Cause and Mass Effect
The long-awaited sequel to the original sci-fi epic has landed
By Chris O'Neal 01/21/2010
Mass Effect 2 – X-Box 360/PC - $59.99/$69.99 (Special Edition)
Great names in science fiction: Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, H.G. Wells, that guy who invented the Roomba.
Science Fiction is a genre that can only get better with time. It is the cheese of the literary world. I will read a Wells novel over any of the Twilight books, regardless of a lack of sparkling vampires. But when it comes to sci-fi in video games, I tend to stray. Sure, every once in a while a Mass Effect comes along (2007, Bioware/Electronic Arts), but where is the Mass Effect 2? Oh, it actually comes out next week; go figure.
In the pantheon of science fiction games, the original Mass Effect rests somewhere near the top. As a game, it is above average; as a thought experiment, or a lesson in morality, it’s almost a textbook inspired by the aforementioned authors and their philosophies. The game, set both on and off the SSV Normandy, allows the player to travel from one solar system to another in search of the all-powerful, all-evil Geth and their puppet masters, the Reapers, extradimensional beings who have controlled life possibly from the beginning.
In the sequel, the Geth and the Reapers are back, as the story never really ended in the first version, anyhow. Instead, your decisions from the first game affect your story in the second. Understand? If your partner was killed in the first, he or she will not be returning for the second. If you chose to save one disgusting yet somehow lovable alien (Alf), then there may be consequences for your kind heart in the second (Evil Alf). Mass Effect 2 is, at least in part, dependent on what you did or didn’t do in the first.
In other words, if you haven’t played the first, you have about a week to finish it.
That isn’t to say that you can’t play it as a stand-alone game. I wouldn’t recommend it, but you could. You’d just be missing out on a lot. Kind of like having a cake with no icing; it’s just cake. It’s just cake.
For those of you who require a little action with your interspecies political maneuvering, worry not. Many of the complaints with the first were due to the complicated battle system and the lack of decent enemies to smite. Be aware that in the sequel, there shall be smiting to a glorious extent. New weapons and armor have been added for use with the weapons classes (Soldier, Sentinel, Vanguard) as well as powerful and strangely beautiful new biotic attacks.
(Think of the biotics as ‘Force’ users; an ‘Adept’ class is able to lift and throw, blast, and destroy using only the power of the mind. Mind bullets.)
Not to mention the possibility for an erotic encounter of the blue kind. Or was that just in the first? All I’m saying is that in the first game you were able to seduce an alien. Fantastic. I mean, you didn’t have to seduce it but you’re home alone and the windows are closed; go to town.
Maybe, 100 years from now, much in the same way that Wells and Verne are household names, the creators of Mass Effect all will be, too, all several hundred of them. These tomes of our modern sci-fi won’t be found in the sci-fi section at Barnes & Noble. Rather, these tales of war, anxiety over war and tendonitis will be told to grandchildren in much the same way stories are still told of Hoth: in Greatest Hits collections and senile rants. Say, do you remember the time I watched Luke Skywalker kill an endangered species and then wear it?
Mass Effect 2 will be released next Tuesday, and good luck getting the special edition!
Chris O’Neal is a full-time English teacher from Camarillo who recently moved to Seoul, South Korea. In his free time he likes to stare enviously at people with gaming systems and is in desperate search of non-fluorescent lighting.