In Mass Effect 2’s opening minutes, Commander Shepard’s ship is destroyed and our hero is tossed lifeless to a desolate planet. After a quick title sequence, Shepard is revived in a state-of-the-art facility and the game kicks off properly. The period of Shepard apparently burning up in the planet’s upper atmosphere and then looking as good as new is quickly brushed upon but there are bigger aliens to fry in the galaxy.
For the curious fan trying to put the pieces together, or just experience everything BioWare has to offer, a series of comics were released by Dark Horse. Mass Effect: Redemption details Liara’s rescue of Shepard’s body from the Collectors and the Shadow Broker, and its delivery to the Illusive Man at Cerberus.
Published as a set of four and kicking off in early January 2010 before Mass Effect 2 was released, Redemption also serves as what is, at this time, a series of six comic books covering a wide range of characters and locations in the universe. I plan to cover them all before the release of Mass Effect 3, but let’s start with the first one.
I just finished up my playthrough of the hardest difficulty in Mass Effect 2, and in the process finished unlocking all the game’s achievements along with playing all the downloadable content released after my first playthrough. I missed quite a bit of content, including Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker, but that’s all been played and reviewed now.
Which leaves me with just Arrival, the most recent and supposedly last piece of DLC released in February 2011. It is meant to bridge the gap between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, and from the E3 preview of the third game, it will kick off with Commander Shepard feeling the repercussions of his decisions in the DLC. An interesting decision to place a semi-major plot element in a paid piece of content, but that’s business.
After a bum-rush of Mass Effect 2 related reviews over the past few months, this is probably my second to last piece on the game. I’m planning a Daddy Issues feature and that will be it (unless BioWare sneaks another piece of downloadable content on us, which seems unlikely). But don’t worry, I still need to write about all the different comics in the Mass Effect universe, so there is still more to come.
Mass Effect: Arrival costs 560 MS points or $7.
You may be surprised to find out the Mass Effect novels are not about Commander Shepard, or any of his squadmates, or feature any of the major events that take place during the games. BioWare and author Drew Karpyshyn have been very careful in not allowing any kind of canon Shepard to be declared. An individual’s Mass Effect experience is heavily influenced by the decisions they make, and the writers don’t want any outside influence to indicate someone is doing it right or wrong.
But the novels have successfully created their own small cast of characters and locations. Mass Effect: Revelation served as a prequel to the series, and while it introduced us to Captain Anderson and Saren, Kahlee Sanders quickly became the character to identify with. Ascension follows Sanders through her run in with Cerberus and training of human biotics, but also teases at some of the locations we would see in Mass Effect 2.
Now with Mass Effect: Retribution, we continue to follow Kahlee, but seemingly brush up against the world of the games a little closer. In most ways, Retribution doesn’t feel as much like a prequel to Mass Effect 3 as Ascension did to 2, but some groundwork is laid.
Here is my review of Mass Effect: Retribution, written by Drew Karpyshyn and released in July 2010.
With Lair of the Shadow Broker, Mass Effect 2 finally gets the add-on fans have been waiting for. Additional characters in Zaeed and Kasumi are great, and Overlord was a decent side story, but Shadow Broker is the real deal.
The DLC not only brings back fan favorite Liara from Mass Effect 1, but features a pair of excellent boss fights and some awesome action set pieces. There’s also a handful of bonuses available after the action is over, extending and expanding upon the main game’s feature set.
Available for 800 MS Points ($10) since July 2010, here’s my review of Mass Effect 2’s penultimate DLC, Lair of the Shadow Broker.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from science fiction, it is that artificial intelligence cannot be trusted. Isaac Asimov’s 1950 collection of short stories, I, Robot, was all about robots, A.I., and Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, which above all is about the protection of humans. 2001: A Space Odyssey famously featured the not-so-friendly HAL, and recent movies such as The Matrix and Moon both star some nasty A.I.s. In gaming history, GLaDOS and SHODAN are two of the medium’s most popular villains.
So it was only a matter of time before Mass Effect featured a big bad A.I. story, and that arrives in Overlord. It was the first paid Mass Effect 2 DLC that didn’t include a new character or weapon, so at 560 MS Points ($7), the story would have to be well worth it.
This isn’t Mass Effect’s first foray into evil A.I. with the Geth and Reapers featuring so prominent in the story along with the Rogue V.I. mission in the original, but this is its first take on the traditional human menace we all so know and love.
I’m about two-thirds done with my insanity playthrough in Mass Effect 2. Insanity is the hardest difficulty in the game and beating it will also unlock my final main game achievement. The only other game I earned all the achievements on? The original Mass Effect.
So on this run I’m also playing all the downloadable content I missed the first time through (mostly because it simply wasn’t available yet). So while I’ve reviewed Normandy Crash Site, Zaeed, and Kasumi add-ons earlier, I’m now venturing into Firewalker, Overlord, Shadow Broker, and Arrival territory. General reception of these has been a mixed bag, but I’m excited to form my own opinion.
So as you can tell, Firewalker is first up. This was Mass Effect 2’s first foray back into vehicles. Mass Effect 1 heavily featured the Warthog-like Mako and built dozens of multiple square mile planets to land on and explore. The Mako was probably one of the weaker aspects of the game, but I found it pretty fun when we weren’t required to climb up 80 degree angles.
I was pretty excited to try out the M-44 Hammerhead myself, let’s see how that turned out. The Firewalker Pack is free for members of the Cerberus Network, much like the character Zaeed and his loyalty mission.
When Mass Effect 2 was announced for release on the PlayStation 3, there were a lot of questions about how it would work since Mass Effect 1 had only been released on the Xbox 360 and Windows. Not only was Mass Effect 2 the direct sequel to one of the most expansive narratives ever seen in a video game, but the game imported the first title’s saved games to keep the player’s choices intact throughout the series. How would the developers handle the complete lack of Mass Effect 1? The answer: Mass Effect: Genesis.
For gamers that didn’t have a Mass Effect 1 save to import, BioWare had selected a set of “canon” choices to at least lay down the groundwork. The default choices generally meant that players would miss out on some interesting characters, including Wrex, a fan favorite. For Xbox 360 and Windows players, they could play 30+ hours of Mass Effect to generate their ideal saved game, but with Genesis, PS3 owners could play the 15 minute interactive comic and make a few key decisions.
Yesterday, Mass Effect: Genesis was surprisingly made available on the Xbox 360 for 320 MS Points, here is my take on it.
Mass Effect began here, with its first novel, Mass Effect: Revelation. Released in mid-2007, a half-year before Mass Effect proper was unleashed on the Xbox 360 and Windows, Revelation was meant to not only start the hype for what would become BioWare’s flagship series but also begin laying down the structure of the series’ large universe.
Authored by Mass Effect writer Drew Karpyshyn, Revelation follows the video game’s background hero Captain Anderson about 20 years before the events of the first game. We also meet a few of the series’ alien races along with the Citadel Council and first game villain, Saren. An Alliance scientist, Kahlee Sanders, is also introduced and she has served as the main link between the Mass Effect tie-in novels.
I first read Revelation when it was released in 2007, and have since read the second book, Mass Effect: Ascension, which I wrote a review on afterwards. Ascension takes place between the first two games and did an excellent job hinting at what was to come for Shepard and the gang in the second game. I recently received the first three novels (Retribution was released last year) as a gift so I decided to re-read Revelation and write a review on it, enjoy.
The supposedly final piece of Mass Effect 2 downloadable content was released recently, and while Arrival bridges the gap between Mass Effect 2 and 3, Zaeed - The Price of Revenge was available at release basically as an incentive not to rent the game or buy it used. Within Price of Revenge is the game's first downloadable character, Zaeed, a gritty mercenary who can pretty much be boiled down to as Wrex the Human - scars and all. We also get Zaeed's loyalty mission, a short little romp into the history of this rather bland character.
Due to how EA set up Mass Effect 2's Cerberus Network, if you didn't buy the game new, you had to purchase separate access to the Network just to play this particular piece of downloadable content along with the Normandy Crash Site that I reviewed recently. I'm not sure if EA originally wanted every piece of DLC behind this paywall, but this is pretty much it for substantial content that the Cerberus Network required. That's a good thing.
So here's another quick review of some content I've been meaning to cover for a while. It's my goal to completely cover Mass Effect 2 before number 3 is released in six months or so.
Mass Effect 3 is coming out this year, that just feels weird to write. This means not only will I get to play the finale to one of my favorite game series of all time in about eight months, but that Mass Effect 2 related reviews and articles will just feel terribly stale. Okay, to mostly everyone they already feel totally outdated, and I understand; who wants to read about year old downloadable content? Who knows, but I like writing about it.
Normandy Crash Site was a zero day DLC available for Mass Effect 2, and is free for everyone who is a member of the Cerberus Network (which is required if you want to buy any downloadable content). It's mostly fan service for fans of the first Mass Effect, but it also serves up a surprising amount of emotion for its small package, especially to someone like me who put over 100 hours into the original.
I hope to cover the rest of Mass Effect 2's major downloadable content over the coming months, including Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker. I won't be reviewing (or buying, for that matter) the weapon or armor packs. I'm sorry, those are just lame. I also plan to re-read the first Mass Effect book for a review and read the third novel for the first time. My review of Mass Effect: Ascension has been available for a while. I have also covered Mass Effect 2's first paid for DLC, Kasumi's Stolen Memory.