This month marks Mass Effect’s tenth anniversary! On November 20th, 2007, the game was first released in North America. And what a ride it’s been for fans since then. Join me here as I share some of my memories from each game of the original trilogy. In this second of three posts, I stumble through a jumble of thoughts on the first time I played Mass Effect 2. For the first post in this series, click here.
Unlike with Mass Effect, where I didn’t play the game until some months after its release, I picked up Mass Effect 2 just a couple weeks after it dropped in January 2010. By then, my Mass Effect hangover had cleared up, but only a little. I remained ruthlessly excited about continuing on with Shepard and the Reapers and whatever mess that was about to ensue. Upon starting the game, I stopped dead in my tracks when I was face with my first and biggest choice. Which Shepard would I play first?! I was allowed to import each of the four Shepards I had previously created, but only one could move forward at a time. After plenty of internal hemming and hawing, I decided to pick my raven-haired Vanguard named Alexandra. She had a straightforward military backstory. She was a paragon. And she was only slightly terrible in the first game in stringing along both Kaiden and Liara before dumping the former.
Unfortunately, this act of choosing which Shepard to play remains my strongest memory of that first playthrough.
So there. Mass Effect 2. The end.
Okay, okay, I’m being a little silly. But truly, if most of Mass Effect was a blur, then my first time with Mass Effect 2 is downright smoggy. I don’t remember much outside of the main story, only that I completed all the loyalty missions, I didn’t really “get” Cerberus, and, most importantly, I romanced Garrus. Who survived at the end of it all? Heck if I know.
And that was the odd thing about that first playthrough of ME2. It didn’t reel me in almost immediately like the first game had. Whereas Mass Effect built up a sense of urgency over the Reapers, Mass Effect 2 seemed slower, more calculated. The Reapers were still out there, but Shepard’s main focus was not necessarily them but rather, it was on forming a team to help defeat them. Alexandra Shepard followed orders well enough – gather these three people first, then these others – but I glazed over the loyalty missions generally, completing them as routine chapters rather than the important and meaningful quests that they are. When it came time to storm the Collector’s base, I didn’t feel much of anything towards any of my teammates. Well, except for Garrus.
Looking back on my first time with Mass Effect 2, I know that most of my issues with the game actually had nothing to do with the game itself. Rather, our original Xbox 360 was dying then. It went through what we colloquially termed a “blue period” right around 2010 in which it refused to run most games. And when it did, it whirred and screeched its way through. So it didn’t help that Mass Effect 2 was a huge (back then) game on two discs. Every one of my sessions with the game began with the question: will the game start? And then, if it did, the question became how long will it run before it dies? By the time I was done worrying about the console, I barely had any brainpower left to focus on what I was doing in the game. I was all go, go, GO before the console croaks for good! I was so concerned about simply finishing the game that I didn’t take the time to really play it.
Getting through Alexandra Shepard’s story took me much longer than I would have liked. And once was over, we overhauled the little Xbox 360. It got cleaned from the inside out, and we managed to get the thing running pretty smoothly once again. At that point, Mass Effect 3 was out in the ether, and I decided to try another playthrough of ME2, this time with good ol’ Tatrianne Shepard, my spicy para-gade. I only ever got as far as Illium.
Much like with Dragon Age II, I wouldn’t appreciate Mass Effect 2 until many years later. Now, while Mass Effect will always hold that special place in my heart, I know that Mass Effect 2 is the better game. At the time, however, this was then back in 2012, I easily set aside whatever I had taken for granted in Mass Effect 2, because, it was time.
Time to play Mass Effect 3.
Lede image by BioWare [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons