An Inexhaustive List Of Things That Infuriate Me In Mass Effect 2 Now That I’ve Thought About Them.

I enjoyed this game well enough when play­ing it, but given a few days dis­tance to let it per­co­late through my mind, I find myself nearly apoplec­tic with incan­des­cent fury, or at least slightly peeved. Here are a few of the rea­sons why. Much of this was prompted by a sim­i­lar rant over at Arca­dian Rhythms.

There was a tremen­dous amount of PR hay made at the out­set of the series about your deci­sions in the first game effect­ing the rest of the tril­ogy, and you char­ac­ter hav­ing a con­sis­tency across all the games. Odd then, that the first thing you do on start­ing a new game is reset your char­ac­ter. Even if you decide to keep your orig­i­nal char­ac­ter appear­ance and char­ac­ter class, there’s no rea­son for your align­ment (your paragon / rene­gade scores) to be reset.

I don’t mind, really, com­pletely chang­ing all of the com­bat mechan­ics. If you want to re-jigger the pow­ers and weapons to make the hid­ing behind end­less low walls and shoot­ing over them a lit­tle bet­ter, knock your­selves out, although that’s always been the absolute least of the rea­sons I liked ME1. Just do it silently and we’ll all be polite and not draw atten­tion to it. Don’t, how­ever, then try and write a baf­flingly stu­pid Codex entry try­ing to ret­con these, because it’s insult­ing. Every gun in the entire uni­verse was remod­elled based on a Geth tech­nol­ogy appar­ently uncov­ered in the first game, but never seen in the first game, in a mere two years? Do one.

While we’ve got our ret­con­ning shoes on, what in the hell is going on with Cer­berus? The bulk of the inter­est­ing sid­e­quests in ME1 were based around estab­lish­ing Cer­berus as an unal­loyed, inex­cus­able evil. It’s at least one game too late to be mak­ing excuses for them, and forc­ing us to accept that they’re just a mis­un­der­stood gang of folks want­ing to save mankind, jus’ like you, Shep!

Let’s run down what we learn from the first game. Cer­berus killed an Alliance offi­cer, tried to build an army of Tho­rian creep­ers and rachni, destroyed a set­tle­ment by turn­ing the colonists into husks, and as I’m play­ing with the “Sole Sur­vivor” back­ground, was directly respon­si­bly for the most trau­matic event in my char­ac­ters life (at least, prior to what unfurls dur­ing the events of the game), killing my entire squad through Thresher Maw proxy.

My Shep­hard would have put a bul­let in the head of your erst­while new bud­dies Miranda and Jacob, and prob­a­bly also him­self just to deny Cer­berus the sat­is­fac­tion. Not even being able to men­tion the Sole Sur­vivor deal to any of the Cer­berus apol­o­gists is a really glar­ing, frus­trat­ing plot hole, of the sort that really throws doubt on how much any­thing I do influ­ences any­thing in the game that Bioware might deem nar­ra­tively inconvenient.

This might seem like nit-picking, and it is. How­ever the more you keep hav­ing to scratch these itches the more it pulls you out of the game, and reminds you that you’re sink­ing forty odd hours into push­ing elec­trons around a screen rather than doing any­thing worth­while with your life.

It hurts immer­sion, and that was what I found so spec­tac­u­lar about the first game. Not the com­bat mechan­ics, and to be hon­est not even the main nar­ra­tive. It was the well detailed char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion, and the feel­ing that there’s a mas­sive, well thought out, cohe­sive galaxy to explore with all the atten­dant alien races and mysteries.

Mass Effect 2 is about crouch­ing behind low walls and fir­ing over the top of them. Occa­sion­ally alien low walls, to be sure, but it’s mainly inter­ested in run­ning between walls, crouch­ing and fir­ing over the top of them. Explo­ration is purely there to allow min­ing, and that is hardly a positive.

There were cer­tainly things wrong with the planet explo­ration in the Mako of ME1. The solu­tion was, appar­ently, to delete them entirely and replace them with an orbital min­ing ‘game’. I would have loved to have been present at the meet­ing where it was decided that the best way to increase the Mass Effect 2’s fun quo­tient would be to hold down a trig­ger while slowly mov­ing a cur­sor around until the con­troller vibrates, then pulling another trig­ger. I would bring a ham­mer to this meeting.

All sense of scale has gone. The uni­verse has shrunk in the wash. I under­stand that there’s con­straints on these things, but look at what hap­pened to the Citadel. Events at the end of ME1 notwith­stand­ing, it still ought to be a mas­sive galac­tic hub, com­plete with the unwieldy nav­i­ga­tion and end­less run­ning between sec­tors of the first game. Now it’s, what, three shops, a few stair­cases and a bar?

Every­where else is just as bad, with any explo­ration or pok­ing around ‘stream­lined’ and min­imised in favour of get­ting you back out, hid­ing behind walls. There’s some ratio­nale for it, I guess, but the cap­i­tal of the Kro­gan home­world really ought to con­sist of more than ten rhino-people stand­ing around a fire in an old oil drum, like some inter­galac­tic hobo convention.

Char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion has bro­ken com­pletely in Mass Effect 2. The Shep­hard I con­trolled in the first game would not be work­ing with Cer­berus, but there’s no choice about that — which requires some breath­tak­ing, unbe­liev­able head-sand inter­fac­ing from the Inter­galac­tic Par­lia­ment, or what­ever they’re called, and a com­plete abdi­ca­tion of the only respon­si­bil­ity the Earth Fleet Dudes, or what­ever they’re called, have.

Sheppy aside, what in the hell was the point of con­vinc­ing Gar­rus to go back to C-Sec if it’s dis­carded in one line of dia­logue? How does the first game’s socially awk­ward blue archae­ol­o­gist turn into the galaxy’s num­ber 2 intel­li­gence agent in two years? Why would I want to buy that story separately?

I’m pretty sure all of this talk of deci­sions from the first game effect­ing the sec­ond is based entirely around the bit char­ac­ters from side mis­sions who can be spo­ken to, and I have to pre­tend to remem­ber what petty dis­pute of theirs I solved a cou­ple of years ago, which make no impact on me at all.

At points I was run­ning low on cred­its to pur­chase the upgrades lit­tered around, so fig­ured I would sell off some of my min­eral reserves, surely imprac­ti­cal to hold on a small star­ship. Except, of course, you can’t, because there is no func­tion­ing econ­omy in Mass Effect 2 to allow sell­ing of the most valu­able com­modi­ties in the uni­verse. Hmmph

Okay, the more I think about this game the less I like it, so I’m now going to stop think­ing about it and crack open the Deus Ex: Human Rev­o­lu­tion disk Love­film have sent me.