11
Feb
10

On Mass Effect 2

So I’ve been playing Mass Effect 2 a whole lot lately – down to the point where I actually started a second playthrough right after the first that’s even largely identical to the first with a few minor tweaks in places; same imported character, same class, same overall path.. I don’t normally do that – usually I need a pause in-between playthroughs to have a new approach to a character rather than just fall into the same patterns, so the only conclusion I can really draw is that I don’t really feel.. well.. done with my character yet. For some reason I need some more time before I can feel at ease setting her aside for the final chapter of the triology.

As part of my attempts at processing the experience, I felt I needed to write in the least some things about the game, get some moments, experiences and events through my mind before I can lay them to rest – if only for the moment. So, this particular post will contain a significant amount of spoilers from the game; knowing I have a few friends who have yet to have the chance to play it and wanting to go into the experience blind, I figured I’d put up a fair warning. I’m thinking of making a second post that’s about more generic thoughts, but we’ll see if it happens. Still, you’ve been warned.


Right, so with that out of the way, first things first: meet Kate Shepard. A friend of mine remarked that she looks a little bit like Areen, which I admit I didn’t even notice until she pointed it out to me – the similarity wasn’t nearly as apparent in Mass Effect 1 and I actually ended up doing nothing to tweak her appearance going from the first to the second game – I actually expected to make tweaks, but the moment I first saw her imported face load up and was greeted with this strong feeling of “That’s her. Right there!”. I just kept it as is – I didn’t need to change her, she was fine as she was.

Kate was the character I made playing Mass Effect 1 while waiting for the Mass Effect 2 Collector’s Edition to arrive – a select few european countries had its release delayed by as much as a week with no official acknowledgement or explaination whatsoever, so I needed something to do during the wait, and certain people kept nudging me towards continuing from an existing save rather than starting over. I had my doubts whether I could actually be bothered since my Mass Effect 1 playthroughs have boiled down to formulaic reflex responses to just about every dialogue, but with the benefit of hindsight, I’m actually very grateful that I was convinced into giving it a try: my Mass Effect 2 experience would’ve been so much less without the journey, the events, the choices and the memories carrying over.

Kate Shepard was, and is, a Soldier. She shoots things. That doesn’t stop her from being highly capable of answering diplomatically and convincing people to see things her way, nor from being an overall friendly person who prefers to stick to her principles insofar possible, but when worst comes to worst she won’t explode things with her holographical glove or toss them around with her mind – she’ll shoot them in the face, sometimes from extreme range.

She’s slightly different from my normal Mass Effect 1 Shepard – most playthroughs I’ve been running with a spacer named Anne, mostly because I like the unusual situation of a character whose parents are still alive. Kate, on the other hand, hails from the colony of Mindoir and can be a little more ruthless at times, though she still generally sticks to the Paragon path. The changes were mostly becuase I wanted – needed – something to be different so it felt I could create a new, and whole, character out of it, rather than just a blank face that followed the same old well-worn path. Kate still made most of the choices Anne did, of course, but every so often she’d do something slightly different, because it fit her better.

I hit the ground running, and having only a day or two between finishing Mass Effect 1 and going into Mass Effect 2 left all the characters, faces and voices fresh in my mind; though I knew what the intro would be like – something had spoiled that for me somewhere – it was still a strange experience to see the old Normandy – for lack of a better word – bleeding. And then there’s waking up, and after the tutorial level of trying to adjust to the new control scheme and the new mechanics, suddenly Tali’Zorah was there, and then Joker; and I swear I went “She rises! Like a phoenix!” at the screen when I saw the new Normandy take air (space?) for the first time. And it wasn’t just that either – dropping down on Omega suddenly had me running into a face – and a voice – that sounded quite familiar and suddenly Kate was sharing a few words with a former criminal she herself convinced to retire in the first game, and it took me completely by surprise that she was even mentioned, let alone there for me to talk to.

Of course then there was the mission to collect Archangel, and as much as you’d think a Turian in a blue and black armor would’ve tipped me off, I felt as surprised – and pleased – to see Garrus as Kate sounded. I knew he was in the game somewhere, but I didn’t know where, and I definitely hadn’t expected to run into him that early.

Then, of course, there was Kaidan Alenko, and as brief as the meeting was.. seeing Kate and him embrace right off was sweet. Naturally, it did go downhill from there.. but I noticed the photo of him she had in her cabin after, and between that and the mail he sent her and the talk with Yeoman Chambers about him and I actually felt somewhat good about how Kate still cared in spite of everything. The moment she took looking at his picture before setting off to the final mission was just great too, and made me feel all the more happy about not pursuing the new love interests the game threw at me.

Speaking of the love interests, I’m not sure if the above could be considered the symptom or the cause (or both) for it, but for some reason the love interests the game offered me while playing a female Shepard seemed very blatant and forward.. and, well, bland. Jacob I found myself outright avoiding because trying to talk with him seemed like tiptoeing a minefield where the mines were set to flirt instead of explode, with Garrus I just couldn’t find myself going that option, and as much as I liked Thane’s spiritual side, I couldn’t see him being Kate’s type.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing to what extent Kate and Kaidan get to sort things out in Mass Effect 3.

Then, of course, there’s Tali.

Tali’Zorah was always one of my favourite characters in Mass Effect 1; between the design, the accent and her mannerisms, she and Garrus easily rate as my favourite two alien crewmembers in the first game. Just seeing her again really early on was welcome; getting to pick her up for the team was even greater, and then came her personal quest..

I can honestly say that the “heroic act” (to use BioWare’s own terminology) to give Tali a comforting hug as she grieves her father’s corpse is probably the most heartfelt moment I’ve had in the entire series at this point, and Kate later lambasting the admirals for trying to drag Tali into their little political games without concern for her grief was fantastic. The voicing and character animations both really delivered, and for me personally, that sidequest makes for one of the absolute high points of the game.

Of course.. all this also means I’m really hoping for the opportunity of some all but sisterly bonding between the two in the third game, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Now I know male Shepards can get to romance her – I’ve seen it, and I think it’s rather a cute set of exchanges – but to be honest.. I think I prefer the dynamic of thinking of her as little sister Tali.

It was quite the journey, the whole game – I found I actually grew to like more team members than I expected, and I loved all the little hints, nudges, references and mentions they put in about past exploits. Meeting Wrex was great – he and I never really saw eye to eye in the first game, and yet seeing him being all “Shepard! My friend!” when I met him on Tuchanka, I swear I would’ve picked the option to hug him if there was one. Though Mass Effect 2 can definitely coast on its own merits, seeing, knowing and remembering all these people I’d run into from time to time made it just so much greater an experience. I never really imagined the degree of which BioWare would refer to the choices made, and it really feels like a proper sequel – not just “oh you got this ending” but that every choice you made mattered, every thing you cared about was important.

The wait for Mass Effect 3 is going to be a tough one I’d wager – it’s not just the story of a Shepard – it’s the story of your Shepard, spanning three games no less. Of course, it has a whole lot to live up to, but I really want to see what happens – I want to see Kate’s journey through.

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6 Responses to “On Mass Effect 2”


  1. 1 Aries
    February 11, 2010 at 19:23

    agree completely Nhani, and i thank you for the minor spoilers…you managed to point out a couple things that i may have done in my play through but didnt really notice at the time…i will have to do a second play through, lol…although i may wait until closer to ME3…although who knows i might feel the need to play ME1 again by then.

  2. February 13, 2010 at 22:41

    I wish i played Mass Effect…..

  3. 4 arzevel
    February 17, 2010 at 12:51

    when i played i started pursuing jacob for the achievement but got bored with it around the time i picked up legion, in her office is showed the picture of kadin pulled down and then later an interesting cutscene of her throwing it at the fish tank….

  4. 5 Furau
    February 24, 2010 at 12:02

    The return of the Normandy was one of the most single defining moments of the game for me, a sudden feeling of sheer, delighted laughter and pleasure that a game almost never gives me, no matter how good it is.

    for the first time ever I understood the point often made about a ship being more then a collection of sails and a hull and wood (or in this case metal and engines), ships can have -souls-, and what made this movent so profound was that I truly understood for the first time what people mean when they say that.


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