Mass Effect 2: The Good Parts

Word of Warning: this post may contain some minor spoilers for Mass Effect 2 side quests. I won’t mention anything regarding the main quest or the end game here because… Well, I don’t consider it to be the “a good part”.

In my last post I ranted about the nonsense that was Mass Effect 2 main storyline. And yet, I really enjoyed this game. I enjoyed it so much that I finished it twice – once with male paragon and once with with female renegade. Would I put so much time into playing a game I hated? I wouldn’t. Mass Effect 2 is a good game – and the best parts of it are the side quests during which you recruit your crew, and/or help them resolve their personal problems. That’s where the writing shines, and the your company members really come to life.

Location, location, location…

ME2 does a really good job taking you to places you heard about in the first game but couldn’t visit. For example, you learn a lot about the the Krogan home world throughout both games. But ME2 actually lets you visit it. You get to see first hand the type harsh conditions that shape Krogan warriors. Tuchanka is basically the Salusa Secundus of the Mass Effect universe. If you ever read Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, you would know that Salusa Secudus was a harsh, unforgiving penal colony that forced it’s inhabitants to hone their combat and survival above anything else skills in order to stay alive. The dreaded imperial Sardukar units were recruited from that very planet and their efficiency in combat could only be matched by the Fremen of Dune who grew up in similarly harsh environment. You get a glimpse of Krogan society, culture and rituals. I thought that participating in the traditional right of passage was a great touch.

Krogan home planet - post nuclear westland of fun.

I was similarly excited to see the Quarian Migrant Fleet. Tali is one of my favorite characters so I was stoked to see the place where she grew up. I was a bit surprised to find out that Quarians wear their environment gear even on their ships. I always assumed that they simply keep their vessels are clean enough to be able to walk freely inside. But I guess this makes sense in a way. It’s easier to handle trade goods and grow food this way I guess. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t see how Quarians looked underneath all that gear – that’s all.

I really got a kick out of talking to Admiral Xen voiced by Claudia Black – who was also the voice of Morrigan in Dragon Age Origins. Of course in my heart, Claudia will always and forever be Aeryn Sun from Farscape. I love the fact she keeps showing up in BioWare games. If you skipped that dialog, make sure you talk to her the next time you play that mission.

My favorite mission however must have been the Legion loyalty quest, during which you actually get to visit a Geth controlled space station which turns out to be just a huge server farm. I really liked the fact the base seemed to be deserted, save for some maintenance and sentry platforms wandering about. It really revealed a lot about Geth and their way of life. It also put an interesting spin on the Quarian quest.

Legion - most interesting character in the whole game.

At the end of Tali’s trial you can state your op opinion about the war to reclaim the Quarian home world either by endorsing the idea, speaking out against it or ignoring it altogether. I initially chose to ignore it. Who was I to meddle in the affairs of the Quarian people. However after doing Legion’s quest, I wished I could have went back and urge the Quarian Admirals not to wage war against Geth.

In fact, to me finding and recruiting Legion was a much more rewarding, mind blowing, surprising and awesome plot twist than the lame reveal that Collectors descended from Protheans. I really did not expect ME2 to tell us so much about the Geth, their culture and way of thinking. They were great faceless foes to throw against us, and being able to talk to one of them, and ask it all kinds of questions was probably the best part of the game for me.

Your personal universe

I love the fact that so many NPC’s from the first game return in the sequel. And I’m not speaking about the original Normandy crew. I’m talking about random ass NPC’s that I saved or helped in the past, coming out of the woodwork. I met the inspector from the Noveria mission, the Thorian controlled Asari commando, that stupid scientist who was helping to make a Krogan army for Sarren. It is a really nice touch. Meeting people you saved or spared gives the game continuity. It almost makes up for the messy retcons at the beginning of the game. Almost.

The most interesting of these NPC’s was the emissary of the Rachni queen I liberated in ME1. It seems that the Rachni are rebuilding their society and so far have not decided to conquer the universe. In fact, they seem to be quite determined to live peacefully with other races, and one day join the intergalactic society – once they are sufficiently strong and established to discourage a knee-jerk reaction campaigns against them that could be launched by the citadel. Neat! I sometimes wondered if the paragon option of freeing the queen was the right thing to do. This random encounter didn’t erase all my doubts, but it was reassuring.

I liked visiting the former crew mates – especially Wrex who really seem to have found his place. I was bit baffled by Liara’s new job as the information broker though. The shy, introverted scientist is now a super spy? I didn’t really buy it, but whatever.

I get by with a little help from my friends…

I talked about most of the female characters in the romance post so I’m not going to repeat myself here. I liked Jack and I was always fond of Tali. That said, my favorite character out of the whole game (other than Legion) must be Mordin. I loved visiting him early on in the game because he always had something interesting to say. It was very interesting to talk to one of the original creators of the genophage. The Salarian scientist regrets unleashing it upon the Krogan, but believes that it was the only way to actually save their species from being wiped out like Rachni. In fact, Mordin is one of the few people in ME universe who feels that extermination of that race was a mistake. I think he would really appreciate the fact that I spared the queen in ME1 but unfortunately there was no dialog option to tell him that.

Mordin and my female Sheppard.

BioWare was able to write him as a scientist and an intellectual without actually falling into the stereotypical awkward science dork archetype you usually see in movies and video games. You know what I’m talking about right? Most smart people you see on the screen in interactive and non-interactive media is the same twitchy, cowardly chronically awkward, stuttering dweeb with taped up glasses, greasy hair and annoying habit of mumbling incomprehensible techno-babble to himself as he delivers exposition to bored characters who always have to cut off his explanations and tell him to get to the point. Mordin is different. He is strong, confident and a bit eccentric – he has a personality. Take his manner of speech for example. You could write it off as just being hyper but if you listed closely to how he says things you will realize this is not the case. Mordin avoids flowery language and uses short, succinct and precise sentences. Each conveys a single idea or notion in as few words as possible and in a direct manner that is difficult to misinterpret. I imagine the way he speaks is the way he writes notes for his experiments. It is the type of succinct, to the point, scientific shorthand you would expect to see on lab reports or in peer reviewed articles.

But he is not just a one-track-mind scientist. Mordin is a true Renaissance man. He does science, he can handle himself in a firefight, he is a patron of the arts and he sings. If you haven’t seen Mordin break into song yet, you just haven’t talked to him enough. That scene was priceless – especially Sheppard’s reaction to the sudden musical number (or complete lack of thereof).

I wish there were more characters like him out there. No one ever seems to know how to write good scientist characters. Most of the time the writer tend to fall into one of the extreme cases: you either get a total dork or a tough, muscular, dumb looking action hero in a lab coat. There is almost no middle ground. And yet Mording seems just right. BioWare nailed it.

Joker after the abduction scene.

I also always liked Joker – and not just because he is voiced by Seth Green – though that’s probably a part of it. ME2 really gave him a chance to shine. I absolutely loved the abduction sequence where you briefly get to play him instead of Sheppard in order to save the ship. It was a very well done sequence. It’s even better that Joker now gets a sidekick that he could interact with in the cockpit. I loved how his relationship with EDI starts with outright hostility on both sides, but at the end of the game they are are pretty much like a married couple. I cracked up the first time I heard EDI call Joker by his first name. Hell, I didn’t even know his first name!

Conclusion

While the story is a bit lame, it’s the little things like I described above are what make this game so enjoyable. It’s the characters, their relationships an the Mass Effect universe itself. Oh, and the combat is somewhat fun too. I enjoyed the cover based tactics of ME2 much more than the more conventional shooter mechanics of ME1. But that’s purely subjective and some people feel the other way.

So even if you are put off by the silliness of the main story, various nerfs and retcons I’d recommend sticking with the game till the end. You will miss out on all the awesome side quests and Mass Effect lore otherwise.

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4 Responses to Mass Effect 2: The Good Parts

  1. Zel FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Mordin and Legion were my favorite characters too. In fact, my second time around I postponed most missions until I finally recruited Legion, which happens almost at the end of the game. It’s no surprise he barely has anything to say to most loyalty mission, but you should try bringing him aboard the Migrant Fleet while doing Tali’s, a few events happen and he has some lines.

    I think Liara explains how she became an information broker after doing her little spying sidequest, but I forgot the details. Overall, I was quite disappointed at the little impact your choices in the first game have : basically a couple lines of dialogue, an email or a lengthened cutscene. Even saving/sacrificing the council doesn’t have any repercussion.

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  2. Jakob DENMARK Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    This is merely a minor nitpick: The genophage was deployed a couple of centuries before ME 2 and salarians only live to age 40. Mordin was the head of the team which modified the genophage in order to ensure that the krogan wouldn’t return to their former birthrate. He mentions that they were starting to adapt.

    Anyway, Mordin and Legion were great. Mordin was quirky and his dialogue very enjoyable. But the one thing I really enjoyed was his history. How he out of “love” and compassion was forced to modify the genophage, in order to prevent the krogan genocide.

    Legion was also great. He wasn’t the typical robot or A.I. You know, those who act and behave as humans, only slightly different. Bioware made the geth something quite different from all other sentient life. If you can remember it, Legion and Sovreign talked very similar, except for the whole “I shall crush you all” tone of Sovereign.

    Zel wrote:

    I think Liara explains how she became an information broker after doing her little spying sidequest, but I forgot the details. Overall, I was quite disappointed at the little impact your choices in the first game have : basically a couple lines of dialogue, an email or a lengthened cutscene. Even saving/sacrificing the council doesn’t have any repercussion.

    The story is that she went to find Shepard after the attack, made a friend, was contacted by Cerberus with information about Shepards location and went to retrieve the remains. In the meantime, the Shadow Broker had been hired by the Collectors for the same purpose, since they also wanted the remains of Shepard.

    The shit happens, Shadow Broker does something to Liaras pal and she now wants revenge. It was just a truly stupid development. Why was it needed?.

    Anyway, the personal stories of the ME 2 squad members and sidequest was the saving grace and made the game great.

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Zel wrote:

    It’s no surprise he barely has anything to say to most loyalty mission, but you should try bringing him aboard the Migrant Fleet while doing Tali’s, a few events happen and he has some lines.

    Holly fucking shit! You took Legion to the Migrant Fleet? That’s bad ass! Did they actually let him participate in the trial? I would think they wouldn’t even allow an active Geth platform to come aboard.

    Jakob wrote:

    The genophage was deployed a couple of centuries before ME 2 and salarians only live to age 40. Mordin was the head of the team which modified the genophage in order to ensure that the krogan wouldn’t return to their former birthrate. He mentions that they were starting to adapt.

    Yes, that bothered me too. I kept doing mental math for the first half of the game trying to figure out how the hell could he have been responsible for the Genophage being a short lived Salarian. Then I just gave up, and forgot about it.

    Jakob wrote:

    The shit happens, Shadow Broker does something to Liaras pal and she now wants revenge. It was just a truly stupid development. Why was it needed?.

    My thoughts exactly. It seemed unnecessary and out of character for her. Let’s keep in mind that Liara was a shy, introverted, antisocial archeologist when we met her. She said herself that she is not good with people. How did she go from shy and awkward to super-spy is beyond me.

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  4. Karthik UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Fedora Linux says:

    Legion and Mordin are amazingly written

    Joker’s dialogue had a wit that I found lacking everywhere else in the game. His exchanges with Edi and the things he says about your crew members had me guffawing for minutes.

    To the commenters above: You do realize that you can continue to play the game after you destroy the base, right? To continue your dialogue with legion, all you need to do is engage in the N7 side missions. To be fair, legion is pretty much the only thing that’ll keep you going at that point.

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