As Mass Effect 2 begins we take the role of John Shepard, commander of the Normandy in the year 2183. During this initial sequence the ship is attacked and takes heavy damage, forcing most of the crew to evacuate. Only Shepard and the helmsman “Joker” are left and we first take control of the main character as he makes his way through the damaged craft to save Joker before the ship is lost. During this rescue Shepard is successful but dies and we see his body fall through the atmosphere of a nearby planet.
Following his death Shepard’s body is recovered and ends up in the hands of an organisation called Cerberus who spend two years rebuilding and reviving it through Project Lazarus. Before Cerberus have the chance to complete their project in full the station where the work is taking place comes under attack from its own security mech’s and Shepard is brought out of hibernation to assist in saving the remaining characters. During this initial level we meet two of the main NPC’s, Miranda and Jacob and the three successfully escape.
After escaping Shepard is granted an audience with Illusive Man who explains that humanity is under threat from an unknown enemy who are abducting human colonies. We are dispatched to a colony which was recently attacked where we discover that the enemy behind the attack are an insect like race called The Collectors. After we report this to the Illusive Man he places us in command of the Normandy SR-2, an improved version of the ship which was destroyed at the start of the game.
Our quest build a team and save humanity from the threat of The Collectors then begins…
In creating a character for Mass Effect 2 there are two options. The first is to follow the standard path of generating a new character which can be done manually or automatically. The second option is to import our save game from Mass Effect and through this method decisions made in the first game affect the attributes of the character in the sequel. For those who start a new character the main points of the Mass Effect plot are summarised during conversations with NPC’s in the early part of this game.
We are also given the opportunity to control how our team/character behaves and level up, the options being automatic or manual. With the manual option selected we control how our skill points are distributed, as with many RPGs. Throughout the game we can also upgrade items such as armour with different items giving various improvements to health and other skills.
The main vehicle for plot progression in Mass Effect 2 are the cut scenes between missions, during these we interact with the NPCs through a series of conversation options. The decisions on how we react during these conversations have a bearing on our character and how there are perceived and treated by the NPC’s.
During actual gameplay, on the PC, we control Shepard through the standard W,A,S,D for movement and mouse to look around, aim. Additional actions are performed through two main keys, shift and space. Through shift we can access special moves/weapons etc and pressing space allows us to perform actions such as taking cover behind objects and opening doors. As well as the standard movement and fighting the game also features small mini tasks/games in which we can perform actions like hacking terminals by matching symbols before a time limit runs out.
Health is an aspect of the game which has changed significantly since the original. Previously the primary regeneration method was health packs dotted around each level but now we have a regeneration method where taking cover allows us to recover. Failing health is symbolised by a red, vein like border around the screen as we take damage. There are also a larger number of weapons available in the game, well into double figures.
When not on the planet surface we are able to walk around the Normandy, interact with the crew and as with surface action we can also interact with terminals and equipment. Once such piece of technology is our galaxy map which serves as the main method of navigating from location to location.
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