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Mass Effect 2 Day#1 and 2: Back from the Dead

Actually in Copenhagen as I write this, but I did start Mass Effect 2 before I left (Day 1 was a palette cleanse immediately after MW2 and thus two days in this post) and have a spare second right now as I struggle with jetlag. I like Mass Effect 1, although it was not without its problems. The beginning of Mass Effect 2 starts on the right foot, and I’m interested in it as soon as it starts. Some troubling indicators that I’m keeping an eye on, but the story starts decently well and the game has the right energy to keep me playing. Spoilers within.

I guess I should start by talking about Mass Effect 1. I finished that game, and I generally liked it. The writing was good, although I say on record that I think that BioWare is overrated as a storytelling group. They do solid work, but it’s nothing I consider exceptional, and Dragon Age was WAY overhyped for what was largely collaged fantasy classics for at least the first seven hours. On the plus side of ME1, I liked the combat a lot and there were a few very solid story choice points that gave me a real feeling of agency; on the minus side, the Mako scenes were horrifically bad, and the non-plot missions were basically pointless in terms of story. I finished it though, and liked it enough to buy the second one, so I’ll call myself mildly enthusiastic.

The very first question you will ask yourself on opening Mass Effect 2:  2 discs? Really? I didn’t know we still did that in 2010.  It’s a typical 2010 title card though with a nice static image. I’m then asked to join this weird Cerebus Network for downloadable stuff.  I will never get any of that for this game, but I figure why not see what it is. Boy, could this form have a tinier font?  My vision is like 20/15 and I’m leaning in to see it on my flat screen. When I figure out what the form wants, I realize I can’t remember my password for this account and say fuck it. I have the choice to import my ME1 character — hell yes to that. It launches an import utility, and there is a shocking lack of feedback on that load. Another title card, and then I choose normal difficulty as usual. The game takes a second to remind me my history on a checklist, specifically that I let Ashley die, I spared Wrex, and I sacrificed the Council to preserve ships to fight the great reaper invasion.

We start the game with an image of a sun, and two people talking about Shepherd (me). They talk about how humans control the council, and how the reapers are still out there. They go on talking about how humans need to be saved, and that Shepherd was sent to deal with the remaining geth (servants of the reapers) because humans control the Council. We come to Shepherd on board the Normandy mid-mission, and my pilot guy Joker is back manning the ship. We see a cruzer coming to intercept us on the screen, and then we’re being shot at. The hull is breached and Joker won’t leave. There’s a scene where I send my blue lover away and I choose to save him.  I come back in over-the-shoulder mode and oh, it’s the same ship as ME1 — that’s cool. I find Joker and convince him to leave with the escape pod. The ship gets shot again, I carry him away to a pod, and once he’s safe, I’m blown out into space as the Normandy explodes. Once in space, my suit starts leaking, and I re-enter the planet we’re off of, burning in re-entry and crashing to what can only be my death. Not the beginning I expected, but I imagine I will be resurrected soon somehow.

Is this another title card?  Oh, we’re just zooming back in as some salvage team recovers my body, saying something about a Lazarus Project. There’s a vignette of them rebuilding my body, and facial reconstruction is used as an excuse to change my appearance if I want, but I don’t. I can also change profession but I don’t do that either — soldier suits me fine thanks. There’s a CS of Shepherd coming to,  and I see two humans trying to save him. They re-sedate Shepherd and we fade to black.

I wake up with the facility is under attack. A voice (a woman from the earlier sedation scene) tells me to grab a gun. I have to fight some robot enemies on my way out, and I slowly relearn to  shoot,  how cover works, how to run forward (A + forward), and how my attack choice wheel works. There’s a  new circuit-themed memory game to unlock a chest — I guess playing Concentration in ME2 is no weirder than playing Pipe Dream in Bioshock.

As I travel, I meet a new guy Jacob who tells me I spent two years out as a dead man. The mechs I’m fighting are robot security that have been hacked. We kill the robots together, and afterwords we talk. He reveals that the Normandy crew survived the attack where I died. I head for control room with Jacob, and on the way, we run to see Wilson whose has been shot in leg. I get medigel and heal him. Wilson tells us that he was hacking the security — Jacob is suspicious of him. Jacob wants to get Miranda (the woman talking to me earlier) but Wilson wants to leave her because he says he thinks she’s dead. Jacob then tells me a little about Cerebrus – the radical pro-human group that they work for – but that someone called the “Elusive Man” will tell me more.  We head to the shuttles through more fights. I play another mini-game, hacking this time (you match a code sample at the top to similar sections of a scrolling list), and it gives me coins. We open a door, and Miranda is behind it. Before I get any control, she shoots Wilson. When I confront her, wow, she tells me that everyone else on the station is expendable, and after a bit more talking, we fly away. Pretty good on the narrative so far I will admit.

We cut to on the ship, and they want to test me en route. It’s an excuse to revisit my history for me.  I’m asked a question about who is the head of the Council — I choose Anderson in the conversation and I think that just made him the leader. The models of the characters are mildly creepy but not too bad — mostly the talking animation is uncanny. We arrive and talk to Elusive Man through a hologram communication system.  Apparently colonies have been disappearing but only human colonies. The Alliance is too distracted by governing to help out. He’s sending me to a new colony called Freedom’s Progress that was recently reaped to see if we can find anything. I return to the other two and  talk to Jacob and hear a bit of his life story — he doesn’t totally agree with Cerebus but he wants to actually do things and doesn’t think the Alliance can. I try to talk to Miranda, but she’s standoffish. This completes the first mission, and I see a new level end screen. I level up, increasing a meta-skill that increases how I earn Paragon and Renegade stuff — that’s the alignment system in this game.

We cut to landing on the planet, and the party (Miranda and Jacob) tells me that I’m in charge. The first priority I declare is any survivors. There’s a strong start on base — more robots attack and I find combat in ME2 has the same basic feel as the first game. Miranda says the robots were reprogrammed to attack us. As we explore the empty base, I  see Tali – an quarian (alien) member of my team in ME1 – with a group of quarians also exploring. They are trying to rescue a guy who was on pilgrimage here, and now he’s holed up in a warehouse. We fight a giant mech that’s part of the defensive robot crew. It’s a harder fight, but I do pretty good, and along the way, I learn how to send my team to positions.

When we complete that fight, we enter a warehouse thing, and see the pilgrim quarian. He’s gone crazy and won’t help us. I have chance to do a renegade quick-time action (hit LT to shoot a monitor) to snap this guy out of it, but choose a paragon action (RT) to turn off the monitors and it works — the quarian talks to us. He shows us a video of collectors capturing the humans. It turns out seeker swarms (clouds of machines that sting and freeze people) find people and then the collectors carried the people away. Veetor was not captured because the suit quarians wear made him invisible to the seekers.  Tali shows up and wants to take Veetor (the crazy quarian) away.  I have choice of just taking the computer data and giving Veetor to Tali, or taking Veetor with us too. This is a hard interesting choice, but I ultimately give Veeter to Tali. She won’t join my team again because she has her own responsibilities now, but  she’ll let us know if they find anything from Veetor that can help us.

We cut back to the Elusive Man. It turns out the quarians sent us data after all. The Elusive Man knew the collectors were involved even before this evidence. They come from the Omega 4 relay, and that is unknown space because no one comes back from it. He wants me to get a team to take on the Reapers. Like Tali, my old team is otherwise engaged in various ways. He will let me try to get the Council involved, but he doubts they will do anything. My first step is to go to a new planet to find some first recruits. I get Joker back as pilot — he works for Cerberus because the Council has been disbanding everything I’ve done. We also get a new ship. We CS name it Normandy, and the newly christened Normandy flies off.

We cut to me on the ship and I decide to investigate it. I meet Edie the ship AI who handles the weapons — she tells me that the Elusive Man is spying on the ship, and there are hidden files in her system that are triggered at some unknown stimulus. I have an admin assistant and she’s a psychologist. It seems I can flirt with her, but I choose not to right now. I go downstairs and meet the engineers. They are shocked to meet me, and mention there’s some coupler or something that would make their lives easier. I meet our chef and he also gives me a fetch-quest. My doctor from the old ship is back, and she turns out to have a decently thick backstory. Once I’ve made my rounds, I decide that’s enough and save for the day.

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