Mass Effect 2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Starfox / Silver Sorrow   
Tuesday, 28 September 2010 00:32
Article Index
Mass Effect 2
The universe as you see fit
RPG... or not RPG
Alien commerce
Combat Overhaul
Welcome to other worlds
Bioware lands
Hollywood Boulevard
Technicalities and conclusion
All Pages

Mass Effect 2

RPG... or not RPG

So here we reach the awkward bit. It's normally the part where we should describe the different RPG elements of the game and... Well, there's not much to see, at first glance at least. It's hard to talk about a RPG game where some of what are considered the pillars of RPG games since they were only played with paper, pencils and dice have been considerably shrunk down or otherwise eliminated. Starting with the character's sheet. Well not much to see there. Most of the abilities that you can increase are combat ones and there is only one “passive” ability regrouping everything else (like the ability to secure a diplomatic solution or your defensive capabilities) depending on the character's class. In that regard, Mass Effect 2 is much poorer than the first game that included special abilities that you could choose or not and two separate skills linked to the Paragon and Renegade level that were ruling the availability of diplomatic solutions. In Mass Effect 2 your Paragon and/or Renegade levels directly determine if you can try a diplomatic solution or not. In the first Mass Effect you had to train your character to effectively use a gun; in Mass Effect 2 your character can automatically use efficiently any gun pertaining to the class it belongs to so of course the gunnery skills were also removed from the character's sheet.

I miss assigning little dots to my skills. However, I don't miss being incompetent with those skills until I build them up quite a bit. In ME2 if you can carry a sniper rifle, you can use it without your crosshair drifting all over the place as if you were completely drunk on rubbing alcohol.

Then there is the inventory. In our review of the first Mass Effect, we discussed at leisure how much the inventory system could be a pain in the ass, especially regarding the management. Bioware apparently (and because we were certainly not the only ones to complain) decided to act swiftly... by removing the inventory entirely. Yeah, you are still able to choose your weapon load-out (and the one of your teammates) before a mission and much more rarely during a mission at some special key points but otherwise there's no inventory system to speak of. Not that it is very much needed because except for the heavy weapon Shepard can embark you'll probably not want to change the others that much as there are only a handful of different weapons and the weapons you find at some point are definitely better than the ones you previously had.

I can accept change in the case of the weapons; most of the ME1 weapons were damn ugly (except for the Spectre weapons!), and the mind-numbing array of weapon mods...good riddance.

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As the inventory disappeared your ability to change armor on the fly disappeared too. Now you cannot even change the armor of your teammates, only Shepard's can be customized and only when aboard the Normandy. Although you now only have access to 2 armor (up to 4 depending on if you pre-ordered the game or if you bought the collector edition – but I'll let Silver discuss these), the N7 armor – which is the standard armor – is fully customizable regarding color and pattern which is rather a good thing (at least you can now go on the battlefield like a Man in Black or lighten up like a Christmas tree, the choice is yours). The N7 armor is also composed of several part (helmet, chest-plate, shoulder-plates, gauntlets and legs) that can be customized too by buying relevant pieces from the different merchants through the game. A piece of armor comes with specific advantages (some increase shields, some increase health, some other increase the max amount of ammo you can embark... and so on). Depending on the character you are playing, you'll probably go for a different N7 armor setup. Soldiers may tend to favor firepower while a pure biotics will best invest in maximizing shields and power damage. The other armor you get comes with subscribing to the Cerberus Network and inputing the redeemable code that comes with your game. It's the Cerberus armor, sadly not customizable at all. And there I lend the mike to Silver so he can tell you how much he hates the non-customizable part of the special armors.

Hey! Are you one of those poor unsuspecting slobs (like me) who went through some sort of extracurricular process, such as buying the Collector's Edition, or pre-ordering, or both, to get the game just for the cool extra armor? And, upon discovering that once you got that cool armor you couldn't remove the helmet(s) to play kissy-kissy with Liara (for example), did you beseech the lords of Hell to whip up a most terrible and unholy curse to inflict upon the reproductive organs of each and every Bioware employee?

Yeah, me too.

But since using dark magic is touch and go (I mean, probably a couple of testicles popped like cherry bombs at best) and probably violates the license agreement somehow, I suppose the only thing left to do is complain about it on the official forums until you're banned like a dog. (There's even a helmet removal advocacy group!) The backlash against Shepard wearing a full helmet everywhere he's in combat armor -- drinking, kissing, spitting in a turian's drink when it isn't looking, etc. -- probably led to the modular nature of the Kestrel armor in the Aegis Pack DLC. Unfortunately, it appears that modifying the existing special armors is something that no developer in his or her right mind will want to commit to, let alone address, as it's merely a cosmetic issue. But let's hope Bioware's taking notes for ME3.

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The shrinking down of the character's sheet and the removal of the inventory alone could put the game out of the RPG league in a breeze except that... Well except that Mass Effect 2 is still a RPG despite of this. Maybe it's just me but among the key elements of RPG are also how your character evolves, the depth of the story, the richness of the universe and the interaction with the NPCs. I won't discuss that right now but still, the way those elements alone are handled in the game is enough for me to not kick Mass Effect 2 out of the RPG league. And there's still enough gameplay to not put directly the thing in the “interactive movies” category. But first things first let's discuss the real problems (and after those are out, we'll be able to discuss the fine parts).


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