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Friday, February 04, 2011

Game Play: Mass Effect 2 (PS3)

I played the first Mass Effect briefly on a friend's 360, and while saw that it was clearly polished wasn't entirely sure what the real appeal was about the extremely popular title.

That's because you can't play a Mass Effect title briefly and get the real appeal. In fact, if I have any real complaint about the recent PlayStation 3 port of Mass Effect 2, it's that they won't be porting the first one.

Mass Effect 2 is a Bioware RPG through and through, and so players familiar with Dragon Age or Knights of the Old Republic know the basic score: a streamlined experience tailored around gathering characters into your party and selecting a couple of them to bring along with you on missions. There's a morality scale, there's a grand story, there's a lot of memorable NPC's to meet and interact with.

Kindly, though, the morality scale is less black and white, less "save the kitten" or "kill the kitten" - and feels more like changes in the style of the player than really building "the ultimate hero" or "the ultimate villain.

If anything impressed me about Mass Effect 2, it was how it managed to avoid pitfalls similar titles fell into. Take Fallout 3 for example. Fallout 3 could also be considered an open ended RPG based heavily on decisions made by the player. Mass Effect 2 has one huge advantage over Fallout 3, however, which trumps any other comparison:

Mass Effect 2 does not consistently crash. In fact, I think it crashed once on my during my entire 45+ hours of gameplay. Once, Bethesda, once... which is technically one more than it probably should be two less than an average Fallout title might accomplish in a single night.

Outside of that, Mass Effect 2 requires less wandering - and oddly enough, felt more like a shooter hybrid than the Fallout 3 titles. I never once felt the need to forcibly pause Mass Effect 2's action (though it does pause to let you select new weapons and use powers).

More interesting to me is Mass Effect 2 was also far more enjoyable than Dragon Age - at least for myself. As I wrote in the past, Dragon Age has serious balance issues which more or less beg for you to refer to wiki articles on how to "correctly" play the title if you don't want to get stuck in a dwarven dungeon getting devoured by some monster boss (still a bit bitter about that one). I never had that instance with Mass Effect 2, never felt like I had to be cautious in where I went in the galaxy, I simply explored and adventured and upgraded my party.

So this is a game that had none of the technical issues of Fallout 3, or New Vegas ... and had none of the frustrations I found with Dragon Age. In short: it was freaking awesome. I'm considering a second playthrough before Mass Effect 3 hits the holidays, which I rarely take the time to do anymore (even with Demon's Souls - and some would argue that was the point of that game).

Highly, highly recommend.

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