If Mass Effect 2 was your first experience of the franchise, but you’re an unashamed completionist like myself, you might be wondering whether it’s worth going back to the beginning and making use of the much-touted ability to import a character from the original game.
For my part, I was so embroiled in the universe and storyline that I was fully prepared to take the risk, despite warnings from more experienced gamers than myself.
In many ways they were right: Mass Effect is a different game to its spawn, and there are more than a few frustrations in going backwards. After all, much of the work in creating the sequel was presumably to answer the problems in the first game. So, is it worth the effort?
1) The Combat System
Mass Effect 2 is fully responsible for my preoccupation with sniping. The process is so smooth it’s a beautiful thing, and I ended the story feeling like the goddess of gaming. I can’t claim the same for its parent.
Not that it’s particularly difficult to get the hang of, or aggravating in comparison to other games… it’s just not ME2. It’s more difficult to be precise, some weapons I can’t be bothered to get used to and it’s hard to make the transition, but ultimately it’s do-able, and fun in its own way.
I was never a particular fan of the mining in ME2, though it was a good way to occupy my fingers while voicing with my significant other. Exploration in the first game does have its annoyances (such as the Mako, hated by almost everyone but myself, because I can’t drive in a straight line and don’t expect to be able to) but it also has its rewards.
N7 quests don’t take you into their own private zone; instead, you’re dropped in a landing area and drive about searching for anomalies and mining bits and pieces to add to your collection. It all adds to your xp and contributes to quests, and it takes a bit more brainpower than spinning a planet on its axis. You can also scan planets that have no attached quests from orbit with a single click. I like it, and I refuse to be ashamed.
3) Upping Your Grade
I like the upgrade system in ME2, it’s very well done. And also very different from the first game, where the weapons you wield and the armour you wear is found in boxes along the way. All of which are accessed in the same way: with a very basic sequence-pressing process.
There are a lot of boxes. A lot of boxes. Every so often a pop-up will whinge that you’re carrying almost 150 items and that’ll be that, and you’re forced to spend a good 15 minutes re-equipping everyone in your team and then selling the leftovers or reducing them to omni-gel (something you don’t pay much attention to in part 2, but lubricates your way through part 1). And then you have to upgrade the re-equipped weapons. And then work out why you seem to be travelling light but it’s still whinging at you (which is usually because you missed a huge list of upgrades for one particular type of weapon). And then do it all again. An hour later. Potentially aggravating, but I’m coping fine.
4) The Characters
I was pleased as punch to discover I could make my Shepard look almost identical to my ME2 Shepard, though a little less defined. And it’s the same with much of the characterisation: the slow progression of relationships and the paragon/renegade rewards for making nice are still there. What you say still matters, and you can tip more than a wink at another crew member, it’s just a little bit less evolved than the ME2 system.
Above all else, this game is worth playing simply for its storyline. Every time I discover a new piece of information about a species, a character or a plotline, it adds to my experience of the Mass Effect universe. I’m sure it would have been more rewarding playing these games the right way round, but there is still an “ohhhh!” factor in meeting a familiar face for the first time and figuring out how they came to be where they are in the second game. Visiting the Citadel, going backwards, is a bit like a tourist trip to the Coliseum, but in full working condition.
It’s a good game, improved vastly by the impression its offspring has given and worth playing for the sheer scope and intricacy of its plot. Going backwards, some of the relationships my Shepard has formed, in retrospect, are more affecting than I realised, and I can also foresee plenty of differences based on real decisions from the first game, as opposed to the default created for new players. More importantly, some parts of the storyline will no doubt hit me harder when I replay ME2 with my imported character. Because there are some decisions you can’t ever take back.
I have yet to find out whether it was worth the man hours, but once I’ve given my imported Shepard a whirl, I’ll let you know.