Shepard, you’re back!

There’s a sense of wonderment when a sequel proclaims that the choices you’ve made in the first game carry over into the first game. For instance, what happens if I killed the ruling intergalactic council? Or maybe if I stabbed that one teammate in the face because I wanted to see what color he would bleed? Or maybe shooting biotic terrorists in the head was your forte? Either way, by now you can figure out what specific game I am talking about: Mass Effect 2. And yes, spoilers be ahead for the game.

Turn the stone to find another world...

Oh, How the Mighty Fall

I’ve long since been a Bioware fan since the Neverwinter Nights days and I’ve been curious to see them step away from their traditional values and walk into the limelight of the shooter genre with Mass Effect. There was something quite inviting about the first game–I’m not sure if it was the voice acting (for both genders) or if it was just the general artistic theme behind the game, but it stuck with me. Of course, I had my complaints, but generally the biggest ones simply had to do with what Bioware has always thrived on before–the story. I long asked myself, “Hey, why can’t I just be given the choice to do x now so y doesn’t happen?” And, of course, the obvious answer of Railroad Plot always comes to mind (I mean, really, would you enjoy a game you could beat in the beginning hour of game play?), but there are always creative ways to work around that.

Unfortunately Mass Effect 2 literally throws you onto a train in this endeavor. You find yourself waking up from a very long sleep in some science lab in a space station. To save us all from the needless background story, you eventually find out that Cerberus has brought you back from the dead to work for them. Now, for those of you who haven’t played the first game in awhile, you were probably wondering, “Who the frak is Cerberus and why is my character all pissy about it?” Well, as a refresher, Cerberus is not a nice organization in the first game. They perform experiments on just about everyone (including humans) all at the behest of saying that their “pure” goal is to forward humanity to greater lengths. This includes luring Alliance Marines to their deaths simply because one Admiral refuses to give the organization information. When said Admiral then confronts said organization, they just kill him as well.

Of course this might not seem “not evil enough” just yet for you. Consider this then: if your Shepard has the Ruthless background (as in, he survived Akuze and killed a sandworm Thresher Maw), you later find out in the game that Cerberus was actually behind planting a beacon on the planet near your team so a Thresher Maw would come up and start killing everyone. The purpose of this experiment is never revealed, but right there, off the bat, is reason enough for at least one of your characters with that background to give a real big middle finger to Cerberus.

What a Nightmare

However, the option for the Renegade mouse click middle finger never comes. In fact, minor protest is what I would call your character options when meeting with The Illusive Man for the first time about working for Cerberus. You can’t even ask the tough questions that eye implants man couldn’t dodge around, such as, “You guys tried to kill me in the first game.” Nope, it’s just, “Well, I don’t like working with you guys, but since you mentioned the word ‘Reaper’ and I just start foaming at the mouth when people say that, I’m in.”

And I think Bioware is well-aware that people who really know what Cerberus is aren’t very happy with the way the game is going. Before that thought can even fully manifest however, our favorite comic relief pilot rounds the corner and then takes you to a window so you can both have an orgasm when you realize you really didn’t lose the Normandy at all. The Illusive Man even throws a floozy of a Yeoman–probably to help you “smooth over” the transition. But after that, the protests behind working for Cerberus are generally silenced or made to appear in “I don’t like it either old chum, but they want to kill Reapers, and I’d join any other terrorist organization that said the same too.”

Probably the worse offender to the sequel on the afront of story, however, has to be your new crew. You see, in Mass Effect 1, you had the very same problem–you didn’t have a choice in crew members, they just joined your party (literally, your only dialogue options were, “Glad to have you aboard” or, “If you make one wrong move, I’ll shoot you in the face twice”). At least most of them (with the exception of one) wasn’t a complete lunatic with unknown motives. In Mass Effect 2, however, your main storyline missions are to find the most untrustworthy people in the galaxy and have them join your crew. This includes a psychotic convict (who later confesses to commiting every greatest sin in the newest of ways), an unstable tank-bred Krogan, and even a damn Geth. But it’s okay. They’re all really just cute and cuddly inside, and you realize that after performing their loyalty missio–SNNNOOORE.

The Dirty Dozen

Yeah, apparently The Illusive Man’s sense of “being prepared” means picking up a crew that all has problems that would affect their focus on the big finale. Thanks TIM. Essentially half the game is found with you first recruiting these people and then solving their daddy issues (literally; the only loyalty mission that has nothing to do with a crew member’s father, mother, or childhood is Mordin’s and Gaurus’s). What am I, Dr. Phil? I thought Yeoman Kelly was the resident psychologist anyways. Why doesn’t she just bang the whole crew to solve their issues (she certainly has expressed that being a way to “get to know them”)?

Of course the biggest wall banger to them all is if you had a romance in Mass Effect 1. If it’s either Kaidan or Ashley, they both hate you for not having a choice in joining Cerberus in wanting to save the galaxy (again), although this is apparently later justified with, “Oh, I hadn’t seen you for two years” (Kaidan even mentions he’s seeing someone else now). And if you romanced Liara, what ever you saw in her in Mass Effect 1 has been completely transformed into a heartless bitch in Mass Effect 2 (the dialogue options as to why the romance can’t continue are just as big as a copout as the other two). Although there is certainly a hint that if you remain faithful to any of them that it might eventually reflect how things go in Mass Effect 3. But hell, once you’ve had Tali, why even bother? Kaidan’s got a new woman, Ashley is still a racist, and Liara has gone heartless. Yeah, I think I’ll stick with Tali.

While Bioware has greatly improved the gameplay aspect of Mass Effect with the sequel, they have seemingly left out the most important part to a role playing game–the story. And while the subplots are interesting, they still feel more like detours to the bigger road ahead, but if you want anyone to survive on the last mission, you’ll have to do them. And on this aspect I do not feel it is appropriate to even call Mass Effect 2 an RPG ever since Bioware did away with the inventory system and replaced it with “science upgrades.” Mass Effect 2 is more comparable to Gears of War with a story and dialogue options, making it a third person shooter with a story. Which, in itself, is a feat of accomplishment no doubt, and when seeing that this is the direction Bioware is going with the series, I can only nod in approval. No, we should not think of the Mass Effect series as strictly an RPG, but rather what shooters should have been doing in the first place–realizing that the story matters, because the people who play Mass Effect 2 three or four times over are not doing it for the aspect of shooting people in the face, because that gets boring fast.

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About Agamemnon
Started blogging back in 2007 amidst that whole Hellgate: London fiasco on a blog known as flagshipped.com. Eventually moved on to do my own thing in December 2008 at gameriot.com and started Caveat Emptor there. Wrote there for six months, gained some notoriety, and then left. Now I'm back.

One Response to Shepard, you’re back!

  1. Pingback: It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings « Agamemnon's Domain

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