he provide the game, me, and the plot with a strong impetus to move forward and get shit done, his decision (thanks to Torry Shepard’s silver tongue) to end his own life and help save the galaxy from destruction was a noble one. When Sovreign reanimated Saren’s corpse using Dark Energy, there was no ways I wasn’t going to kick that thing’s ass six separate ways.

Scary Reaper!

I can see where the writers tried to create similar situation in ME 2. My crew (hell, my crew and thousands of innocent colonists) were liquified and used to power a giant Reaper, which, when finished (using thousands upon more thousands of human bodies) would destroy life in our galaxy. That’s not cool. The writers let me save Dr. Chakwas (my favorite drinking companion!), Yeoman chambers, and a dude from a fate worse than death (except, they would have died, so…), only to hammer home the realization that I’d failed the rest of my crew. There was no way, I was going to leave that ship without kicking that unfinished Reaper’s ass, right? Kind of, I guess. I think the writers miscalculated. They assumed that the (not inconsiderable) heft of the plot would compel me to give a shit about that laughable B-movie villain and his HUGE SKULL-HEAD.

There are two problems here: first, giant robots are stupid, and kind of funny, as this link ably shows. I’d avoid them, if at all possible. Second, part of the reason Saren’s suicide and subsequent reanimation was poignant was because in life (recently, that is) he had suffered under the mental domination and physical bondage enforced by Sovreign, the Reaper. It was pretty fucked up that even by killing himself Saren could not escape from the tyranny of Sovreign’s will. Like most people, I appreciated the way that Saren infuriated me and spurred me on. He was a good villain. He was also a good villain in that he could be convinced to give up his quest: he realized that he’d made mistakes, and he attempted to atone for them. That’s a pretty nuanced way to go, for a video game villain.

Which brings us to the T-800. It’s a pretty flimsy plot device. Why does the Reaper have to be a giant human (Shepard asks this question, and EDI says “Gee, I dunno, Sheppard”)? Why does it matter that they’re building a Reaper (remember what happened to the last Reaper?)? It’s not that interesting. We’ve already dealt with a Reaper. To be honest, I’m not sure how the story in ME 2 is going to figure into ME 3. The interesting stuff in ME 2 was everything surrounding the Protheans. The revelation that the Protheans had been subjugated and then genetically scrapped and rebuilt by the Reapers was an interesting one. This is the civilization that “stood up” to the Reapers the last time around. That act of defiance earned them a spot as the Reaper’s eternal slaves, genetic abominations who had no choice but to serve their old enemies. Didn’t anyone else think that some kind of confrontation or meeting was in store between ex-Protheans and Shepard (aside from a Giant Robot Attack)?

Interesting Characters!

I’m sure things will happen in ME 3. The plot will thicken, and then, thin. Shepard will beat the Reapers (or not, and it will be a Surprise Tragedy!). But the excellent stuff from ME 2 (most of the characters’ interactions) is going to be the cool, “minor” stuff they let you carry over (or not, if they follow their policy in ME 2). These character interactions (along with some fun third person shooting) are why I played through this game until the end. I loved Legion, Thane, Tali, and Mordin. I liked all of the characters, when the writers didn’t make them speak bad lines of dialogue. I was incredibly disappointed to watch and play the final moments of this game. All of these characters who I’d befriended and come to understand deserved more than a death/life spot in a cutscene. After I’d killed the T-800, I wanted to discuss things with them, to find out what they wanted to do next. Instead, they nodded at me, like in a bad action movie. The Nod! Even if you stick around the Normand until afterward, they just say: “I’m glad we won! What’s next?” I just hope that the characters are front and center, again, in ME 2. Oh, and I hope that they pick a slightly original ending.

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3 Responses to “Impression/Review: Mass Effect 2”

  1. Alex said

    Yeah at first I was very WTF about the giant robot Reaper… but after thinking about it some more and playing the ending again I changed my mind a bit. What is creepier than an alien trying to be human? Especially when that effort is for the purpose of destroying humanity? But skeletons in general creep me out, too, so I don’t know. I can see both sides!

    Either way, ME2 does have some “middle story in a trilogy” issues as far as the plot is concerned.

    • deckard47 said

      See, if it had been smaller, it would have been creepy. I feel like that’s kind of a good rule: smaller = creepier. I just couldn’t take that huge robot (or it’s giant glowing eyes) seriously. Especially when it kept on disappearing and then reappearing. Like a kid playing peekaboo. It just made me laugh.

      On the other hand, if the Collectors had been trying to make human reapers that could pass as humans (or something), that would have been really creepy, Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style. It just seemed like a weird, Godzilla-inspired (and thus, for me totally not scary) moment in an otherwise wisely focused (small-scale) dramatic plot.

      Hell, when you think about it, almost all of the conflicts were smaller in ME 2. It wasn’t a giant fight between Reapers and the whole Alliance, it was the Normandy and the giant Cigar Ship. I really liked that, I wish they’d kept that kind of scale around, actually.

  2. Daniel said

    What disappointed me most about Mass Effect 2 was that everything felt so small and confined. Apparently nobody liked the vehicle combat at all, so they scrapped that, and in doing so scrapped the illusion that the galaxy was a wide open playground. The environments felt cramped, and not cramped in a way that made you believe that they were cramped and crammed into the side of a giant warren of sin and despair, just cramped, like your first apartment out of college.

    The story felt pretty weak overall. The first Mass Effect was a brilliant mystery. This Mass Effect was a series of somewhat related events.

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