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If you're not familiar with shooters . . .

  • Jan 28, 2010
  • by
As I said 3 months ago with Dragon Age Origins review, that title marked my first return (and a beautiful experience that has been) to computer roll playing games. I tried Doom briefly years ago, but just didn't find it very interesting.

Based on the richness of Dragon Age Origins and the teaser during the NFC Championship Game, I eagerly awaited this hybrid RPG-Shooter. As promised, the game was delivered the day of rollout. (Good job, Amazon). Installation of the 2 DVD (game) appeared to go smoothly, but when I actually hit the play button on the first screen, the game reported a file was missing - d3dx10_39.dll. There was no help on the Bioware site for this, or on EA Support. I tried to chat with EA and waited for about 30 minutes, only to be "dismissed" when I reached the top of the queue. Fairly irritated by this, I fired off an email to EA and am still waiting for their answer. Having to work the next day, I closed down, and awaited the next day.

The next day, I remembered "God helps those who help themselves", and did an online search for the file. I discovered it's actually a Direct X - installed file, so if you have this problem, go to the Microsoft dowloads area and search for the files. You will run a MS Direct X install, and that fixed the problem quickly.

Since I had no shooter experience, I invested in a hardcover guide to the game, and read through the first 30 pages or so. I knew to set the game in "casual" mode (easiest play level), because that was supposed to minimize the "shooter" part of the game.

The story opens beautifully, setting up with Shephard's death as his spaceship is destroyed by an unidentified assailant craft which dwarfs and outguns the Normandy. As the ship is straffed and breaks up, Shephard has to command the survivors to evacuate the ship and then reach Joker in the command section to force him to abandon ship. Here is where my problems began . . . I could make Shephard walk around and do his basic stuff, and scan the compartment I was in, but I could not figure out (1) exactly where the command compartment was; (b) how to get there. Unlike Dragon Age, which allows significant help for the unfamiliar player (for example, the tab key highlights identifies items and person of interest, I could find no key to give me a hint on how to get where I needed to go. Neither did the "M" key bring up a map of the ship, so I'm stymied. Nonetheless, I can see from the visual richness of the game, once I understand the interface, gameplay should be fun.

I really wish that the game designers would have included a 5 minute "training" session for someone who has not played a shooter game to give one the confidence to understand the control keys and other features before one actually gets into trouble. Unlike DAO, I have not found a "pause" key yet, so I don't know what you do when you need to stop to plan strategy or more importantly get a beer or go to the head.

That, and the failure of EA tech support to respond timely is what cause me to rate it only 4 stars at this time. I'm sure once these items become clear, it will shortly become a wonderful experience, like DAO. It is perhaps even more beautiful than DAO.

UPDATE 1/31/2010
A commenter (H. Le) to my review pointed out to great shortcomings in this game that caused a lot of frustration for me until I figured them out.

There is no "mini-map" feature in the game (as opposed to Dragon Age Origins) but merely a compass arrow pointing vaguely in the direction of your objective (and accessible from the "M" key). The game is paused by the "left shift" key, and like its regular use in typing, only works while it is depressed. (Maybe the designers never had to go to the bathroom!) Thes are two of the biggest frustrations I have encountered with the controls. If someone figures out how to set up a continous pause, let me know.

The paucity of maps during gameplay, makes it really important to purchase a game guide, in my opinion.

2/2/2010 -- Thanks to another commenter who reminded me that the "esc" key takes you to another menu, thus pausing the game until you press it again. I'm now about 20+ hours into the first play, and I have a couple of comments for those of you who are RPG devotees. I think the "first person shooter" experience either limits development and complexity of the NPGs OR possibly character development doesn't take place at the same pace it did in Dragon Age Origins. Maybe their development will speed up as I get to the "loyalty missions." The graphics are beautiful the engine has been totally free of glitches -- except for Sheppard getting up on top of a cabinet and I couldn't get him down without saving and restarting. It is fun, but I miss the witty or rancorous interaction between the NPCs when you are on a mission. The NPCs are definitely a lot of help taking out bad guys, but so far, not much else. Mining for resources is very important in early play, as is finding (looting) better weapons. You pick up ammo lying around (always an important thing) by essentially walking over it, and you will need it. Conserve those rounds for that grenade launcher -- it's a weapon you really need to take out armor, but don't shoot it up quickly. I haven't found a new source yet. The shooting part of the game seems to be good enough, but I don't think it's a great tradeoff for the "reality" of the adventure and for livelier NPCs.

Finished the first playthrough last night -- saved humanity and lived to tell about it, and if it were possible to take another 1/2 star away I would. First of all, I've encountered some glitches in this game. Occasionally (and for no discernable reaason) when I'm shooting and moving at the same time, Sheppard ends up somehow off of the ground, and then he can't be moved and none of the menues are accessible, yet he can look around -- he just can't go anywhere. Similarly, a saved game may "lock up" on restore, and you have to go back to the beginning of that scenario.

What I liked! The shooting interface is easy to use. The weapsons and upgrades all make sense. The non-roleplaying characters have real potential as interesting and intriguing supporting roles -- many of who would also be suitable for a staring role, which leads into my biggest frustration. Visuals are very good, although not as good as Dragon Age. There is also a very neat capability to run a character through the game the first time, and then start a new game with the same character, who maintains his or her rank, abilities and weapons, as well as some money. This means you can see the differences having more and different powers will have. There are a lot of "optional" missions which have some great challenges and give you additional information which may affect the outcome of the game. While I thought the dialog choices were too limited, I really liked the ease of making dialog choices.

What I didn't like! There is not enough ability to independently interact with NRCs on a mission for example. What dialog there is is a warning that if you move to the right place, a NRC will have something to say. Usually, it's just one line, and there is no opportunity to respond in any fashion to it. This is fine if the mere purpose of the conversation is to give information, but if you want to actually learn how this character is changing, it's worthless. There is no system to meaningfully evaluate "how much your NPCs like your leadership" (as there is in Dragon Age Origins. They are either "loyal" or "normal" -- just not very nuanced for satisfactory interaction. You are not going to incrementally change them over time. Despite many reviewers saying how important it is to converse with your shipmates during routine affairs on the Normandy, the dialog choices remain the same, so there is absolutely NO feedback that one is accomplishing anything. How many times does Miranda have to say she'll find you for some special time when things are less busy, or Tali have to say she wants to share something special but exclusive with you? These are great characters (Legion, Tali, Aria and the Justicar) I'd really have liked to have learned more about, and seen them change and change my character.

Simply put, your main character can shoot, but other choices are too limited.


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Ilive in a small town in East Texas, where I'm happily married, work in a intereting job, but still try to find time to indulge passions for cooking and dining, music, the arts, and reading. I mix and … more
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Mass Effect 2 is the sequel to BioWare's hit space-based role-playing game (RPG), Mass Effect. A single player adventure, Mass Effect 2 allows players to continue the adventures of the fully customizable series hero Commander Shepard, as you take on a whole new adventure and a new cast of supporting characters. Additional new features include the ability to import game save files from the original Mass Effect game to continue the adventure in an unbroken fashion, a new damage system, a new, more flexible dialogue game mechanic and more. 

Mass Effect 2 game logo Commander Shepard ambushing a mech in Mass Effect 2

The return of Commander Shepard.
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New characters from Mass Effect 2
A new cast of characters.
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The Turian Garrus Vakarian from Mass Effect 2
Along with familiar faces from the past.
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Mass Effect 2's new damage system illustrated as an enemy continues to pursue Shepard even with its legs are blown off
New damage and dialogue systems.
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Two years after Commander Shepard repelled invading Reapers bent on the destruction of organic life, a mysterious new enemy has emerged. On the fringes of known space, something is silently abducting entire human colonies. Now Shepard must work with Cerberus, a ruthless organization devoted to human survival at any cost, to stop the most terrifying threat mankind has ever faced. To even attempt this perilous mission, Shepard must assemble the galaxy’s most elite team and command the most powerful ship ever built. Even then, they say it would be suicide. Commander Shepard intends to prove them wrong.

An space-based action RPG like its predecessor, gameplay in Mass Effect 2 revolves around the player's particular ...

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Number of Players: Single-player
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Bioware
Console: Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: January 26, 2010
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