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Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker hands-on and mini review

If you felt Kasumi's Stolen Memory was too short and Overlord was too side-storyish, Lair of the Shadow Broker may be precisely what you're looking for in Mass Effect 2 DLC. According to BioWare, it's set to be the "richest in scope" of all existing add-ons, and also claims to bridge events of ME2 with any future products. So, even though BioWare won't admit this DLC pack will likely affect your Mass Effect 3 game, it was definitely giving off that vibe during our hands-on.

Why the lofty goals and promises of subsantial plot content? Because Lair of the Shadow Broker deals with ME1 co-star Liara T'Soni, the blue-skinned asari you probably "romanced" during the first game. When you bump into her in ME2, she's distant and preoccupied, and refuses to join your suicide mission so she can track down the mysterious Shadow Broker. Why was she behaving this way? Why the intense interest in the powerful, clearly dangerous Broker? That's what we expect to have resolved in this pack, as even its opening moments started to answer some of these questions.

The quest begins with Liara asking you to visit her apartment. Once you arrive, you find a crime scene with bullet holes in the windows and Liara nowhere to be seen. After some chit-chat with the on-site investigator (a Spectre, no less), you discover what had Liara so worked up about the Broker (we'll leave that to you) and set out to find her. After some shootouts, more dialog and a rather difficult boss battle, Liara joins your party and the DLC continues. At this point, which was roughly 70-90 minutes of gameplay, our BioWare rep said we were about 40% through, so it's already longer than Kasumi and on track to out-last Overlord.

The biggest surprise was the Episode II-esque car chase through the floating roadways of Ilium. Here you're screaming across the night sky, zipping in between buildings and avoiding oncoming traffic while tailing someone involved in Liara's Broker dealings. It's a brilliant idea, but I felt the hover-car handled a bit sloppy, leading to more than a few unintentional collisions. The chase is also quite short, so it makes me think even BioWare knew it wasn't hot stuff - if they felt they had a slick new gameplay idea on their hands, surely it would have been featured more than a few minutes. It's certainly not a total mess, just not up to the usual excellence seen in the rest of the Mass Effect world.

But should you buy it? 800 points seems like a reasonable price given that the campaign seems longer and more substantial than Overlord, and if the plot ends up actually affecting the main characters in a noticeable way, then it's almost a must-buy for franchise fans. There are also some other small bonuses, like new powers for Shepard and special dialog if you have an ME1 save game with Liara romance data on it.

Short version: biggest, most robust offering yet, buy it even if you found the others lacking as it should actually have some ramifications. Shame none of your teammates talk during the DLC packs, even though we understand why that is - BioWare's official response says the DLC packs are about certain characters, so the teammates are peripheral in those instances, but more likely it's because hauling in 13 voice actors to record brief snippets is quite a hassle.

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19 comments

  • Josephnero - September 10, 2010 4:54 p.m.

    yay.more liara
  • Satanael - September 6, 2010 6:46 p.m.

    My prediction: The Shadow Broker is Liara's "father". We never met him, she doesn't know who he is, and you just know that her other parent is going to be a big reveal, this seems like a good time to add that twist in.
  • MarioLickingOutSomeonesPeaches - September 5, 2010 1:51 a.m.

    ohhh yeah this looks great hopefully itll come out duuring my third playthrough so she can join the team afterwards. anyone know wen its released?
  • elpurplemonkey - September 4, 2010 5:36 p.m.

    I definitely need to pick this up, though I wonder if this is the last DLC Bioware is doing. I'd prefer to wait in order to buy all the DLC packs together and have a mini Mass Effect 2.5 thing going on.
  • GangsterJew92 - September 4, 2010 1:59 a.m.

    This looks like the best DLC for Mass Effect yet. I hope Liara joins your team at the end.
  • alexcook - September 3, 2010 11:53 p.m.

    @Violate, Why would PS3 getting ME2 cause BioWare to lose your business, especially if the PS3 version does actually turn out to be a glitch fest? Are you really not going to purchase ME3 when it comes out? Do console wars matter so much to you? Or are you mad because they will get the game and DLC for the price you paid for just the main game? If so, then do you hate all games that go on to be greatest hits at reduced prices or have game or the year editions that include all the DLC for less than the original cost? Or do you have something against capitalism, free markets, or competition? I say the more money BioWare makes the better. The more they make; the more they can spend on upcoming titles. Look at the production value of StarCraft 2. I hate WoW, but I love that Blizzard is making a killing because they can turn around and spend millions on games like StarCraft 2, Diablo 3, any future Warcraft game.
  • Samael - September 3, 2010 11:32 p.m.

    Very diappointed that the car chase is clunky, it looked really fun...for all of 2 secinds in the trailer. Other than that, I'm getting this DLC fo sho. Also, Brett, PLEASE write more Mass Effect-related articles. T-Nag is totally killer with Starcraft & Warcraft & such, but his What We Want in ME3 article was just...painful to read. I don't want Tali to have a "horrible skin disease" and I doubt you do either. I'd LOVE to hear what you want to seee in ME3!
  • Brutalicus - September 3, 2010 11:24 p.m.

    Thanks, Brett. That just got me that much more excited for this DLC. Even if it's temporary, that's really awesome news. But now many theories as to *why* it's permanent are skittering through my brain! D:
  • Dredgon - September 3, 2010 11:01 p.m.

    I really hope she joins and stays in your party, but I doubt that since they said that all the companions were already revealed. But at the very least you should be able to visit her if she is your romance, and maybe she can even stay on the ship but can't fight for some reason. Anyway, I'm very excited and cannot wait until Tuesday to get this and Witch Hunt for Dragon Age, romances continuing and awesome plots!!!!!
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - September 3, 2010 10:16 p.m.

    Liara joins your party - that's it. She's with you, shooting guns and using powers as she did in ME1. I'm guessing she leaves when the DLC ends, but who knows. That's probably part of the "ramifications" they talked about.
  • cogcollector - September 3, 2010 9:41 p.m.

    i think to fully enjoy this DLC Mass Effect:redemption should be read, it tells us why liara is even after the shadow broker in the first place
  • N3vDawg - September 3, 2010 9:18 p.m.

    God, I cant wait. I want this soooo badly.
  • batmanboy11 - September 3, 2010 9:03 p.m.

    Zaed: The Price of Loyalty, Overloard and Kasumi's Stolen Memory work if you've beaten the game so I'd assume this will too.
  • batmanboy11 - September 3, 2010 9:02 p.m.

    Cool. I won't be able to download it right away, but I will as soon as I can. Although I was never a big fan of Liara (and I didn't bang her) this should still be awesome.
  • litrock - September 3, 2010 8:49 p.m.

    My Lady Shep can finally be reunited with her one true love. Thank god. I didn't cheat for a reason. That said, if Liara bites it in this DLC and isn't around for ME3, I'm going to be CRUSHED.
  • Brutalicus - September 3, 2010 7:38 p.m.

    I'm guessing yes, I think Overlord worked that way if I recall. Doesn't the Illusive Man still send you mail afterwards even if you went Paragon?
  • Valntyne - September 3, 2010 7:29 p.m.

    @Bruta, same question, and also if you have a cleared game can you just go straight for the mission? or you have to strart a new campaing?
  • Brutus - September 3, 2010 7:27 p.m.

    Yes elaborate PLEASE!!
  • Brutalicus - September 3, 2010 7:05 p.m.

    "Liara joins your party" Elaborate! She doesn't JOIN join, does she? That would complicate the suicide mission considerably if you could have her in your squad.

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