Editor’s Note: Each week in December we’ll be unveiling another nominee for Blast’s 2010 Game of the Year Award, here’s our this week’s — Bioware’s space masterpiece Mass Effect 2. Keep checking back each week until the final week, when we reveal the winner along with all of the yearly award winners.
The release of Mass Effect in November 2007 was the beginning of a cult following and the birth of a wonderful RPG franchise from Bioware. The major aspects of Mass Effect that made the first title shine weren’t just your typical answers like beautiful graphics and fun gun play (some opinions were the combat was clunky). The story of Commander Shepard and the characters that joined you along the way made this title the epic RPG that it was. The universe that Bioware introduced us to had the depth and creative story to suck gamers in and have them wanting more. The announcement that your game save from the first title would have a direct impact on the sequel left the gaming community waiting in even bigger anticipation.
The level of excitement for the release of Mass Effect 2 made me a little skeptical for a few reasons. The promises that Bioware made in assuring gamers a more developed story and revamped combat for the sequel had me worried. The balance between RPG elements and combat are tricky and I was afraid if Bioware went to much in one direction the franchise would lose its RPG roots and epic story. The announcements of voice over contributors such as Martin Sheen and others had me worried as well. I didn’t want to see Mass Effect go the route of say, the Call of Duty franchise, with huge explosions, big name voice over talent, and a sub-par story (not to mention a new game every 6 months). I wanted my thirty plus hours I put into the first Mass Effect to mean something, and for the sequel to blow me away.
On January 26th 2010 Mass Effect 2 was released and Bioware delivered on every promise made with a sequel that I can say, is an almost perfect action RPG. The game was an instant game of the year contender for many reasons. There is one fact that had been true since I had been a young lad and even rang true in the first Mass Effect. When you have an RPG, the combat will be turn based and not as smooth as say, an FPS title. That wall has been torn down thanks to Bioware. Mass Effect 2 has a smooth FPS like combat in a RPG setting. The dreams of gamers being able to duck and take cover after blasting an enemy in the face with a rocket launcher, or look down the sights of a sniper rifle in slow motion in an RPG, were answered. This successfully brought in the interest of gamers that have never even purchased an RPG before. The core fans of the franchise like myself didn’t cringe at this new combat system or the FPS elements either, because of the story and in depth character detailing. The universe that Bioware had developed in the first title was back, and better than ever.
The evolved combat, epic story, or improved graphics are not the only aspects that awarded this title a game of the year nomination by Blast Magazine. The choices you made in the first title had a deep impact in the sequel, just as Bioware promised. This was the first time a sequel actually took a game save from the first title and made you deal with the consequences. For example if you (as I did) decided to have Wrex take a bullet in the first title he would not be around in the sequel. The blank slate that is Commander Shepard and the tools Bioware has given you to mold him or her into your own hero or anti-hero are nothing short of amazing. This game keeps you coming back for replay after replay and just playing as a different class warrants another play through.
The main factor that really sets this franchise apart and brings Mass Effect 2 to the top is the characters you meet that join your mission along the way. There are a lot of RPG’s or action RPG’s out there that have characters that join the main character along the way. These characters help you fight or play a part in the story but in most cases you never really get to know their back story, and many won’t hold your interest for very long. This is what sets Mass Effect 2 apart from the rest; I had such a blast getting to know every character in this game, and their back-stories. The team at Bioware did such a great job with these characters. Besides them having special combat abilities, they also have great stories and you feel a real connection to them. My two favorites were Jack the wild, emotionally-disturbed, biotic-powerhouse, and Mordin the scientist who would talk a thousand words per minute, and even break into song at moments.
. The gaming market right now has so many titles out there that have over priced or lack luster DLC. I can’t tell you how many times I have shelled out 800 Microsoft points for a couple weapons in a game and been highly disappointed. The DLC market in my opinion has felt like a way for developers to make a little more cash, not quality additional content for the gamer to enjoy. There has never been a game that offered armor, weapons, characters, and expansions for such fair prices. The sheer amount of DLC support this game received was phenomenal especially since the game is quite large to begin with.