I just linked the logo from Google Image Search. Is that cool?
I'm not going to go into too much detail here, but yeah... this game is rad. I picked up my pre-order copy last night and plugged in around 10 PM. It took me about an hour to unlock the galaxy map then I just stumbled around until 1 AM, avoiding story-ish missions and getting a feel for changes to the overall game mechanics.
Like I said, I can't allow myself to write too much or I'll get nothing else done today, so here are a few things that are new and awesome followed by a few minor gripes, all in LIST FORM. First, the awesome:
- The way you navigate the world at the system/cluster level now is way cooler. Previously it was just a "drag your cursor and pick where you want to go" type thing. Now, there's an actual "flying your ship around" dimension. When you jump into a cluster, you arrive in the system that has a mass relay, which is now an actual thing on your map instead of just a thing for cut scenes and/or loading screens. That system will have a fuel depot where you can buy fuel and probes (more on those later). You can fly around each system with impunity, but to travel between clusters you'll need to use fuel, which burns extremely quickly.
- When you find an unknown planet, instead of just hitting the scan button and getting a pop-up message with "you have found a fossilized Asari tampon" or whatever, you actually have to manually drag the scanning reticle over the surface and look for things, with the help of visual, audio, and vibration feedback. This makes for a cool-ish mini game that I spent at least 20-40 minutes with. For the most part, you're harvesting elements that will be used later in the game for some sort of weapons/armor/mods crafting. There is a part of the ship that is cordoned off until I "recruit a scientist" (what?) so I think that will have something to do with it. Anyhow, you can carry 30 probes at a time and each time you take a sample from the planetary surface, it uses one, so it's not just a free-for-all.
- The other thing that can happen when you're scanning a planet is that you find an "anomoly," which is Mass Effect-speak for "you can go here to shoot at things or pick up a trinket." I only found one of these last night, but it was a nifty little side mission where I progressed the plot a bit. It seemed like a unique map, although I'll have to check out more planets before I give a final verdict on that, but there was no dicking around on the surface looking for ore and navigating awkward terrain with the loathed Mako vehicle, which is a merciful improvement. AND at the end, I got to make a decision that I think may alter the course of the game...
- On that note, it does seem like the plot (and the game as a whole) is way more open-ended and non-linear than its predecessor. I felt like in ME1, your character was given the illusion of "decisions" but they seldom had any bearing on the outcome, other than your ability to bully and/or persuade dead-eyed NPCs (head-nod to Garth, from whom I stole that apt description) more effectively. When I landed on that planet to check out the anomaly, I found some potentially incriminating data regarding my current employer (no details == no spoilers). The game gave me a choice of sending it to them, sending it to the Citadel, or keeping it for myself. I chose the latter. That said, after giving me a brief synopsis of initial findings, the ship's AI prosaically informed me that it would take "approximately 1 year" (????) to fully decrypt the files. Depending on how you approach games like this, that's either awesome or the kiss of death.
Now, a few relatively minor gripes:
- The built-in content delivery system is kind of confusing. I think I am supposed to get some sweet-ass armor and a big gun because I pre-ordered the game, but none of that has materialized. Also, by activating the in-game downloadable content delivery system (which I did) I'm supposed to get access to a brawny gun-for-hire, but it seems that has been delayed on the 360. Finally, I played through the Mass Effect game for iPhone/iPod Touch, which was actually a steal at $5, and registered for an EA Online account to make sure my "reward would be waiting for me in ME2." I have not seen any sign of this yet. Not that I really care about any of these things, but it's a bit of a smudge...
- The character import system was a bit clunky. You basically import your face and a bit of your renegade/paragon history, but it's not as big a deal as I was expecting. I might start a new play-through tonight and use the "decision fixer" provided to fine-tune my character's history a bit, since I think I created my character from a level 59 renegade instead of the prissy level 50 paragon from my first play through. Mostly because I'm curious about the potential consequences of not killing the Rachni queen. (If I need to explain that, then you shouldn't still be reading this. Shoo!)
- This will make more sense if you read Kyle's post from a while back on the weird comments from ME2 voice actors about how similar the game's story and ambiance are to shows like BSG and Firefly. Right. Anyways, one of the new features of ME2 is wardrobe customization and you start with four options for your "casual" (non butt-kicking) outfit. Three of them are pretty standard "space-dude" gear, including a sweet space tuxedo. The fourth is a ridiculously gay sleeveless leather cowboy thing that looks suspiciously Malcolm Reynolds-y. And no, I don't mean "gay" like "get away from me, stop being gay," I mean "sleeveless leather cowboy outfit" gay. OK, OK, it's just a cute little nod to a great sci-fi show that probably shouldn't have been cancelled, but does anyone really need to see their version of Commander Shepard dressed up like an extra from the Village People? Well... maybe. I wonder if it would help him lure the Asari Consort on board the Normandy SR2 and up the elevator (now 100% faster and 100% less incredibly annoying) to his sleeping chambers, with king-sized bed AND clock radio. I will let you know, dear readers.
Anyways, I've already blown 20 minutes of time writing this, which could have been spent doing work that will just keep me from leaving earlier to go home and play... Dang it!