Graveyards of Outer Space

28 01 2010

I started playing Mass Effect 2 today. I didn’t actually mean to. I had only beaten Mass Effect 1 for the second time (but the first on the PC) a few hours before. Yet it was calling to me, as new games are wont to do. So I opened up the box and noticed the “Cerberus Network” login card, figured it was worth at least having access to whatever bonus DLC they had, and fired that up. What it sparked, along with the game itself, made me feel really good about owning this game even if I don’t get the outcome(s) I am aiming for on my playthrough. There are some spoilers, slight I’m sure but I don’t want to ruin anything so more after the jump. This should not be taken as a full review of the game as I feel I have really just started to get to the meat of the game.

Final warning. I really feel that this game needs to be experienced fresh so if you don’t want any part of it spoiled please do not read ahead.

I imported my save from Mass Effect 1 and decided to just keep the same appearance and class. I played an Infiltrator and liked it even though watching biotic classes toss enemies up into the air and off of bridges made me jealous. But ultimately my biggest gripe with the Infiltrator class is more the fact that my only two weapon options were pistol (which was nice) and Sniper Rifle (also nice, sniping is a good job after all, mate). The problem being that there was a distinct lack of rapid-fire. In fact only the Soldier class, which had no tech or biotic abilities, was able to use the assault rifle in the first game. Fortunately Bioware has made a welcome change to your arsenal, namely a submachine gun. Just about every class has access to it and it is an effective multipurpose weapon for dealing with enemies at close to medium range. So I’m happy with that. I’m not so happy about the limited ammo thing but on the other hand the fact they’ve narrowed down special bullets into classes and given tech characters the ability to throw fire, it’s not entirely all bad the changes Bioware made to the combat system. It certainly feels a lot faster and more fluid. Also the physics are much better so when cryo rounds freeze someone in their tracks they’ll actually topple over as an ice statue, much to my enjoyment. Now if I could just figure out how to turn OFF special bullets. Not that it wastes them I’m just not big on freezing almost everyone I run into.

Anyway I’ve digressed long enough from what my main crux of this post was going to be, and also what the title meant. At the start of the game in an amazingly well-done and harrowing sequence, the Normandy is blown to pieces by an unknown enemy and Shepard…well he dies. This sequence is mostly amazing for me because it was soul-wrenching to watch the ship I had used in the first game just get ripped apart like it was made of tissue paper. Also the chief Navigator (Pressley) from the first game bites it from a console explosion, Star Trek style, and it’s not done overdramatically either, like some other games might have done it. Anyway after that it goes down to the lower decks where Shepard and Liara (my chosen paramour for the first game) are finishing up evac. Shepard orders/demands Liara get to an escape pod while he goes to save Joker who won’t leave both because of his leg condition and because Joker is stubborn and loves the Normandy too much to see that she’s dying and he can’t save her. So you go up from the briefing room to step onto the CIC and suddenly…everything is quiet. That’s because the CIC and everything almost up to the bridge has been exposed to hard vacuum. The roof of the ship is gone, blown away or shorn off. The only sound is the breathing of Shepard as he slowly walks past floating chairs and charred deck plating. Then you reach the bridge, eventually get Joker to leave, and the two of you limp towards an escape pod as the unknown enemy comes back for another pass. In the process of said pass you and Joker get separated by a series of explosions as well as a laser beam cutting through the ship. Unable to reach the escape pod, Shepard is engulfed by explosions and hurtled out of the dying Normandyas it finally breaks apart.

And it was about that time that the suit started leaking and Shepard, struggling to fix the breach, is left floating towards the planet the Normandy died in orbit around.

Fast forward a couple years and somehow, Cerberus (shadowy organization from the first game) has managed to resurrect Shepard from his dead body. I don’t know if he survived atmospheric re-entry or what but in any event, they revive him and revitalize him with a few enhancements (cybernetic implants). Before the healing process is complete however the lab is attacked and you must escape. This goes to explain why a resurrected body would have scarring, which is used as a reflection of how much a paragon or renegade you are. It’s kinda odd though because despite my heavy paragon leanings the few renegade things i do to assholes who deserve it leaves the scars glowing slightly. I don’t know why glowing scars, really…they tend to make it look like I’m made of metal (which as far as I can tell, Shepard isn’t). In the process of escaping you run into Jacob who I think is from the Mass Effect iPhone game and Miranda who is a bitch with a capital BITCH. Anyway these are your first two party members. Jacob is pretty cool, despite being a powerful biotic and essentially a vicious killer he’s reasonably nice. Miranda is a scientist who knows how to kill things. That’s about it. Well ok there’s more to it since she was in charge of putting you back together so to speak, but beyond that so far her character motivations seem to be “Be a bitch” and “Repeat what we already found out twice and about 5 minutes ago”. She’s basically Sigourney Weaver’s character from Galaxy Quest if instead of Sigourney Weaver it was Angelina Jolie (she kinda looks like her, come to think of it) and she was a bitch. I think I’ve made my point but that’s just my judgment of her for right now. I am sincerely hoping I don’t wind up in a romantic interest plot with her though…I mean yeah the British accent is hot but she really is abrasive.

Anyway you’ve been resurrected by The Illusive Man and Cerberus to deal with a problem they believe to be related to the Reapers from ME1, some investigation stuff happens, then we get the new Normandy and we’re off on the main quest.

Well ok, I wasn’t off on the main quest, not yet. First I had something to do that I got as free DLC (yes, they already have DLC for this game)

I had to go visit the Normandy I’s final resting place.

It was an emotional experience for me, to walk among the twisted wreckage of the ship and be treated to flashbacks to the way things used to look. I also stumbled upon an intact datapad that apparently belonged to Pressley, detailing his initial beliefs that aliens weren’t to be trusted, and then gradually turning around on that and feeling a bit embarrassed and remorseful for the way he used to think. It felt like a nice human moment and fleshed out some more character development for him, even if it was posthumously.

After recovering the 20 dog tags belonging to crewmembers who were still unaccounted for, I started on the second reason for my visit there, to place the monument to the ship and its crew that were lost. This is what really drew me to do this secondary assignment before I even started on the plot missions. See when I was younger I was always fascinated by shipwrecks and read numerous books on them. Titanic, Bismarck, Andrea Doria, these are just a few of the wrecks I read about or watched TV documentaries about. I don’t know what drew me to them, perhaps the way that these ships were preserved, in a way, as a symbol of history as much as tragedy as they lay there on the ocean floor.

Walking amongst the Normandy’s remains I felt that this would be the closest I’d ever get, real or otherwise, to exploring a wrecked ship on my own. And as I placed the monument in front of the ruined bridge where Shepard had “died”, I felt a sense of both pride and loss. Mass Effect 2 is now one of the few games to produce deep emotional reactions from me, and I’m really glad it has. It makes me want to play more, makes me think about decisions, makes me invest more in the story.

Though to sum it up I’m still hoping at some point I get to flip the bird to Cerberus and kick some ass on my own terms…but later.

Anyway to sum up I really think this is a great game, is a more than worthy sequel to the first, and it should be played by anybody who liked the first one or even played the first and had some misgivings about it. I think a lot has been fixed here, even if they did break a couple things they’re minor. I don’t like the new Galaxy map but I’ll get used to it and the fuel system, for example. It’s more that I’m willing to overlook the small problems because I can appreciate the good changes like a less cluttered inventory, mixing and matching armor pieces and painting them the way you want for the most part (though I would’ve still liked the ability to throw on a helmet at will instead of having to set that up), and…though this is a small one, buying model kits to hang on the wall of ships in your office (I’ve gotten back into modeling, it’s hard to not think it’s kinda cool). Reminds me of how Captain Picard had that in Star Trek: First Contact though I hope I don’t hurl a rifle through it in a fit of rage…unless it looks awesome in which case, fling away.

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