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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.