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Mass Effect 2: More waxing goddamn nostalgic.


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Started this last week. Haven't had a good time with it until I chatted with a few mates who had played the first one.

One thing this game does a really bad job of is explaining itself to players who haven't played ME1. I wasn't going to touch this but loads of people banged on about how great it was etc, and said it was very approachable for anyone new to the story, so eventually I caved when I saw it for £25.

OK, 12 hours in and it had never told me about using the mass relay, never told me about the datalogs and the mission reminder thing on the pause screen. Of course, I'd been on the pause screen a bunch of times, but those options were greyed out (so I thought - they were subtly pulsing with white light it turns out, but I didn't see it that way) and I thought from the wording (I forget the names) they were something to do with the cerberus (EA) network. Just never paid them any mind, expected the game would eventually educate me about them, and try and sell me something. :D

So I journeyed around everywhere I could go from the starting location without zooming out to the milky way map. I scanned every planet, I went to the crash site of the ME1 ship, I literally exhausted every gameplay avenue I could.

Now then, had I gone back and tried both relay things (the red collector one and the blue one) I might have stumbled on the wider game, but I didn't. I thought I'd tried them both but maybe I tried the red one, was told I couldn't use it yet, and never thought about them again. Sooner or later, was my thinking, the game would send me there as part of the plot and I'd be able to use them.

So yeah, because of all this it seemed like the thinnest of games (no backstory, no datalogs, very little exposition) and very combat heavy. I still don't like how it's been streamlined so much, they seem to have taken the RPG soul of it for me. I like XP, levelling up skill choices, inventory management etc. Having it all done for me isn't to my taste, at least so far.

Liked the conversation trees but nowhere does it explain 'upper' part of the circle = 'nice' answers, lower part = 'naughty' answers, middle = 'neutral' answers. So I was getting nice and naughty points for what often seemed arbitrary reasons - what Shepherd verballyu says matches those polarities, sure, but when I was making the choice it wasn't always obvious from the language on the choice wheel that this wasn't a virtuous response or whatever. So I wasn't having a very satisfying time of it there either.

I had a lot of incredulous looks from colleagues saying all this, but every one of them has played ME1 and so much of this stuff seems to have been explained in that game but not in this one. Seems odd seeing as the first couple of hours tried so hard to include new players. This stuff to them was 'obvious', but not to someone coming to the series cold.

I'm sure accusations of being stupid will be levelled at me here as well but - hey - I'm a professional, experienced game designer myself, I'm fairly smart, been playing games for over 30 years, and I definitely have a good understanding of game language, conventions, usability traditions etc. I'm sure had I drilled into the menus more, or got off my arse to look at the manual or a FAQ I'd have worked it out, but here's the truth; I don't look at manuals or FAQs for the most part. I don't remember the last game where I read the manual before playing, and I don't ever resort to a FAQ unless I'm TOTALLY stuck. I expect the game to help when it can see I'm not making headway. This game doesn't. So much so, I didn't even realise I wasn't making headway, until there was literally nothing left for me to do.

The game worked out I'm new to it at the start, but that handholding only seemed to extend so far, which is dissapointing. A sequel that doesn't welcome new players seems like odd business reasoning, unless Bioware are expecting all players will love to play ME1 first. For me, KOTOR1 took me 90+ hours, so another Bioware game is a once-every-few-years gameplay indulgence; I don't have time to play ME1 first just to get up to speed for ME2. Must be a tricky proposition for the designers who are so heavily invested in their universe and storyline but me? I'm just looking for a slick & fun RPG.

I tried ME1, didn't like it enough to continue past the first few hours. Never grabbed me.

The menu greyed out thing probably wouldn't have been a problem had it not been on the same menu as save, options, controls, main menu etc. It's quite unusual for a menu to mix gameplay and housekeeping elements on the same menu; normally the accepted convention is that you seperate them, keeping the game world stuff seperate from the system / preferences stuff. I'd seen the team menu on there, that should have been a clue but it wasn't, because so far the game throws me on that team screen before every new mission anyway. I remember thinking at one point 'what an odd place to repeat that menu' but didn't think it through beyond that. :o

So, yeah, better after last night, enjoying it more, RPG elements still too streamlined IMHO but at least all that background info is in there that I thought was missing and I don't have to make notes about where to go for missions, as I was doing before all the threads dried up!

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Liked the conversation trees but nowhere does it explain 'upper' part of the circle = 'nice' answers, lower part = 'naughty' answers, middle = 'neutral' answers. So I was getting nice and naughty points for what often seemed arbitrary reasons - what Shepherd verballyu says matches those polarities, sure, but when I was making the choice it wasn't always obvious from the language on the choice wheel that this wasn't a virtuous response or whatever.

I agree that the wording of the dialogue options can be rather unclear but it's worth pointing out that there are also times when even a paragon response will elicit renegade points and vice versa. It reflects the morally ambiguous nature of the choices Shepard has to make, although it can obviously have some confusing side effects for the player.

I don't think anything was explained in ME1 in regards to moving around planets or mission logs or anything. Everything seemed so...obvious? :o

To be fair though, navigating the Galaxy in ME didn't require you to manually access the nearest mass relay. I can see how the presence of the inactive Omega 4 relay might cause problems.

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"I'm a professional, experienced game designer myself, I'm fairly smart, been playing games for over 30 years, and I definitely have a good understanding of game language, conventions, usability traditions etc. I'm sure had I drilled into the menus more, or got off my arse to look at the manual or a FAQ I'd have worked it out, but here's the truth; I don't look at manuals or FAQs for the most part."

Sir, you were lazy, don't cry to us about it. Many of those problems you encountered could have easily been resolved simply by experimentation or a cursory flick through the manual.

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Isn't a lot of stuff explained in the codex anyway- stuff like the races, relays etc are surely all in there for those who might not be up to speed with them from ME1

EDIT- Lol no way- wait, I think I just got what you were stuck on. Hard to believe

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I wasn't going to touch this but loads of people banged on about how great it was etc, and said it was very approachable for anyone new to the story

It's approachable in so far as the combat elements are playable without knowledge of the plot or backstory. That said, it's a story driven and dialogue heavy game so I really can't recommend doing anything other than playing through the original first.

Play through the original (on easy, if the combat is clunky/frustrating) and skip the exploration stuff. Concentrate on the main plot, and it'll be over in 15 hours; and then you can enjoy ME2 whilst having knowledge of the backstory and setting. It deserves that.

If you REALLY don't want to do that, at least read the codex or a Wiki summary of the plot and basic premise.

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I hadn't touched the first one and didn't have anything like those problems - can't remember, but I'm pretty sure using the relays is in the manual.

My only frustration was not understanding the story, I ended up doing a bit of reading online so not as much of it went over my head.

EDIT: Ah, you didn't look at the manual. Not sure that's the game's fault. Although I know some people don't like going through manuals surely you expect to for a game like this?

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LOL at the homoerotic shots of Jacob when you're chatting him up with a femshep! :o

They're not really homoerotic now, are they (unless I missed some scenes where he sensuously eats a banana/ice cream/lollipop/puts his arm suggestively around a nervous looking Zaeed/gets a little too into a gun-polishing session. Which would suddenly skyrocket Jacob from MBT (most boring teammate, joint with Miranda) to Constant Squadmate status).

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Female Shepard comes on really strong to Jacob. It's impossible to have a conversation with him without Shepard sounding like a cougar.

Yeah, that was ridiculous. The completely uninterested way in which Jacob would often respond made it even more so. :o

Can you stick it to Kelly in this? I've finished the game and there was some really heavy flirting but no clam on clam action. Have I missed my chance?
You can invite her up to your room after the final mission if you flirted enough.

I could be wrong but I get the impression that an ongoing relationship with a character from ME scuppers any chance Shepard has with Kelly. Despite some rampant flirting and a sensual candlelit dinner, my Shepard clung onto her photo of Liara when it came to the crunch.

Stupid Liara...

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If you REALLY don't want to do that, at least read the codex or a Wiki summary of the plot and basic premise.

I read a plot summary beforehand. No confusion over the plot.

Confusion was purely progress-based and caused by not knowing about the relay to launch into a 'wider' galaxy, and not spotting two, in hindsight, 'obvious' menus.

Sir, you were lazy, don't cry to us about it.

I sure was. Didn't mean it to come across as crying - thought it was interesting from a usability point of view, and fairly hilarious all round in a ' ;) ' kind of way.

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Will post impressions once I've finished it, but I am a Bioware novice who never played the first ME, and I got to say I often don't have a fucking clue whats going on plot wise and certainly had no idea what the relay was until I gave it a little trial and error. Usually I understand why I was on a planet around midway through the mission, but before then I'm like a happy spastic with icecream.

Just so happens the game is fucking fab so I don't mind tweaking knobs and pushing red buttons with no labels and being a bit lost, but it is not well designed for a novice at all, and the problem is magnified by a God awful text size that makes anything to do with the codex illegible on a normal screen. I'd understand if HD TV's were the majority, but they ain't. Don't penalise the majority dick heads.

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Just so happens the game is fucking fab so I don't mind tweaking knobs and pushing red buttons with no labels and being a bit lost, but it is not well designed for a novice at all, and the problem is magnified by a God awful text size that makes anything to do with the codex illegible on a normal screen. I'd understand if HD TV's were the majority, but they ain't. Don't penalise the majority dick heads.

The Codex text was bigger, and more readable in ME1. In ME2, the guy's voice reading out the codex entries seemed too quiet as well, out of balance with the rest of the game. Odd choices for Bioware to make.

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Will post impressions once I've finished it, but I am a Bioware novice who never played the first ME, and I got to say I often don't have a fucking clue whats going on plot wise and certainly had no idea what the relay was until I gave it a little trial and error. Usually I understand why I was on a planet around midway through the mission, but before then I'm like a happy spastic with icecream.

Just so happens the game is fucking fab so I don't mind tweaking knobs and pushing red buttons with no labels and being a bit lost, but it is not well designed for a novice at all, and the problem is magnified by a God awful text size that makes anything to do with the codex illegible on a normal screen. I'd understand if HD TV's were the majority, but they ain't. Don't penalise the majority dick heads.

Looks fine on my monitor ;)

(though I'm curious - is it better or worse than the Dead Rising text? Just that I remember the furore over the tiny, SD-unfriendly text in that game... which looked fine on my old (32" widescreen) SD TV. So until I know better, I'm just going to tell you all to get glasses ;))

Though, yes, they really ought to test for this sort of thing beforehand, and at least offer the option to increase the text size.

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Really close to the end now, not sure what happened though in regards to love interest;

went for a meal with Kelly (seemingly overnight?) and then nothing, talked to her almost after every fucking mission, just to check. Now she's vanished because the collector's just fucked up all my crew. ;)

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Will post impressions once I've finished it, but I am a Bioware novice who never played the first ME, and I got to say I often don't have a fucking clue whats going on plot wise and certainly had no idea what the relay was until I gave it a little trial and error. Usually I understand why I was on a planet around midway through the mission, but before then I'm like a happy spastic with icecream.

Just so happens the game is fucking fab so I don't mind tweaking knobs and pushing red buttons with no labels and being a bit lost, but it is not well designed for a novice at all, and the problem is magnified by a God awful text size that makes anything to do with the codex illegible on a normal screen. I'd understand if HD TV's were the majority, but they ain't. Don't penalise the majority dick heads.

Play the first ME. And play it quickly.

Some people claim it has " a better story" yet forget that the game goes absolutely nowhere until the first conversation with Sovereign.

...after which, it certainly does kick up a gear.

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Some people claim it has " a better story" yet forget that the game goes absolutely nowhere until the first conversation with Sovereign.

Nah. Much as I love ME2 and prefer it to the first game in many ways, that's simply not true. The story goes nowhere until halfway through Virmire only if you discount the struggle to become the first human Spectre, the invasion of Eden Prime and the first encounter with the Geth, the betrayal of Nihlus, the introduction of the various characters and themes that are still being developed in ME2, (the Shadow Broker, Cerberus, etc), the rescue of Liara, the development of the Saren/Geth plot, the unmasking of Saren, the killing of Benezia and the revelation and genocide/salvation of the Rachni, the destruction of the Thorian and the decimation/saving of Zhu's Hope, and the choice you have in dealing with Wrex's response to Saren's solution to the genophage. We've gone from being an unknown and unknowing hero facing an unknown localised threat to learning just about everything there is to know about the races, worlds and politics of the ME universe, discovering the existence of the Reapers, and from not having heard of Saren to the knowledge that he's a thrall of the Reapers' indoctrination and an enemy of the Council/galaxy and head of a massive Geth army, through the liberation/destruction of two planet colonies, becoming a bad-assed super ninja soldier, uncovering half of a pan-galactic conspiracy, and forming relationships with species once thought extinct whilst discovering a new one and wiping it from the fact of the cosmos. Admittedly, things do take off a bit after that, but it hardly "goes absolutely nowhere" up to that point.

If ME1 really does go nowhere until the Sovereign conversation, then by comparison ME2 stands still right up to, and including, the end (just how much farther on are we, really, and, to be fair, how much farther on can we be given where we got in ME1?). ME travels far, far further than the sequel in terms of developing the main storyline, which is (almost) all about the smaller scale stuff.

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Or, to put it succinctly, that was a straight up bullshit claim, KM. I adore the sequel and its characters are far better written but the first game's story was stronger and better throughout, hands down, no question.

Mmmmmmm, the Spectre induction scene. Chills, man. Chills. And yeah, Nihilus. The dude looked cool as and you'd expect him to be around for the whole thing but no, taken out like a punk. A shocker.

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Just picked up

Legion

tonight to complete my squad. That was a bit relentless on normal difficulty, not looking forward to trying it on the harder settings!

I've checked every planet possible and think i've found all sub missions now, just the main story to finish off. Can't wait for my day off now, it's going to be EPIC.

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