Traveling across galaxies trying to recruit a band of heroes for a “suicide mission” can be tough work. Commander Shepard, a trained human soldier, is on a mission to save the universe from the threats facing civilization. In Mass Effect 2 the latest threat is from the alien race known as the Reapers. The Reapers, working in conjunction with the mysterious Collectors, are causing human colonies along the fringe frontiers to disappear. In order to face the Reapers, Shepard and crew with have to use the the Omega-4 Relay to reach the Reavers part of space. It’s a suicide mission for one man alone; you will have to make valuable allies along the way both human and alien. Shepard will save the day, that is, before he dies. Because you basically start this action-oriented, role playing game floating in space, dead.
WARNING: Slight spoilers on an older game ahead

The Normandy SR-2 that appears in ME2, the “successor” to the SR-1 from ME1

 Mass Effect 2 expands the cast of characters and groups in this already dense fictional universe. It’s the sequel to the first Mass Effect game (which was and is still, an XBox exclusive). The first group Shepard will meet is Cerberus, a militant organization with pro-human values. Cerebus has dealings in the black market and is responsible for behind-the-scenes work. That is, work outside the eyes of the Alliance, which polices most activity in the universe. Cerberus’s current project, “Lazarus”, is a radical, scientific process that revives Commander Shepard using the latest tech the year 2148 can provide. Shepard awakens during an attack on the Cerberus station where the experiment is taking place. Wasting no time he gets back work as the trained soldier he is. After being brought up to speed on the situation and the lingering threats Commander Shepard agrees to work with Cerberus to continue his mission to prevent the Reaper invasion. While he doesn’t agree with some of their methods they share the same motives to stop the Reapers.

Working with Cerberus does have its perks despite some of their more shady deals. They have reconstructed your starship the Normandy and located members of your old crew, some of which are already at their stations on the ship. Shepard must recruit and gain the loyalty of a diverse team to stand a chance against the Reapers. Cerberus provides you valuable intel in your mission against the Reapers. They have also supplied dossiers on perspective new crew members that will help you in your mission.

Sometimes dubbed a “Shooter-RPG”

The game itself is action RPG. The majority of the gameplay is a tight 3rd person shooter mechanic. There are well rendered CG cut scenes with dialog choices really allowing you to take control of your character. It’s up to your moral choices in conversation whether you are going to follow the path of the paragon or the renegade. Other forms of game play are short “hacking” scenarios in the form of puzzles, piloting the M-44 Hammerhead transport and mining planets for ore.

The developers of Mass Effect 2, Bioware are known for the sheer scope of the story they have constructed. Believable alien cultures with detailed worlds to explore. The individual characters all have rich histories. Shepherd’s own journey may be the the central plot but one can happily get lost exploring all the side quests and missions available. Of course, the longer missions are more fun, they generally test your skills against a boss type character. The story can really take some surprising twists during dialogue exchanges between Shepard and NPCs. The choices you make affect your experience. Choose between Paragon (good) and Renegade (bad) to determine how your Shepard acts. It is wise to commit to Paragon or Renegade throughout the entire game. Not only are you rewarded with additional dialogue choices, you will enjoy a better gaming experience. The Mass Effect 2 story really heats up when you achieve a romance with another character. I have eyes for a certain alien myself.

Do I want Purple or Green for this mission?

No soldier in the future is specialized in just weapons and melee fighting. Advances in technology and the study of mass effect fields have equipped beings with biotics, crafted to their bodies. All members of the crew, including Shepard, have a multitude of equipped biotic powers. Powers like weapons can be upgraded throughout the campaign using collect Element Zero. Before each mission you will select from your crew two members to accompany you, strategy is involved in picking crew members with appropriate powers. If you know you’re going into a tough fight you’ll want to a companion to have barrier powers or a concussion shot to the head, which can hit targets around corner. Other powers include advanced melee fighting, invisibility and force throws.

Running a ship like the Normandy with a full crew gets expensive fast. Luckily, the universe seems to run on some common elements found on different planets and moons. A lot of time will be spent mining. Mining is basically a mini game, similar to lockpicking or bomb defusing in other games. Scan the planetary orbs and launch probes at spiking element areas. There are four ores that you collect Platinum, Palladium, Iridium and the most rare Element Zero. The different ores are associated with specific upgrades be them weapons, shields or biotic upgrades. Not a very “green” feeling game, I did feel a little bad stripping the known universe of all of its precious elements. 

She’ll love you no matter what your wearing

Role playing games in general seem to always have the same flaws. Most of which are offset due to the detail and length of Mass Effect 2. That said, the usual culprits like broken dialog during cut scenes and choppy graphic glitches are present. Frame rate issues where some pieces move and others stutter. Almost expected with a game this big: game freezing. If this is your first RPG you may notice most gamers are a custom to this happening every once and again.

This is about as close to space travel as you are likely to get. If you ever dreamed of intergalactic battles or going where no man has gone before than this is your game. It’s basically a love letter to sci-fi crafted by a team obviously devoted to creating a quality game. The game leaves you with a lasting bond with the characters and is sure to make it onto your personal favorite games list. I do have some complaints, at times, I felt like I was organizing a field trip. Meeting a character and earning his or her loyalty basically equates to getting their permission slip signed. I’m all for all for team work but it’s time authors move past the Tolkien-esque “Fellowship” routine. Perhaps next time we start with a full crew, do their individual missions and try to keep them alive. A small grievances for a title which will go down in gaming history and as a Gamedae Favorite.

Commander you have received a new message at your private terminal