A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Mass Effect 2 – Impression, Final


Welcome to my first “Final Impression” piece. This means I’ve pretty much nailed what makes this game great and why I like it so much. Honestly, it came to me in the car today while listening to the soundtrack of Mass Effect 2.

First of all, looking back at the articles I’ve already posted here discussing the things that make games great and the things I look for in a great game, I can point out several things that line up properly.

Let’s cite the list thus far: Music, Heroes, Progress, Context, and I’ll throw in Home.

Music: Mass Effect 2 has an absolutely stellar soundtrack. Seriously, it’s some incredible stuff. Unfortunately, it was pulled off of YouTube recently (yay terms of use violations) but it’s fantastic. There are pieces that just excel at conveying the emotion laden environments, the stress of combat pressing down upon you, the danger lurking around every corner. When you listen to the soundtrack by itself, you’re there, experiencing every pulse pounding drum beat, the trumpets blaring as danger approaches, the strings adding tension. It’s a complete orchestral experience from top to bottom. Sometimes it makes me sad, sometimes it makes me determined, and other times it makes me feel complete unadulterated HOPE.

Heroes: You and your crew are heroes. Plain and simple. You fought alongside them, but you also stopped to talk to them and learn about them and help them with their problems, even with the larger issue at hand. As you play, they don’t just become Shepard’s friends, they become YOUR friends. At the end of the game, no matter what happens, you pray that everyone comes out the other end alive. These are friends you come to care about. Together you are all heroes. Some are heroes to each other even. In the company of such people, such great friends, for a moment I become a hero, standing tall amongst my fellows as we stare down the Collector threat. We are the defenders of our people and we will stop at nothing to defeat those that would attempt to destroy them. They are MY heroes and they are MY friends and I would do anything for them.

Progress: As you go through the game, you gain levels and skills, but also as you move through the game, the world opens up to you. Other quests become available. New worlds are brought to your attention for an opportunity at exploration. Not only do you gain the mechanical sense of progress, but your relationships with your fellow crew members develop the longer you play. There are many measures of progress and they each provide a different sense of satisfaction.

Context: You’re out to save humanity from an unknown threat. As the game proceeds, you discover the nature of that threat. No, not JUST the nature of the threat, but the who, the where, the why, and the how. Seriously, the game reveals everything you  might want to know at a very reasonable and digestible pace. Further, everyone has a vested interest in stepping up, whether it be for money or for revenge or just out of loyalty to Shepard. In any case, you have a really good reason for fighting who you fight… the bad guys are really rather bad.

Home: You have the Normandy. It’s your home, it’s where you and your friends really get to know each other, and further, the Normandy’s your baby. You get to upgrade her and take good care of her and when the crap hits the fan, you know you can count on the Normandy to pull you through. See the article I wrote on Homes for more on this.

It’s the combination of these elements and more that makes Mass Effect 2 a fantastic game in my book. I’ve played through it twice now and I’ve got a third run in the works. Out of everything I’ve experienced in the game though, I want to share this; there are two specific cutscenes that send chills up my spine: the first, is near the beginning of the game where you are introduced to the Normandy Reborn. Freaking awesome. The second, well, it’s one of those edge-of-the-seat fist-pumping-awesome cutscenes near the very end when you go through the Omega 4 relay. The combination of the above items and several I haven’t touched on yet provide such an experience that you KNOW you’re a hero, that you’re in the company of heroes, and you’re about to do something completely crazy and awesome and desperate and heroic and NECESSARY. As the main character, you’re NEEDED or there is no game, no story, nothing.

So, to wrap this up I’ll paraphrase Zaeed Massani:

[Let’s go] concentrate on being big goddamn heroes.

– Elorfin

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