Why Mass Effect 2 is one of the greatest games ever made

If Mass Effect is gaming’s Star Wars then Mass Effect 2 is our Empire Strikes Back.

Few sequels have trumped the original as handily as Mass Effect 2. The first game, albeit beloved for its own reasons and remembered fondly despite itself, was full of issues that BioWare not only addressed, but completely solved when developing the sequel. Weird technical problems held it back from true greatness, and the combat simply wasn’t that engaging. And the Mako. And the space racism. And Ashley. And the elevators and the Mako again.

Mass Effect 2 improved in all of these areas, cleaning up the engine’s technical follies and expanding the already-impressive universe without sacrificing what made the series special. More importantly, it completely revamped the combat, turning the action RPG into a shooter that could stand toe-to-toe with some of the best in the genre, and one of the best games of all time

But while the gameplay was strong enough to stand on its own (as we saw in Mass Effect 3, which managed to add in enthralling multiplayer, fueled entirely by the shooter aspect), it’s really the story and the world(s) that make Mass Effect 2 one of the greatest games ever made. In its predecessor, BioWare established the series’ backdrop as one of the most interesting sci-fi settings in or out of games, and with the sequel it uses this already fantastical canon to craft an action-packed RPG that’s second to none.

It starts with a bang (and an excuse to remake your character). The SSV Normandy is attacked in the opening scene, and like any good leader, your commander goes down with the ship. Your Commander Shepard, carried over from the first game or freshly created, was presumed dead, and for good reason: You died. But the paragon (or renegade) of the human race couldn’t be allowed to rest in peace, so the pro-human Cerberus organization found your charred remains, pumped them full of SCIENCE, and brought you back from the dead. Awesome, right?

Well, sort of. Cerberus isn’t so much “human pride” as it is “human superiority,” meaning their goals are more focused on the good of hu-mankind – the rest of the galaxy be damned. But there are bigger cuttlefish to fry: A race of ancient robots called The Reapers are coming back to wipe out all biological life in the entire universe, so that takes precedent over working out interspecies relations.

How the story plays out is really up to you. Choices are presented throughout the game, both large and small, that completely change the future of the series. What you say to different people can effect how they treat you in the future, and which characters you side with will change the galaxy’s perception of your Shepard. It’s empowering to know how much of an influence you have over the events of a game, and made us feel much more connected to the story than we may otherwise have been.


  • Bercilak - August 11, 2012 9:13 p.m.

    This article can't be taken seriously. The Mass Effect series, an ostensibly plot-driven trilogy, really has no actual plot after the first game. Read this analysis, with which I agree and which saves me the trouble of spending much time writing about a sequel that's an obvious add-on to a completed story arc. Of the Bioware games that I've played that are not sequels (that is, prior to the EA acquisition), every single one of them is simply a retelling of Campbell's hero's journey in a different setting, "Knights of the Old Republic", "Jade Empire", "Mass Effect" and "Dragon Age". The hero's journey always ends with the return of the elixir, so to speak (destroy the Star Forge, defeat the Glorious Strategist, find the Conduit and defeat Saren, slay the Archdemon). Once he/she does that, the hero's quest is over and the story is complete. That's what happened in all four of these titles and that's why the sequels to three of them ("Jade Empire", thankfully, never had a sequel) seem hollow and forced; the developers pushed the story past its natural limit in the sequels. "Mass Effect 2" is no exception.
  • aaronw - August 18, 2012 12:15 p.m.

    ... Can't tell if you're serious or don't understand the "hero's journey" can be deconstructed in most anything. On the front of mass effect they did put in an overarching plot that spans all three titles in the form of the reapers. While I'm not about to say what they went with made a large amount of sense, that write up you linked to displayed an underwhelming understanding of the information they did actually throw at you about the reapers in ME2 and the importance of keeping them an outlying threat.
  • bobbypincollector - August 11, 2012 10:57 a.m.

    Hell yeah Mass effect 2 deserves more medals than Bioware can count! I'm not some over excited fangirl, but I've never played a game with this much range. To start with : Combat. Amazing. As a player on insanity, the action and speed in the game is really awesome, but it still isn't just a game that just offers cool explosions everytime you hit R1.You get to take up your Combat Wheel and really plan what's going to happen under the next couple of seconds. It's the perfect balance between hardcore rapid fire and smart tactics. Second - The RPG side of it. Really just great. In ME2 ( What they missed in ME3 with basically only Paragon and Renegade ) you pretty much have three sort of responses to go with. Paragon, Neutral and Renegade. You really have the opportunity to shape your own Shepard. The characters you meet along the way are really well done. They have solid backstories and deep personas. Jack, Samara and Thane for an example are all characters whose stories really just crawls under your skin. The Artwork. Illium, Omega, The Citadel.. The Collector ship. The different races.. Turian, Asari, Krogan, Vorcha, Salarian.. Batarian. Oh, did I mention the Asari? Seriously, beautiful! And finally, what a step up ME2 was from ME1. Everygame with a 2 after the name HAS to in some way stand out from number 1. And it did, like hell! And oh yeah, The story. Solid, nice. You're fighting the right war but with the wrong guys. .. Well, except Kelly Chambers. She was all win. Don't let her feed your fish though.. They die anyway. And I don't even wanna know what she did to my space hamster...
  • FOZ - August 10, 2012 10:36 a.m.

    I have a lot to say, but I'll just skip to the final mission. This is one of the most mind-boggling praises I've seen given for Mass Effect 2. Not because the final mission is bad, but because who actually gets their squad members killed? Really. You do their loyalty quests, which in some cases are bigger than and provide more backstory than the recruitment quests in the first place (Tali's and its connection to ME3 especially, and it's also the best evidence we have of Bioware throwing away Karpshyn's original storyline and replacing it "Synthetics vs. organics is the only conflict that matters" bullshit). The game doesn't even let you progress at certain points until you've done a couple quests, which are presumed to be the loyalty quests so clearly marked on your map. It's completely baffling that the same articles that praise the characters of Mass Effect 2 are written by people who managed to get them killed. Did you not do their loyalty missions? And if you did, and know so much about these characters, why the hell did you have Miranda put up the barrier instead of Samara or Jack, who the plot and characters CONSTANTLY tell you how great they are with biotics? Why did you send Kasumi to hack the pipes when Tali's entire life has been spent repairing and studying machines? The only one I can really understand is getting the escort team killed (Mordin is actually one of the best choices for some reason), or someone dying after the boss because there's apparently some hidden number that can cause that depending on your squad(I don't know what it is and I've never run into it). But that's only two. So I don't get it. Mass Effect 2 is pretty good, even though I still think its main story is asinine (nobody found any fragments of Sovereign, a 2 kilometer-long ship that exploded all over the Citadel? Really?), but it's already been pinned with more medals than even it deserved, so I think there are some people tired of hearing about it.
  • Cwf2008 - August 10, 2012 11:10 a.m.

    Well actually if you played the game you'd realize that after they blew the shit out of Sovereign they did scavenge and salvage much of what was left of it. Hell, one of the upgrades you get from the Normandy was reverse engineered from Sovereign's main gun.
  • FOZ - August 10, 2012 1:28 p.m.

    Do you realize that makes even less sense? If enough had been recovered to make fully-functioning weaponry out of the wreckage, why was everyone else so amazingly incompetent that they're able to handwave it by having Anderson say "they didn't find anything." Cerberus recovered enough to make a true artificial intelligence just out of wreckage, but C-Sec, who answer directly to the Council, were too incompetent to even find something to prove Sovereign wasn't a Geth ship? That's absurd. You can't say Cerberus recovered it because Cerberus didn't have that much control until after salvaging Reaper tech in the Collector base (which happens even IF you destroyed it, completely invalidating one of ME2's few major choices), which isn't for more than 2 years after Sovereign is destroyed. The Keepers are no longer under Reaper control, so they shouldn't be any more concerned picking up pieces of Sovereign than they would be for any other ship. None of it makes any sense, and it's merely tossed away so Bioware can have a trilogy and hype up the big war with the Reapers that we sorta-kinda-but-not-really see come ME3.
  • Spybreak8 - August 10, 2012 11:17 a.m.

    FOZ - Here's the chart for the behind the scenes reasoning of the character's survival chances: You know you could also intentionally have all of some of your squad members perish in the end (made a playthrough for that). That's what multiple game profiles are for, shame the import into ME3 wasn't as drastic as many had thought before ME3 shipped. The Sovereign wreckage thing was answered in ME3 by saying the Keepers recovered most of it although Bioware didn't go into detail with all the possible wreckage recovered. Most likely Cerberus had their hands in it more than likely, as well as Citadel Security or N7 teams covering it up.
  • RadgarLaser2 - August 9, 2012 11:54 p.m.

    Wow looks like someone huge boner for this game and had to jizz it out in a form of an article. I personally thought the whole series was pretty forgettable. I'm not a huge sci-fi geek/nerd/fan that worship Star Wars, Star Trek, Blade Runner, etc so it didn't really appeal to me in any form of childhood nostalgia. Shep might be an heroic soldier but he's bland and boring, no real personality at all. In fact the whole series had pretty boring and forgettable characters that you don't really need at all to beat the game. You are just basically hiring mercenaries to use as meat shields. Then you get to the ending which is basically the cliche tragic tale of the fragility of humanity. All of a sudden results are not important as long as you tried. BS. They built Shep as some God like Superman the 1st 2 games then all of a sudden in the 3rd he couldn't do a damn thing. Are we to believe what old man Simpson is true in the end? He shake his fist at the sky for god sake.
  • Sjoeki - August 9, 2012 1 p.m.

    The only thing I wished was that there would be a bigger difference between paragorn and renegade that would really set you on different paths but I played it from start to finish more then 5 times and I have to agree that it is one of the best games of this generation. Personally I like 3 more as every mission felt like it could be the final boss level in every other game, but that's just me.
  • MyCoolWhiteLies - August 9, 2012 9:17 a.m.

    ME2 is my favorite game of all time. Sure, it's not without it's flaws, but I've never had a game where I cared so much about what was happening. It helps that it's extremely character driven, something you almost never see in video games. Also, the fact that it's mostly a series of short stories, with one overarching thread tying them all together. I've played through the whole game 4 times, and I still want to go back and play it. I really enjoyed ME3, as well, but the focus on characters and world building in ME2 made it easily my favorite.
  • bash street kid - August 9, 2012 3:07 a.m.

    I barely got past the demo and then was just PSSSTHtt. Seriously.
  • ImmaChicken - August 9, 2012 1:45 a.m.

    This is one of my favourite games of all time, and even though i suck at combat, I loved every single minute of it.
  • rohithkumar_sp - August 8, 2012 10:12 p.m.

    Assassin's Creed 2 was also a near perfect game
  • vincent-wolf - August 8, 2012 11:56 p.m.

    You kidding? I near fell asleep playing it. I don't see any point in this article, ME2 really IS a near perfect game and I don't think many ppl would argue with that. What they've done to series with 3d game is unforgivable.
  • AqueousBoy - August 9, 2012 6:35 a.m.

    I'll argue. I didn't really enjoy ME2 that much, and I played through ME1 five times. It felt like a completely different experience to me and was not what I was looking for in a sequel. Consequently, I haven't even bothered buying ME3 yet (I will, eventually) because the Mass Effect experience has been soured for me. And Assassin's Creed 2 was a near perfect game, in my humble opinion. Brotherhood was even better.
  • profile0000 - August 8, 2012 7:57 p.m.

    I'm with ya, Coop. ME2 was absolutely great. It's the only game of the trilogy I have played through entirely more than once. I got half-way through a second playthrough of 1, and am not really interested in going through 3 again (even though I loved it). I beat ME2 three times. Love that game.
  • ronoc009 - August 8, 2012 7:50 p.m.

    In my opinion listing in descending order. Best main story: 3(minus the ending), 1 , 3(with ending), 2 side quests: 2, 1, 3 Gameplay: 3,2,1 Characters Development/interaction: 2,1,3 Overall ME1 was my favorite due to the overall feel of the universe, ME2 comes in second due to its fantastic characters. ME3 comes in dead last due to the dismay that was the games sidequests and for the fact that i cant stand the ending even after the extended cut. I can see why they picked 2 because it is the best middle ground for the series
  • cody-williams - August 8, 2012 6:55 p.m.

    I agree completely with everything in this article except for part that said Ashley was one of the things that made me1 not as good as it could have been, yes I know she was racist towards aliens but she kind of got over that later. The Mass Effect series is my favorite series ever nothing will ever be better than Mass Effect!
  • ryan-wilkinson - August 8, 2012 6:49 p.m.

    I say that Mass Effect 2 had made my day when I first played it. I couldn't stop replaying the game and same with Mass Effect 3. I love the work and effort for the Mass Effect franchise. :)

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