Mass Effect 2: Afterthoughts

Posted: September 5, 2011 in Gaming, Industry
Tags: , , , , , , ,

So, as previously mentioned, I’ve been playing through all of the Mass Effect 2 DLC. There’s quite a lot of DLC for this game – there was a bonus character and a couple of new missions that you got for free provided you purchased a new copy of the game, there was another lot of free DLC post launch, and then a series of paid-for packs. Personally, I miss the days of expansions, so I haven’t quite gotten on-board the whole DLC train yet. I didn’t pick up the premium packs until there was a sale, and even then It took me this long to get around to playing it all. At least there shouldn’t be anymore, what with Mass Effect 3 so close and all.

Over all, I’m glad I got all the content in a sale – some of the premium items were a bit disappointing, but the free items were as good as you’d expect a free pack to be. I was also kind of disappointed that – aside from The Arrival – none of the extra content really fitted well with a completed game. All of the content is designed to fit in with everything else during a play through – which further encourages you to start a new play through I guess. That is one way of getting added replay value, but personally I’m not the type of gamer to replay games over and over, especially in a short space of time. That’s partially why it’s taken so long to get around to this. I would have liked to have seen more independent missions, or missions that weren’t blatantly meant to fit in during the pre-completion chronology of the game. Anyway, there were a few packs, so I’ll go through them in the order I played them:

** SPOILER ALERT **

Kasumi’s Stolen Memories

This pack introduced the second downloadable character after Zaeed, who was a bonus character you got free at launch provided you purchase access to the ‘Cerberus Network’ (which came free with a new purchase anyway). As a character, Kasumi seems fairly interesting, and her abilities are especially unique and very useful in fight. In fact, once I’d unlocked her she was a permanent member of my squad along with Legion in all of the DLC incursions after that. Considering this was a premium pack however (Zaeed was for all intensive purposes ‘free’), I had two main problems:

First off, Kasumi’s integration into the game was at the same level as Zaeed’s – Limited. Now, I’m willing to concede it wouldn’t have been an easy feat to retro-actively add Kasumi into all the important bits considering this pack was released well after launch, but considering we had to pay for it Bioware could have tried a bit harder. The problem I had with Zaeed is that, after you’ve met him and done his loyalty mission, that was it. He had no proper conversation engine: so if you went to visit him in his quarters, you wouldn’t go the conversation interface, he’d just be like an NPC, just more chatty.  It was exactly the same with Kasumi. She had no decent interactions outside of meeting her and her loyalty mission, and so you stop having anything to do with her pretty quickly.

Lastly – her loyalty mission itself had a lot of wasted potential. It started off well, with you having to infiltrate a party and crack into a safe without anyone noticing – different from the norm and was mildly challenging. Then there was the obligatory shoot-your-way-out segment, and then… oh. Nothing. It was kind of short, overall, and they wasted an opportunity to do something interesting with the memory device itself, especially considering what they did in the Project: Overlord pack. Overall, too short and the character is not given any room to grow… although at least she’s useful in a fight – never used Zaeed if I didn’t have to.

Firewalker Pack

This was the first major DLC pack for the game post-launch, and the last one to be given away for free. It’s main focus was to introduce the M-44 Hammerhead into the game. It was a hover tank, and the five ‘assignments’ (mini-missions) that came with it all had gameplay that revolved around the use of the his tank. It was great, as it was like having the Mako from Mass Effect back, just with more firepower and less of a bitch to use on awkward terrain. For a free pack, there was a respectable amount to do here, and the fact that the gameplay was completely different stopped it from being just more of the same.

The only we can really complain about is that – apart from Project Overlord – no other DLC pack featured the Hammerhead. Seems like a slightly was of resources to me, but hey it was still a nice little pack to play around with post-game.

Project: Overlord

Speaking of Project: Overlord, this is hands down my favourite DLC pack of the bunch. Basically, your called to a planet were a Cerberus-funded operation has gone awry. In attempts to control the Geth much like how Sovereign/Saren did in Mass Effect, some scientists have been experimenting with fusing VI and Human Intelligence. Again, not to give away too much ,but this is pretty interesting techno-thriller esque pack that combines both on-foot missions and even Hammerhead segments, making it pretty comprehensive and a good hour, hour-half’s worth  of gameplay

There’s even an interesting segment where, prior to the final ‘boss’, you’re actually fighting in virtual environment whilst the last key piece of the story are revealed to you. A really good segment, and it’s such a shame that Kasumi’s pack didn’t do something similar once they’d recovered the greybox with the memories in them. My favourite bit is the end, which managed to forge an emotional response almost equal to the climax of the main game. Ultimately, I feel videogames should strive to forge emotional connections with the players as often as possible, and this DLC pack certainly did in its closing moments. It all seemed so harmless…

Lair of the Shadow Broker

This pack is also in many ways the best pack, but it’s not my personal favourite. Unlike Overlord, it didn’t really connect with me emotionally, and to be honest I felt some of the segments were a bit boring and repetitive. It doesn’t make use of the Hammerhead, and the gameplay could have been taken from any point in Mass Effect 2. Saying that, this pack was a decent length, and it also had the most impact on the wider main game, making it really worth the money. As the name suggests, you finally help Liara track down the Shadow Broker and there’s several parts to this pack – tracking down Liara and dealing with the assassin sent to kill her, infiltrating the Shadow Broker’s Stronghold, and then a boss-fight with the broker himself.

As I said, a lot of it is pretty standard fair, even the boss fights, so there’s not a lot about the gameplay that will keep you interested. Also, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t remember Liara being so mono-tone and emotionless. Her performance seemed a bit wooden, if I’m being honest, although it might have been an attempt to show how she hadn’t been really ‘living’ since Shepard died – there’s some better moments towards the end. The most interesting thing about this pack is what happens after you’ve done the mission. For reasons I won’t spoil here, you get access to the Shadow Broker’s facilities, which offer you various little meta-segments like ‘investing’ in missions or causes for a cash return, buying charts to mineral rich planets, and even video logs – although the point of these still escape me. There are even amusing and insightful dossiers on several of the main characters.

Overall, not the most inspiring pack, but in terms of content and integration into the main game, definitely the one most worth buying I think, apart from Overlord.

The Arrival

Last, but not least, is The Arrival. This is really the only pack catered for post-completion, as it deals with the impending Reaper invasion and sets things up to lead in nicely to the start of the third game. Again, much like Kasumi’s pack, it starts of interesting as you have to infiltrate a prison in order to rescue someone. There’s even an achievement to do it without raising the alarm – something that I think should have been incorporated into the actual gameplay. Considering you were on your own as well, it had the same effect as the Firewalker pack in introducing an interesting and different way to play the game. Once you rescue the prisoner, you then have to naturally fight your way out, but this doesn’t last too long and you’re soon on your way to the second ‘half’ of the pack.

I won’t go into too much detail – but in essence it mainly involves more shooting and escaping. There’s a kind of hoard-like section were you have to survive for as long as possible against waves of enemies (there’s an achievement for surviving all the waves, which despite trying for an hour couldn’t do), but apart from that there’s not a lot too this half. The main character for this pack has an annoying accent and doesn’t really give a good performance, but the ending is pretty cool in an “impending doom” kind of way.

The rest of the DLC (apart from the launch DLC which I didn’t count as I played it at launch) were weapon and armour packs, which I refuse to buy as I think it’s the ugliest personification of the DLC business model. Sure, add in new weapons, armour, whatever in with the other content packs (which they did), but I draw the line at those kind of packs.

Bit of a long one today, but feel free to leave your thoughts.

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