E3 09: Dying in Mass Effect 2 isn’t game over, its trilogy over

Life or death decisions. Forsaking the fate of the Galaxy for greed and power. Shooting cherished allies in the face. Mass Effect was a pretty dark game. It’s got nothing on its sequel, though, which combines the same tough RPG decision-making moments with grittier, more morally ambiguous action. It’s also a game where death matters like never before. And this time, if you die as protagonist, Commander Shepard, you might not be getting back up for Mass Effect 3.

Developers, BioWare, aren’t satisfied with merely making a moodier game. They want to create a title where decisions are more than superfluous window dressing cynically designed to prolong a game’s length. If you’ve still got your save file from the original, the choices you made carry over to the second chapter of this sci-fi saga.

Missed out on some sexy time with Mass Effect’s love interest, Ashley Williams, because you let her die in that bomb explosion? Well, don’t expect to kiss and make up when the game ships, because she’ll still be pushing up daises.

Above: Let either of these characters meet the guy on the right in the first game? Then you can kiss them goodbye for Mass Effect 2

Likewise, if you shot dinosaur-esque dude, Wrex, in his monstrous mug last time, he won’t be making an appearance this time around. Don’t worry if you’ve never played the original, though, as you can still play the game without an existing save file (the main plot of the game will likely be much the same). But, for those who have finished its predecessor, the chance to see your previous choices manifested in the new story is a cool reward for all the time previously invested in the game's universe.

Decisions have an even bigger impact throughout the course of the new game, too. And the choices we’ll be making, as Shepard heads a mission described as ‘suicidal’ in the trailer, will hold even more power than in the first Mass Effect.

More than simple good or bad, life or death dilemmas affecting how the game ends, what you decide during key moments will determine how Mass Effect 3 concludes. Make an error in judgment at a critical moment, which costs Shepard his life, and we might be controlling a new lead in the final part of the trilogy.

Above: Die in Mass Effect 2 and you might control someone else in the sequel, though it probably won't be this guy

It’s not just choices that carry more power now; the game’s shooting system has also been given an overhaul. Limb-specific damage is at the heart of the changes. And now, when you’re blasting robots in their metal unmentionables or sending the Geth (the series main baddies) to the grave, their bodies will react to where they’ve been shot.

Combine this with more cinematic presentation during cutscenes (with more dramatic shots during conversations) and we’re counting the days until we get back into Shepard's skin-tight spacesuit. If the original was Star Wars, then Mass Effect 2 is all set to be The Empire Strikes Back. Darker, bolder and almost certainly better.

What do you think of Mass Effect 2 so far? Do you care if Shepard bites the bucket? Are there any features you’d like to see in the game that haven’t been announced yet? Give us a shout in the comments section below.

June 05, 2009

David Meikleham
Google AMP Stories Editor

David has worked for Future under many guises, including for GamesRadar+ and the Official Xbox Magazine. He is currently the Google Stories Editor for GamesRadar and PC Gamer, which sees him making daily video Stories content for both websites. David also regularly writes features, guides, and reviews for both brands too.