In a continuation of our game-by-game review of the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, next up is Mass Effect 2. At the time of its release, it was a mind-blowing sequel. Mass Effect 2 took great elements of the first game and further refined them into such a unique experience. It’s one of the more rare examples in entertainment where the sequel was better than the original in nearly every category. Mass Effect 2 also happens to be in my top 3 favorite video games of all time. Fast forward 11 years (crazy it’s been that long), and Mass Effect 2 makes its way to newer hardware thanks to the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition. Although the improvements made to Mass Effect 2 aren’t nearly as big as those in the first game, the improvements done really help further polish an absolute gem in gaming. In short, Mass Effect 2 in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is one of the greatest video games you could ever play and a must play today. (Note: Like our previous Mass Effect: Legendary Edition review, I’ll refer to the newer Legendary Edition of Mass Effect 2 as Mass Effect 2: LE to help avoid confusion).
Mass Effect 2 originally released on Xbox 360 and PC back in 2010, coming to PS3 one year later. In Mass Effect 2 the game takes place within the Milky Way galaxy during the 22nd century, where humanity is threatened by an insect-like alien race known as the Collectors. The player reassumes the role of Commander Shepard, an elite human soldier who must assemble and gain the loyalty of a diverse team to stop the Collectors in a suicide mission. With the use of a completed saved game of the original Mass Effect, players can impact the story of the game in numerous ways. In Mass Effect 2: LE, you’re getting the base game and ALL its DLC included in one package. This DLC added brand new story elements (Lair of the Shadow Broker, Overlord, and Arrival), new characters and loyalty missions (Kasumi and Zaeed), and bonus pre-order content (weapons and armor) previously unavailable to players who didn’t, you know, pre-order the game.
Mass Effect 2 truly excels in its approach to storytelling. The game is dark, really dark. The threat of the Reapers from the first game is thought to be gone yet replaced by something equally as sinister, the Collectors. When I initially played Mass Effect 2, I thought it’d be tough to follow up the evil of Sovereign (the main Reaper bad guy) and Saren. Yet Mass Effect 2 excels at setting up the Collectors as an equally twisted yet even more mysterious villain. Throughout your adventure, the Collectors are messed up until you come to the story twist that…well, I won’t spoil that part. Let’s just say the Collectors aren’t quite themselves. The point is that Mass Effect 2 does an amazing job at writing a story that is completely captivating yet really dark. The story never runs into the problem of feeling rushed or dragged out.
Even more impressive is how decision-making choices from the previous game have consequences in Mass Effect 2. No game has ever nailed this element quite like Mass Effect 2. Your decisions in the first Mass Effect game shape how the story progresses and characters’ relationships in the second. Saving someone’s life in Mass Effect changes entire storylines in Mass Effect 2. For example, choosing to talk Wrex down at the Krogan facility on Virmire in Mass Effect directly leads to him being named the leader of a Krogan tribe on Tuchanka. However, if you killed Wrex in Mass Effect, he doesn’t exist anymore to help you, and the Krogan tribe is not as thrilled to see you. This happens throughout Mass Effect 2 where decisions you made can come back to help or haunt you. It’s amazing how well this is done and really makes you think about the decisions you have to make in Mass Effect 2. Those decisions will come back to bite you if you’re not careful.
Not to be outdone is Mass Effect 2‘s amazing soundtrack. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest ever written. The music perfectly reflects the game, with eerie, dark pieces wonderfully mixed with blood pumping, action pieces. It’s just an amazing soundtrack, and I highly recommend you listen to it. More specifically, listen to the Suicide Mission song and tell me that isn’t just absolutely wonderful.
Mass Effect 2: LE ultimately takes everything above and puts it more tightly in one great package. Like I mentioned above, all the DLC ever made for the game is included from the start. This lets you expand your roster and even puts the pieces together for the eventual Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect 2: LE takes a more refined approach to its remastered improvements versus the OG Mass Effect. Characters and environments see a graphical boost, load times have been greatly reduced, and certain scenes in-game have been reworked (now you no longer stare at Miranda’s butt during some cutscenes). All of these improvements are great and ultimately take an amazing game and make it even better. It’s not as much of an upgrade like what the first game received, but when you’re dealing with a nearly perfect game to begin with, it’s hard to fix much.
That said, the only issue Mass Effect 2 ever had was its planet mining. In short, you have to travel to different planets to launch probes onto said planet to mine for resources. You, in turn, use these resources to research new weapons, armor, and upgrades. It was never a bad thing in Mass Effect 2, it was just an “interesting” change from what players expected, mainly that you get a lot of money in the game and ultimately can’t use any of it to improve your ship. Mining planets took time, and you had to mine quite a few planets before you had enough material to research everything. I never had a problem with the mining of planets in Mass Effect 2 mainly because it felt like the game wanted me to take a breather partway through the story. Some people didn’t love it, and ultimately, mining in Mass Effect 2: LE isn’t any different from before. Maybe you think that’s a bad thing? I don’t know, but I never personally had an issue with it.
In short, Mass Effect 2: LE is the greatest way to play one of the greatest video games ever made. While it only makes some minor upgrades to graphics and load times, Mass Effect 2: LE is still a masterpiece game worth playing and replaying again in 2021. Its fantastic story, characters and gameplay still pack a punch all these years later, and its decision-making consequences still hurt just as bad. There’s really nothing bad to say about Mass Effect 2, except maybe if you aren’t a fan of small, mining planet segments? Regardless, Mass Effect 2: LE is a remarkable game you absolutely must play.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC and playable via backwards compatibility on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S
Release Date: 14th May 2021