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I recorded the a review for the Interactive Distractions podcast for their Mass Effect 2 spoiler episode.  I’m posting my notes here as well as the mp3 of the audio file.  There will be minor spoilers for ME2 below the fold, so don’t click through if that’s going to be an issue for you. Here are the notes I wrote up to read.  While there isn’t a verbatim transcript of what I said, it’s 95% accurate and close enough for all intents and purposes. intro i’m a big fan of bioware’s games. i’ve played kotor, jade empire, kotor2 (up to the crappy “here, let’s get the game out the door even though we don’t have time to render the cinematics so we’ll put in a crappy ‘tell me what happened to all the other guys on my team’ wrap up) and mass effect.  i haven’t played dragon age as i realised it would suck many hours of my life and i could only afford one massive bioware time sink.  i chose mass effect 2 and i’m very happy with my decision. i’ll start with my criticisms: – mining for minerals was boring. from a gameplay standpoint, i should be able to have a cerberus science officer scan the planet, show me hotspots and let me choose which ones to send a probe to.  putting this in as a time sink was simply annoying and one of the largest drawbacks of the game. also, there’s only so many ways tricia helfer can say “probe deployed”, “deployed probe”…”i got yer probe right here”.  also, once you had enough materials for your upgrades, the remaining materials were useless.  having a way to exchange materials for credits would have been very welcome, especially given i was swimming in research materials, but didn’t have enough credits for all the upgrades i wanted to purchase. – there were so many team members that i felt sad i could only bring 2 members along on each mission. i wish i had more time with them, especially Legion. also, given the overlap in abilities of the many folks on the team, once i’d gotten someone loyal, there wasn’t really a reason to bring them on missions. – there was one system lock up and one point in the “Freedom’s Progress” quest where i’d killed all the bad guys but it didn’t register and i could not progress to the next part and had to reload. this was especially annoying since it was so early in the game. – the “heat clip” idea was truly annoying. i understand they wanted to have you use different weapons, but going from unlimited ammo to a clip system felt like an artifical change made just to increase scarcity in the game. – going in and out of cover was a pain.  i found myself coming out of cover repeatedly by accident. this caused me to have to reload from my last save at least a couple of times. also it was such a pain in the ass having to be in cover before going over an obsticle.  having a way to do this without going into cover would have been truly welcome. – having to commit to either the paragon or renegade path to assure you’ll have enough points to activate specific conversational options.  i was playing a paragon character.  there were times i really wanted to do a renegade option, but felt like i had to stick to my path for fear of not having conversational options later on. – it was not clear on tuchanka about how the hell i get into the vehicle to go to the other clan’s base on Mordin’s loyalty mission. i spent 20 minutes running around the planet before i booted up the laptop to find out i needed to talk to the scout chief. having the mechanic have some dialogue saying “go over to the scout if you want to take a ride” would have been amazing. – having the “skip conversation” button also select the next response on the conversation wheel. i started holding the left stick somewhere where i didn’t think there’d be a conversational option so i wouldn’t accidentally choose a option i didn’t want. now, on to the good things – hacking computers and unlocking safes is so much better than the “press the button” mini-games of the original mass effect. i realise the games have pretty much the same difficulty throughout the game, but i quite liked it. – if you played the original game, the normandy crash site DLC was brilliant.  finding engineer pressley’s datapad was very emotional for me and being able to see his progression as a character through his eyes moved me.  if you didn’t play the original, it’s not gonna mean a damned thing to you, but if you’re like me and imported your mass effect 1 character, it’s a must play mission – the interrupt system in conversations was a huge addition. it turned passive events into active ones and truly immersed you in the narrative – speaking of story, this one kicks ass.  you start off by blowing up the protagonist’s ship and killing the main character. pretty bold move and it pays off.  the game is structured with a standard three acts: find out the problem, assemble your team, kick some major bad guy ass. assembling the team and doing the loyalty missions were all unique experiences. gone were the cookie cutter missions from the first mass effect.  each mission you go on, including the side missions, have unique levels, unique art assets and unique characters.  the attention to detail is amazing and much appreciated. – the characters all feel like real people.  my favorites were mordin, thane, jack and legion.  i really wish i had more time with legion but understand from a narrative standpoint why that didn’t happen.  i’m hoping legion returns in the third installment as a party member so i can spend more time with him. – the callbacks to the previous game and the decisions there drove home the idea that your decisions have consequences. seeing wrex, getting a message from the rachnai, getting an e-mail from Samesh Bahtia telling me he’s opened the restaurant his wife always wanted to open. these were the compliment to the huge story going on in the background.  these are the character moments that provide the compliment for the huge explosions that happen in the main storyline.  this addition is what makes mass effect a complex and mature narrative.  it’s not mature because you get to get it on with alien chicks.  it’s mature because it makes you think and makes you feel something. – speaking of complimentary additions, yeoman kelly chambers was a great one.  aside from being a well actualized character, she was helpful, telling me when i had mail and when i should talk to a team member to do their loyalty mission.  what could have been handled very poorly was a welcome addition to the game. – the loading screens are so much better than the elevator scenes.  they may take the same amount of time, but for some reason the new loading screens feel so much better than the elevator rides. – each weapon you acquire in the game feels unique and has an individual feel.  slimming down the choices and getting rid of the inventory management was a great change. no longer did i scroll through the weapons i’d picked up comparing damage, accuracy, cooldown rates, upgrade slots, etc to see what was best (and doing the same when i going to vendors and looking at what they have on sale).  it just worked and i didn’t have to focus on it. two thumbs way up on that change. – on a very small note, i really liked the model ships in my quarters. they looked good on display. i just wish there was more of a reason to visit my quarters so i could view them more often – the implementation of heavy weapons was good.  i didn’t like that there was a cap on the amount of heavy weapon ammo, but always felt bad using the heavy weapons in situations that weren’t crucial.  but i always had fun when i used them, especially the collector particle beam. – from a gameplay perspective, i liked the choice to only award XP for mission completion.  it directed the focus towards completing the mission, not on trying to find waves and waves of guys to get money/XP from – the shortcuts to use skills really streamlined the process and actually made me want to use my own skills, instead of just ignoring them and shooting guys. – the the technological upgrade system for items, powers and the ship was straightfoward and well implemented. – and last but not least, the voice acting was fabulous. the cast from the original return and do a tremendous job, but tricia helfer, martin sheen and michael hogan were massively welcome additions i’ve gone on quite a bit about the game, but that’s because the game was so well executed.  just as assassin creed 2 corrected delivered on the promise of the original, mass effect 2 took the original, got rid of the bad or clunky bits and replaced them with new portions that simply work better.  i’m starting to save my pennies now for mass effect 3.  and as soon as my co-workers have finished borrowing my copy of mass effect 2, i’ll continue on with the new game i started immediately after completing the game. And, if you’d like to hear my lovely voice reading this out, here’s the mp3.  Enjoy!