Mass Effect 2. As Shepard leads her merry band of misfits into the mists of my failed memory.

So I’m finally, finally, finally playing Mass Effect 3!  YAY!!  And I’m having a blast…and it sucks.  Sucks because I’m playing on borrowed time.  My lovely husband managed to borrow a copy of ME3 from one of his co-workers, and I couldn’t be more grateful to either of them.  But, since this co-worker has not yet done all the things there is to do in the game, he would like the game back in a timely fashion.  My husband should have warned him that the only time I can game is on the weekends, and that’s only if time allows.  It’s been a few weeks, and I feel like I have to make as much progress as I can during each meager session of play.  I’ve been avoiding many of the side quests and only once went back to replay a mission because I didn’t like the initial outcome.  I really have no idea how far into the game I am, and every time I think the end is coming, another lengthy quest gets thrown my way.  I’m not complaining, but I WILL have to buy a copy of the game later, for sure.

And this not-quite-speed-play has made me realize one thing: I need to replay Mass Effect 2. Like, in a bad way, because parts of ME3’s story are not making much sense to me.  I know I have a terrible memory, but things are happening that I just can’t place in the context of the previous game.  I remember the events, people, and places of ME1 clear as day, but ME2 is very cloudy.

Mass Effect 2 cover art © Bioware, EA, Microsoft (source)

The last time I played ME2 was 2 years ago…2010…it might have well as been 200 years ago.  And though I imported all four of my ME1 characters, I only ever played through with one of them. (My second replay is in stasis, on Illuim I think.)  That’s not how I thought things would go, of course. I envisioned playing each one until my thumbs turned blue, but this was our 360’s blue period and it had a tough time loading the game.  Just getting it to work through a single play through was excruciating.  And then we moved and life when to shit because of our awful downstairs neighbors, and then we moved again and things got better.  Now the 360 is working like a champ.

Anyway.

SOME SPOILERS TO SURELY FOLLOW

When it came time to play ME2, the first decision to make was which character to start first – no easy task.  I had three women – an infiltrator, a vanguard, and a sentinel – and one guy, a soldier.  After a lot of staring at the TV on going through each character in my mind, I went with my paragon vanguard with the military past, Alexandra.  I thought she was my most “likeable” Shepard, and she was my highest leveled character (which, much to my dismay, didn’t make any difference).  I fooled around a little with the facial features, making her appear a little older.  I don’t know why I wanted some level of “realism” to show that time had passed, but whatever.  I like character creation and alteration.  So there.

I also liked the customization that was allowed during the game. Any chance to play dress up, I’m on that. (source)

And off I went into the ME2 wilds. Now, as much as I’ve forgotten some key events in the game, I remember its basic premise and the new characters.  After a terrible wreck of the SSV Normandy (Joker appeared to be the only survivor), Shepard, presumed dead, was “reconstructed” and brought back to life by the pro-human organization, Cerberus, which was headed by a mysterious figure named the Illusive Man.  He informed Shepard that human colonies were being wiped out across the galaxy – he thought the Reapers were the main culprit.  In return for being revived, he wanted Shepard to investigate.  She was given a new ship, the Normandy SR-2, helmed by Joker, and a full crew that included Cerberus agents named Jacob and Miranda.  During their first(?) mission, the team discovered that a volatile, insect-like race called the Collectors was behind the disappearances (acting as servants of the Reapers – this is found out later in the game).  Shepard then set out, still under the Illusive Man’s reigns, to stop the Collectors on what was deemed a suicide mission (brought up a whole lot during the game).  Once Shepard had assembled the team, off they went on a one-way trip through the Omega-4 Relay to stop the Collectors and save the human race.

Mordin was my favorite new ME2 character. I loved his phraseology and logic. And he was a badass with a pistol. (source)

Unlike the race against time in Mass Effect 1, Mass Effect 2 is essentially a find-and-retrieve game.  Though there are plenty of sidequests, a number of them involve gaining the loyalty of your new-found crew members.  The game feels much more like a sci-fi romp rather than a balls-to-the-wall action game.  Sure, there was plenty of adventuring and shooting, and a pretty fantastic end boss, but ME2, to me anyway, didn’t have that OMG-I-MUST-PROGRESS-NOW-NOW-NOW feeling of ME1.  It was a little more laid back.

And yes, the game was fun, but the story didn’t captivate me quite as much as ME1.  This may have been because I only got through it once, or because I’m not remembering as well as I could.  I mean, I felt kinda meh about Cerberus in the first game.  I wasn’t very curious about them then, and I felt even less curious in ME2.  I didn’t care all that much about Miranda’s or the Illusive Man’s motives or necessarily about assembling a team of brand new people.  I was happy to see most ME1 characters in some sort of role, from heavy (Garrus, Tali) to light (Kaiden, in this particular playthrough, since I sacrificed Ashley in ME1).  I had hoped that more of the original folks would have been available to play, but I got that the Cerberus connection would be a problem.  I like revisiting the past, nostaglia make me feel all warm and fuzzy.  As proof, I romanced Garrus because he was familiar (and because I really liked his voice.  Still do.)

Haha. Oh Garrus. Those “interrupts” were a strange thing in ME2. With my bad reflexes, I usually missed them. (source)

There are apparently a couple different ways the game can end, depending on who your recruit and your team members’ loyalties.  The Illusive Man sent you off to find six or seven different people, and there is at least one optional character, maybe more. (There are also new characters available in DLC.) As I mentioned, I only beat the game once, and I can’t for the life of me remember how it ended.  Who survived?  Was there a strange Luke and Leia moment staring out at star ships like at the end of Empire Strikes Back?  I remember the Reapers appearing in full, but that was in the very final scene.  Yeah, I know there’s a little summary screen at the start of ME3 describing your characters past decisions, but it didn’t really help.

Now that I’m playing ME3, it seems much more strongly tied to ME2 than ME2 was to ME1.  So bits of the story are really falling flat and it’s bothering me.  I know there’s more depth to be realized, but I just can’t remember why.  I’m still going to plow ahead with ME3 for reasons I’ve already mentioned, but I know ME2 is better than I’m thinking it is.  I’ll get back to ME2 at some point, and maybe I’ll prepare to take notes.

8 thoughts on “Mass Effect 2. As Shepard leads her merry band of misfits into the mists of my failed memory.”

  1. Yaaaay! ME3 is soooo fun. Had I known you hadn’t played it yet, I would’ve mailed you my copy to play until your heart was content (well, maybe not totally content, but not an almost-speed run). That’s right, I love that game so much, I would send my copy to a blog acquaintance. Everyone should play it.

    Having said that, I think ME2’s final boss and fight was so much more epic, and not just because of the controversy surrounding all of ME3’s ending, but just on it’s own, ME2’s ending was so wonderful.

    I did hear a great critique of ME3 comparing it’s pacing to ME2, saying pretty much what you said, but praising ME2 for letting players make their own pace and penalizing ME3 for making players rush and then all of the sudden the reapers are at your doorstep. I could see the logic, I’m not sure if I agree or not. I love both too much to decide.

    ME3 had problems initially with character import, and I didn’t want to change anything of my ME2 character so I just started a brand new one on the release day, but apparently I missed out on some great content . . . so the last thing I have to do is play through with an ME2 import. Which I can’t do yet because I’m still (slowly slowly) working on beating ME2 on the Insanity level of difficult, which is ridiculously harder than ME3 on the Insanity difficult setting. I rage quit often, hence the slow play through.

    Anyway, as evidence by the four paragraphs I just vomited, I could talk about the ME series for days. Glad you’re having fun, I’d love to hear more of your thoughts after you get a chance to buy it and play it at your leisure!

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    1. Haha, you’re too kind! But thanks for the thoughtfulness. I’m certainly getting the sense from the way I’m playing through ME3 that I’m moving too quickly, but I’ve gotta get through it if only to see this ending that people are STILL talking about! But I’m also looking forward to revisiting ME2. Unfortunately all I remember, as I wrote, was being underwhelmed and that’s really unfortunate. My goal is to play through all the games with all my ME1 Shepards and then maybe play through 2 and 3 with new characters. All the while not forgetting the tons of new games I’ve yet to play or are yet to be released.

      I think time is probably laughing at me right now.

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  2. That sounds like an interesting series. I need to look into it. I have trouble remembering stories, too. I was determined to remember the story of “Jak 3”, because even after playing twice, I had no idea what was happening. My third time through, I was going to focus, and then I must’ve zoned out, because I still am at a loss for what happened. My brain likes to go for a walk sometimes.

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    1. Brains need walks and exercise too…like dogs. Except they’re nowhere near as cute. The older I get, the less I can handle distractions while gaming. I was really distracted by life during ME2, but I found wearing headphones (connected to the tv) helped me focus (kinda) …now I always wear headphones. And the quieter the house is the better. But we aren’t very quiet people so success comes and goes.

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  3. Thanks for the pingback. It’s funny that at the moment you think ME2’s story wasn’t as captivating as ME1’s. From what I’ve read from reviewers who look back at all three games in the trilogy, most love ME1 and ME2 the best. I think some have considered ME2 to be a grade above ME1.

    I did enjoy ME2, mainly because you learn more about your companions and the fact that who you choose to execute certain actions at the very end of the game may either mean survival or death for a lot of characters. I liked that twist in the end. It made the constant reminder of the Omega-4 mission being a suicide job that more real and not something to take lightly. The bigger story in ME2 isn’t as great as ME1, but it was strongest with the character stories in the game. ME3 was a bit weak on that front.

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    1. This is exactly why I want to replay ME2. I’ve read the reviews praising it over ME1, and like I said, I know the story is be better than I remember it. Circumstances being what they were, with a failing 360 (or so we thought), I concentrated more on just making it through a session without the console dying than on the story of the game. Upon starting ME3, I just couldn’t remember who lived and died in ME2 (I just met Jacob in ME3, so I guess he didn’t). So far, I really like ME3, and I do agree that the character development in it is not as strong as the other games.

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