So, I’ve recently been playing Mass Effect 2 as part of my regular rotation. I played and finished Mass Effect a while ago, and then started playing Mass Effect 2 for what was the second time (I started the PC version of it briefly on the recommendation of a friend and got through the first mission before dropping it). The second time was right after my play of ME1 with my ex-pat of Helena Cain, and comparing it to ME1 I found ME2 to be very, very lacking. I found the planet explorations missions with the vehicle probably as annoying as anyone, but they had a lot more charm to them compared to ME2’s “probe” missions, especially since probes and fuel cost you money that you may not have had early in the game, and so it actually discouraged planet exploration, whereas in the first game I explored every single planet. I also disliked the change from the heat mechanism back to a more standard ammo mechanism for your guns, because I am not particularly good at FPS-style gameplay and the heat mechanism made misses much less of an issue. So I played it for a bit, and got Mordin, Garrus and Kasumi, at least … and then stopped playing it.
This time, the most relevant comparable game was Dragon Age: Origins. ME2’s combat is slightly easier than Dragon Age’s because of the cover mechanism and the ability to fight more from a distance without needing to have an explicit tank, although I definitely died more in Mass Effect 2. But that’s mostly because ME2 is definitely more chaotically combat-oriented than Dragon Age is; all the missions are essentially a bunch of waves of combat, with lots of enemies and often less time in-between them. I think, anyway. So, given that, I found ME2 a bit more fun than Dragon Age was, although that might be because I had more recruitment missions to do, and recruitment missions are a little shorter than the areas in Dragon Age usually are, so you get a reward for your annoying combat faster, and so get a sense of accomplishment. Note that I always play the game on “Casual”, so you can laugh over my lack of ability if you want.
Planet exploration still isn’t a lot of fun. If you don’t find a mission on a planet, launching probes is boring, mechanical work that pays off and is something that you have to do. When you don’t have a lot of money and don’t have probe and fuel capacity, you have to be careful about how you mine to maximize your gains without driving yourself into bankruptcy (although, as it turns out, running out of fuel only takes away some of your resources, according to the handy tip that was displayed once) and when you have a lot of money it’s still boring as heck. There is little reason to explore the galaxy, and so I certainly won’t be exploring all the planets again like I did in the first game.
I like that some of the choices that you made in the first game carry over to the second and are mentioned. It does help make it seem like a continuing story. For my character, this includes the romance with Liara, even though in the second game she’s going after Chambers.
I wish that there were more general missions that aren’t loyalty missions, like the missions that you get in your personal messages. Those encouraged both exploration of other parts of the galaxy and picking up resources while you’re there. But I mostly ran out of them in the second act, and so was just ensuring all of the loyalty of my crew, which served the same purpose … but I wanted more.
One big issue with the game is indeed the missions. Most of the missions are disturbingly similar: go out and kill a lot of things and get a reward at the end. Since the combat isn’t particularly interesting, this gets very boring after a while. But when they tried to mix up the missions — Thane’s, for example, being a following mission — you ended up having to learn new mechanics that you’d never seen before too quickly, which got frustrating. So when they did the standard, you likely knew how to handle it but it was more of the same, but when they tried to do new things, you didn’t know how to handle it and so ended up restarting and reloading a lot if you wanted to finish it properly. It’s pretty much the story and the characters that made me keep playing this, and again fortunately the missions tended to be short.
I like the characters, although because of the link to the loyalty system I think I interact with them less. Most of them didn’t want to interact with me too much until I passed their loyalty mission, at which point at times they started talking to me, at which point I cared less about it with it being so close to the end of the game. I would have liked comments all through the game, but with the loyalty angle I can kinda see why they did that. Still, TOR did it better, but had more points along the way that could trigger things to make that work out.
My favourite characters are Mordin and, perhaps surprisingly, Miranda. I initially took her along on every mission as kinda a “You’re pushing this, so you have to see how it works” and then when I got Jack always brought the two of them along to annoy both — as I think Cain would do — which worked out nicely. And talking to Miranda does let you know more about her, and makes her out to be less of a shrew and someone who cares about someone, and you can even find out that that’s why she’s with Cerberus. But I think that her experience in Jack’s mission did shake that a bit, making the purported end of the game make more sense. Mordin is just a lot of fun to talk to pretty much all of the time, and I’m not even going to get the “Thane” comment that you saw in the SF Debris playthrough of the game.
Right now, all I have left to do is Jacob’s loyalty mission, the IFF, Legion’s loyalty mission, and the final battle. Since it is on a rotation, I’ll likely finish it in the next month or two, unless I swap Conception II out for a while and play it in its place. Hopefully, the final mission will not simply slaughter me and I can add this to the list of games that I’ve finished.