I Forgot how long this game is.
It’s kind of strange. Despite how much I hail Mass Effect 2 as one of the most important video games in my life, it found its way to the top of my “most important video games of the decade” list, it’s possible that it might be a video game that I’ve played too much. Which was the thought that kept entering my brain during the later 20 hours of working through this incredible thing.
When the Legendary Collection came out, all of the noise surrounding the game was in regard to the changes made to improve the look and quality of life of playing the first game, which was undoubtedly the black sheep of the trio. At least in terms of gameplay. In the end, after playing through the whole thing, I’m not sure I talked all that much about the changes when I wrote about that first game a couple of weeks back.
Everything they did to it changed it from a game you play despite the gameplay into something of a more modern game. Not a fantastic one, but one you don’t need to force your way through. In comparison, relatively little work was done to Mass Effect 2. I mean, hey, how do you improve on perfection? Well, the short answer is that you don’t: You just make it noticeably worse.
I’ll get into some of that later on in this post though. I don’t want to start this one by ragging on it.
As I mentioned when talking about the first Mass Effect: in so many ways, the sequel is a much different game than the first one. While so many aspects of the original game felt like they were born out of a studio used to making classic RPGS, Mass Effect 2 is a much more cinematic game in every conceivable way. And playing these two games back to make makes it so much more noticeable.
The amount of static, dead eyed conversations that take place in the first game makes it feel like I’m playing an old Bethesda game from the early 2000s. The changes made to even the most simple dialogue interaction in this game made such incredible strides in what ends up being the most important driving force behind this game.
The first Mass Effect is a game that feels like it’s emulating Star Trek in many ways: exploring a galaxy in your own ship in order to save the galaxy from a rogue Spectre and his army of evil robots. While the second Mass Effect undoubtedly continues that story, that’s not what the game it about.
Mass Effect 2 is video game about characters. The Collector plotline acting like a wraparound segment for what is essentially anthology series of character vignettes in which you meet someone, recruit them and then learn more about them, solving some personal dilemma along with them along the way.
As much as fans love Garrus Vakarian today, he never really became the lovable, awkward calibration machine we know him for until this game. And that’s, in no small part, due to how much time and effort when into all the character dialogue throughout this game. As I said, talking to characters in the first game would contain them standing bolt upright, staring at you with dead eyes and occasionally performing some canned animations.
Talking to characters in Mass Effect 2 isn’t like this at all. When you’re talking to Garrus in the main battery, he’ll brush past you, go out onto the gantry, lean over the railing and avoid eye contact with you. Bioware added so much more personality into the characters through this acting during dialogue that they end feeling like real people you want to know, help and end up crushing on. I know I did back in the day.
While most of my love of the franchise born in the first game came from pouring through the codex and filling in the blanks myself. I truly came to love the franchise because of Mass Effect 2 and how much effort was put into making every single member of the cast into these deep, complex and (for lack of a better term) very human presences.
Which is the main bulk of the game. Outside of a few Collector missions and the suicide mission at the end, the base game is almost entirely carried by meeting and growing attached to this (frankly, slightly too big) cast of crew members.
And while the character’s might steal the spotlight with vigour, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of new codex entries to pour through. Did you know Vorcha were basically a race of Doomsdays? I didn’t, and I’ve played this game like 10 times at this point.
Here’s the thing though. Playing through the game this time, in this Legendary Edition, kind of felt like there was some small sense of obligation on my part. This game is seared into my brain from how many times I’ve played it. From buying the Legendary edition, I was more interested in playing the first and third games, having spent much less time with the comparatively.
So much of this game is still so clear in my brain that I found myself looking for new things I hadn’t seen before, or at least things that I didn’t remember. Like that Vorcha codex entry, I found myself getting a real kick out of exploring the galaxy in my little ship and reading all of these planet descriptions as I did so.
Like exploring a real cluster of billions of stars, I ended up finding far more resources than I’d ever realistically ever need. But that didn’t stop me from going planet to planet and drinking in those little snippets of lore that were ultimately unrelated to anything else I’d ever do in any of the games.
The world of Mass Effect is such a well realised and fleshed out galaxy that I’m finding myself seriously going back and looking at the Mass Effect novels written in the late noughties. I’m finding myself needing a fix I don’t think these three games are going to satisfy on their own.
Which might have been Bioware’s plan all along when it came to these remasters.
But I said I had some complaints about this remaster. So I suppose I’ll get into that. So here’s the thing about remastering a near perfect game: you probably don’t have to do anything at all to it and people will still be happy. Improve the textures a little, cut down those load times. Everyone’s happy. But if you’re going to remake it and somehow introduce a bunch of bugs that weren’t present in the original version. You’ve gone and really screw up.
Playing through Mass Effect 2, I noticed the in game timer kept resetting to zero every time I hard saved my game and reloaded that save. Which is a minor quibble, but an issue not present in the original. Then you’ve got the dialogue sync issues. During a chunk of the middle of the game, characters audio would not begin until some time after the model started saying it.
At the absolute worst, the character audio would start just as the animation ended and would abruptly cut off as they started their next line. It was infuriating. Although something that I only suffered very briegly before it stopped happening. Again though, not an issue present within the original version of the game.
Finally, while I was exploring the world, I encountered a character who started talking to me as though I had enacted a renegade option with them in the previous game. Something I absolutely did not so. So here’s the thing. One of the big things Bioware pushed when it came to the Mass Effect trilogy was how much your choices mattered from game to game.
No matter your opinion how successful these choices ended up being from game to game, how the paragon and renegade options became a catch wall way to circumvent actually interacting with the game’s dialogue trees. If you’re getting the incorrect piece of information passed from one game to the next, especially when they diametrically opposed. You’ve really messed up and just destroyed the entire core of what your goals with these games in the first place.
Again, made all the worse by the fact that these issues weren’t present in the original version of the game.
I love Mass Effect 2. Even if playing it this time might have been a little too soon since the last time I played it. Which was as far back as 2018 at this point according to my blog. This version of the game remains relatively unchanged from the original version I remember playing back on the original 360 release. Sans the numerous bugs I just mentioned.
It really does seem like the first game was the one that god the real bulk of the work done to it within this collection. And having played the first two now, I feel like I could get past the fact that the developers didn’t update the first game’s combat to make it the same as the cover based, universal cooldown style seen in the sequels.
But having finished 2 and wasted no time in jumping right into 3, I suddenly find myself wishing they had made those changes in 2 instead. Because Mass Effect 3 is such a better game to play in the moment to moment, going back to play my renegade, insanity Fem-Shep run might be a little taxing to start all over again at this point.