Mass Effect 2 Is Still Stellar After All These Years

Space is a vast abyss filled with dozens upon dozens of planets and light-years worth of nothingness, and that coupled with our current inability to explore its darkest depths makes it the perfect backdrop for fictional pieces like movies and video games. Plenty of developers have tried to provide their takes on this setting to varying degrees of success, but only a few have managed to etch their names in our hearts long after the credits have rolled.

One of these games has to be Bioware’s Mass Effect, the second game in particular. Mass Effect 2 proudly stands over other games in the series because a) it doesn’t feature gimmicky mechanics like the Mako and b) it doesn’t have a controversial ending (and yeah if you are wondering about Andromeda, we don’t talk about it here). Even after all these years, Mass Effect 2 continues to be a shining benchmark for RPGs and how to craft choice-driven narratives the right way.

Mass Effect 2 takes what worked in the prior game and polishes those mechanics to a tee, resulting in an experience that’s markedly better than what came before. Starting off with the story, Mass Effect 2 thrusts players into a narrative surrounding the Collectors – an alien species that plans to wipe out the human race to gain utter domination. It seems like a simple plot at first glance, but that gives way to an immaculate thread of intertwining plotlines and additional narrative tangents that are all governed by the choices that you make throughout the run.

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Much like the original, Mass Effect 2 boasts some great production values which is clearly evident in not only the cinematic presentation of the cutscenes but also the delivery of voice lines and general polish in the conversational aspect of the storytelling. Naturally, the characters here take a front seat which works to great effect and helps in crafting an engrossing tale that’s marked by memorable characters such as the likes of Illusive Man.

As for the gameplay side of things, Mass Effect 2 starts out on a strong note – directly thrusting you in the midst of a sinking spaceship as you try to survive against overwhelming odds. From that start to the thrilling finale which is aptly termed the Suicide Mission, Mass Effect 2 doesn’t take its foot off the pedal and constantly bombards you with one exciting mission after another.

Unlike the original which had pretty rough combat systems, the sequel makes some pretty smart changes to ensure that encounters have a sense of flow to them. Having a regenerating health bar is an important factor in achieving that vision, and that makes going back and forth from cover pieces a lot quicker. Apart from that, regenerating health bars also enables developers to throw more opposition at the player without them getting too overwhelmed – and Bioware definitely makes use of that opportunity to craft sprawling encounters that are a true test of the player’s mettle.


Weapons don’t heat upon prolonged usage as was the case in the original game, and that also adds a nick of speed into the mix. The aiming and shooting is a lot more refined here, which makes trudging through waves upon waves of enemies a lot more fun than it was before. Of course, it’s not on the level of a dedicated cover shooter like Gears of War – but the quality of shooting definitely ranks amongst some of the best in its class.

Of course, one of Mass Effect’s biggest drawing factors is the mesh of tactical and action elements which works to great effect in Mass Effect 2. Having a compatible crew alongside you is extremely important to clear out the toughest challenges – and each crew member brings something different to the table. You can utilize a maximum of two members on your missions, and strategically using their abilities adds an element of depth to the combat proceedings. It’s also fun to mix and match different crewmates to figure out what works best with your current build and do some fun experimenting.

And then there’s the vast galactic world available for players to explore at their own pace. Mass Effect 2 isn’t an open-world game, but it does give players access to different maps brimming with all sorts of quests which sheds more light on the lore at large while also strengthening your bond with other crewmates. Mass Effect 2’s suite of side missions also boast great writing, and can play out differently based on your choices – so it’s definitely worth the time to take some extra time and seek out the many quests peppered throughout the map.

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Also noteworthy are the visuals, which have naturally aged after all these years. But when it first came out, Mass Effect 2 was one of the best-looking games of its time. Even today, you can easily appreciate the stellar art direction on display with the clever use of warmer tones like red, blue, and black that give it a rather distinct feel.

But why is Mass Effect 2 considered to be the series’ high point? That lies in its ability to juggle different aspects in a very appropriate fashion. The story expertly puts the well-written characters in the frame, and while the shooting isn’t as refined as later entries, it is able to comfortably sustain the campaign’s runtime without getting boring in any way whatsoever. The progression mechanics aren’t too complicated that it would stir frustrations, but it provides enough options in mechanics and skill trees that you could express yourself through the choices that you make while leveling up.

The true mark of a great RPG is its ability to engross its players in its world and characters, and Mass Effect 2 is emblematic of those traits in spades. You could really spend dozens upon dozens of hours just exploring the carefully curated world, and engaging with its combat and progression systems to find what fits your fancy. Despite the game being well over a decade old at this point, it continues to be a fun time and can easily put many modern RPGs to shame with its level of quality.

It feels safe to say that Bioware was at its creative peak during the release of Mass Effect 2, and it was a time when the publisher didn’t force its developers to sacrifice their creative vision in favor of maximizing profits and meeting release deadlines. EA’s streak of anti-consumer decisions left the Mass Effect franchise in ruins after the disastrous reception of Andromeda, and we have only recently gotten confirmation that a new game in the franchise is in the works.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.

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