Mass Effect 2 is considered the best game out of the Bioware back catalogue of impressive RPGs. Scoring high scores across the board, most notably a 96 on Metacritic, after being out for 10 years. So the questions poses, why is this game still considered as one of the best RPG’s of all time and why does this game sit above some of the most favoured cult RPGs such as Skyrim and The Witcher 3, in the eyes of critiques? Well I though I would share our thoughts below. Before we go ahead, its worth pointing out that SPOILERS for all of the Mass Effect games will potentially be contained in this article, so If you are holding off playing these, I would suggest reading this article after.
Mass Effect 2 is a game where the developers Bioware, wanted to put the player in a world where everything was on the line. The universe was under threat by an enemy that put the civilisation of species under threat of eradication. As Commander Shepard you needed to gather a band of allies, to investigate this threat and ward it off. Pretty standard, right? No, because not only did you have to worry about this task, but your crew carried their own baggage, personal problems that where in the back of their mind, and with them knowing that this might be their last mission, leaving these un-addressed could cost them their lives. You had politics to deal with, alliances to make, people to save, friendships to build and all whilst you are in the pocket of a man, of whom you do not know is an enemy or ally. Adding to the long list of problems is the fact that the enemy isn’t going to wait for you to resolve these before attacking. No, the Reapers are coming and as Commander Shepard you are against the clock from the beginning to end of this game. Although, at first it seems overwhelming, it is this deepness of the all the ‘problems you have to face’ that makes this game as highly received as it is. But don’t threat, Bioware does a fantastic job of making it easy to manage all these factors, but to be clear managing your time is all about choice.
Which moves me onto the next point ‘the choices in Mass Effect 2’. At the core of Mass Effect 2’s story is the deep butterfly effect that the game presents. Choices in Mass Effect 2 have scaling consequences which range from small things like ‘Discounts at Selected Shops’ all the way through to ‘If a character from your crew, survives a situation’. Everything you do feels like it bares weight. I mean this is something that appears in all of the Mass Effect games, but none of the choices you make in other games feel quite as ‘important’ as the ones in 2. I know some of you might be thinking “WAIT! NO!” But hear me out. In Mass Effect 1, the biggest decision you make is whether you save ‘The Council of Leader’s’ or save ‘pretty much 95% of the entire Army’. Now it’s a hard decision to make, because which is most important? Without leaders, the army can’t function, but without an army, Leaders can’t fight. Either way, the result is bad. But in Mass Effect 2, although you never have to make decision this big, if you decide to do something that a team mate doesn’t benefit your mission, you could lose a member of your team during the events of the game, making your entire team more likely to die and fail during the final suicide mission. Failing this mission could result in the universe being destroyed due to not weakening the danger of the incoming threat. In Mass Effect 2, you are always managing a series of small to medium decisions that have ‘huge’ later consequences, where as in both 3 and 1, you have big issues, that ultimately end up with a similar result.
Finally, Mass Effect 2 was the most fun to play. When you were playing, time just flew by. You’d look at the clock and realise that 6 hours had passed by without realising it. Whereas with the other entries I found myself stopping a lot more frequently and returning to them after a short lunch break etc. Although, the other entries did have moments of time passing quickly and they aren’t by any stretch of imagination bad games, it just wasn’t as consistent as the second entry for drawing me in. I would find myself spending hours genuinely wanting to learn more about my crew, doing their amazing side missions and losing myself in the world. The companionship in the game was captured to perfection, even if it was through rigid non-mocap animations. Mass Effect 2 is about a journey of redemption, a mission where everyone knows that the chances of coming back are unlikely. So, tactically Bioware made the characters so interesting a deep that you never wanted any of them to die, so you would find yourself fighting against the inevitable and it was incredible. The worst criticism the second entry received was due to the removal of things like driving around a planet or moon, to mine its many resources. In my opinion, I think Bioware stripped these back, to always keep the story moving, keeping to the sense of imminent threat. It keeps you invested in the feeling that there is urgency looming above you, and you don’t have time to ‘mess around’. In comparison this is where I feel games like the Witcher 3 fall kind of short. Now I LOVE the Witcher 3, I thought it was an amazing game, but I did find that the immersion was broken when I was told “CIRI IS IN IMMINENT DANGER, GET TO HER QUICK!” but would then stop idly to help an old women get her frying pan, and then decide to pick some flower and hunt a wolf. I mean, its not to say it makes a game bad by doing this, I just believe that in the case of Mass Effect 2, it helped keep the tension and prioritisation feel real.
Let us know in the comments sections on our social media pages of what you thought about this article. Do you agree that Mass Effect 2 is the best in the series? If not, tell us why! We’d be interested to hear your thoughts!
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