After greatly enjoying Mass Effect in the Legendary Edition, I just had to immediately move on to Mass Effect 2. While the first game did a great job introducing me to the amazing universe Bioware created, Mass Effect 2 managed to make it bigger and better. Mass Effect 2 calibrated my heart. I’ve grown to care deeply about these characters, this universe, and everything in between.
Mass Effect 2 starts out with Shepard dying. Yup, you heard that right. The Normandy is under attack, you need to help evacuate Joker but you can’t manage to save yourself. So, you die. But don’t worry, because Cerberus, the terrorist organization from the first game, patches you up! You awake two years later and are forced to work together with them and their leader, The Illusive Man, to take down the Collectors, creatures who are attacking the human colonies.
The game really throws you in there right away and I love it. The scene where the Normandy gets destroyed around you immediately feels more bombastic than anything the first game threw at you. Mass Effect 2 also doesn’t hesitate to introduce new characters. Miranda and Jacob, who work for Cerberus, become your first two new squadmates.
An alien species gazes into space.
Your crew eventually gets filled out with both new and familiar faces. All of them have intriguing backstories that often carry on into the third game as well. This entry in the series also introduces the concept of “loyalty missions,” where a squadmate explicitly asks for your help with a personal matter. If you do this mission, your squadmate becomes “loyal” to you, opening up the possibility of a romance and greatly reducing the risk of them dying in the game’s iconic “Suicide Mission.”
Oh and yes, people absolutely do die in this game. The goal you have to work towards is taking the fight to the Collectors; to do that, you have to literally take the fight to them. Everyone on your squad labels it a “suicide mission.” If your squadmates aren’t loyal or you make the wrong choices during the final mission, you will lose people. To me, this was both incredibly cool and incredibly daunting. I was terrified to lose people, so I had a guide at hand just in case. But at the same time, it’s impressive that your choices actually have consequences.
Gameplay wise, Mass Effect 2 spiced things up, mostly in a good way. You can now bind squad abilities to shortcuts, meaning you can use everyone’s abilities a lot faster—a change I personally welcomed. Medigel has been replaced by the ability Unity, which also revives fallen squadmates, and health regeneration happens automatically in this game. Taking cover has also been changed to a button prompt, so now Shepard doesn’t have to awkwardly rub against walls to get out of sight. Oh! And there’s armour customization!
There were some changes I really had to get used to, though. Mass Effect 2 got rid of the heat system used in Mass Effect 1, meaning you now had to take ammo into account; I cursed quite a few times when my favourite submachine gun ran out of bullets. Another thing was the quicktime events, where a paragon or renegade button prompt would pop up during cutscenes. There were some occasions where I put my controller down to grab a drink and quickly had to grab it again or I would’ve made a grave mistake. I like the addition though, it kept me on my toes.
Story wise, this game ups the stakes in all the best ways possible. The Collectors are a mysterious but dangerous threat, and figuring out who they are and how they’re tied to the Reapers is intriguing. Although this game has a bigger squad than Mass Effect 1, it manages to never lose sight of its characters. Depending on who you bring, you can even get some very unique dialogue on loyalty missions. Even when all of them are together in the final mission, the game manages to not overlook anyone—an impressive feat.
Another thing I finally got to experience in this game that I didn’t in Mass Effect 1 was romance. I waited for Garrus and boy, was he worth it. His and Shepard’s banter easily transitions into flirting—they never feel out of character. His romance scenes sprinkled throughout the game are adorable. So far, I’ve had absolutely no regrets romancing him, and it even gets better in Mass Effect 3.
Even though this game impressed me a lot, I can’t say it’s entirely without its flaws. The new system to scan planets and send out probes for materials was cool at the start but got old really fast. Thirty probes also wasn’t always enough to explore a star system, meaning you sometimes had to leave a certain system to go to one with a fuel station so you could restock. Another issue I personally had was that I had no idea what was DLC and what wasn’t. As a new player, it was kind of confusing. I actually accidentally played the Overlord DLC super early in the game. It was amazing—almost all DLC in this game are—but an indication that I’m leaving the main game would have been nice.
And last but not least: I wasn’t allowed to punch the Illusive Man in the face at the end of this game. It was very disappointing. But at least I got to see Miranda tell him off.