Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mass Effect 2

I'm sure everyone in gaming is going to do a review of Mass Effect 2, but I'm still going to toss out my opinion as well. The short version is that this is a great game with very few flaws. It's got good game play (with one exception), a great story, good graphics, good voice acting, interesting characters, pretty much everything you need to make a good video game. If you want a detailed analysis of all those factors, then go elsewhere. I'm just going to cover the high points and the low points of the game as I see them.

First a little good news/bad news. The good news is that the most annoying mini-game from ME1, the driving around on planets bit, is gone. The bad news is that they replaced it with an equally annoying mini-game that forces you to scan planets for resources from orbit. This scanning is tedious and boring and unfortunately necessary in order to upgrade your gear. This factor is the only thing keeping ME2 from being one of the most re-playable games in recent memory (edit: see below for more info).

Fortunately, that's about the only bad thing in the entire game. There's a couple of minor quests that can take some effort to finish, but the solutions are out there on the web already if you don't want to waste a lot of time. There's also a couple of bugs, but nothing major, like one minor quest that won't clear from your log even after you complete it.

The biggest plus with this game is something that I can't praise enough: the autosave. Finally, someone figured out that pausing every few minutes to save the game isn't fun. This game autosaves seamlessly before every combat, and even between waves of many combats, to the point that I almost never felt the need to save my game for fear of having to run through the same series of combats again and again.

Of course, the autosave itself is not a new concept, but I've had so many experiences in other games where I get through a series of tough fights, barely making it, and then one more enemy pops out from an unexpected direction and kills me, forcing me to go all the way back to the beginning of the series of fights because that's where the last autosave was. That never happened in ME2.

Sure, there were some tough fights, and I died a few times, but I never had to go back and fight through hordes of enemies that I'd already defeated once just to get to the fight that I was having trouble with. The autosave almost always brought me back to the beginning of the fight I was having trouble with rather than forcing me to go through all those previous hordes again. At worst I had to go through one previous wave before getting to the hard one.

I hope every game designer out there is taking notes, because this implementation of autosave is pure awesome!

The rest of the game is pretty good too, and I highly recommend it, although I recommend the PC version if your system can handle it, if only because the planet scanning mini-game is slightly less annoying using a mouse than it is using the Xbox controller. At least it is if the comments from my friends playing it on the 360 are anything to go by.

Edit: I got around to starting a new character, and it looks like it gives you a rather large starting bankroll of resources, which may make playing the scanning mini-game less necessary. I haven't played too much into it yet, so can't tell for sure, but if so this would give the game far more replayability.

Second Edit: A friend of mine who has played further into his second game says that the starting bankroll of resources is nice, but there's not nearly enough to avoid having to play the scanning mini-game quite a bit during his second play through.

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