Saturday 12 March, 2011
Sat down today for a nice chunk of time to play ME2, but ended up being bored out of my mind and actually (gasp!) cut my session short. This was totally unexpected, especially after having already played a while and 100% enjoying it. I'll start with the bad first. Well, first a general note of unease. ME2 is either a streamlined (positive adjective) or dumbed down (negative adjective) successor to ME1. It's probably a mixture of both. But the fact that I can't decide to what degree it's streamlined or dumbed down worries me, mostly because I don't remember finding much anything in need of fixing from ME1. So what the hell did they do to my game?
1. Federal offense level. Scanning planets is horrendous. Really, it's that bad. It's tedious, boring, time-consuming, etc., etc. Here's how it goes down. ME1 version: Select a planet, you automatically fly there, you click 'survey,' and you automatically survey it, mine it, whatever. ME2 version: Fly your ship (click-to-move) to the planet, which uses up your fuel resource (only replenishable at a fueling station, of which there is one (1) per star cluster). Click 'scanner.' Hold right click to go into scan mode. Move the scanner icon over 360 degrees of the planet, slowly and methodically, monitoring a graph of element traces for four useful ores. When the graph starts spiking along any of the four ores, delicately move the scanner to find the peak of the ore deposit, and left click (you're still holding right-click for scan mode) to deploy a probe, which collects your goodies. Each planet takes around 15 probes, and I can hold, as of now, 30 probes. This means that every two planets, I have to fly myself back to the fueling station to buy probes. I quit today when I entered a system with seven planets. That would be 4 trips back to another star system and probably 45 minutes to scan and collect all the minerals. My right wrist and mouse fingers are really tired from holding down that right button. Why can't I just click it once to enter 'scan mode' or something? Why do I have to keep it pressed the entire time? I played about four hours today, one story mission, a couple small missions, and the rest (2.5 hours or so) just scanning planets. I really feel like I wasted my time. Unfortunately, you need the various ores to upgrade anything in the game, so you have to go farm it, and the RPG fan in me likes to upgrade things. I was thinking that I don't want to go back and play it because I know the first thing I need to do is scan this 7-planet solar system.
2. Security breach. ME2 features the 'everyone can do everything' gameplay that makes me feel less unique than my parents and teachers always told me I was. Example 1: hacking. No longer do you need a hacking expert in your party. Now everyone's main character can hack. And instead of actually challenging players with a tiered difficulty mini-game a la ME1, the two minigames for hacking and opening doors are capable of being done with 100% success by a 6-year-old, and 6-year-olds shouldn't be playing this game. There's a simple game of Memory with 10 tiles transposed on a circuit board, and there's a simple game of matching. They are so boring. I finish them all at like 50% time. ME1 had different levels, and the hard ones would get hard! I'd fail and have to use Omni-gel to open them sometimes. There isn't any Omni-gel in ME2 though because there's no inventory and no loot! What have you done to my RPG?!
3. Petty theft. Yes, no loot and no inventory. Now, you select weaponry before the fight, and the only character you can equip is Shepherd. All weapons/armor/upgrades are found lying around levels, in shops, or from talking with crew members. Once you find or buy a pattern, you then have to pay whatever type of ore to research it, and then you can choose that weapon on load-out, or have Shepherd equip the armor (some of each of which give bonuses to the whole party, and some of which are character-specific). Guns also have ammo now, which is plentiful so far on the ground.
4. (Dis)orderly conduct. The tactical features of battles are different. Now you can essentially pause the game, assign individual orders, including cast targets, and then watch the action unfold. So far, this has made the game really easy. Granted, I don't have to use it, but I like it at the same time I dislike it. What this means is that it essentially doesn't matter what class Shepherd is since you give orders to all 3 characters. What I typically do is pause, Shepherd immobilizes enemies with biotics, other character immobilizes with biotics/tech, other character immobilizes with biotics/tech. All characters shoot immobilized enemies. Win. I've died like twice, compared to the many, many deaths in ME1. I could also bump up the difficulty, which I think I might do, because it's just too easy.
Then, I have some other random observations and quick things. Not all missions have maps anymore, which is weird. You just get a directional arrow on the radar, but no map.
The story missions so far are about recruiting a crew, which is neat. I found some Salarian scientist yesterday, then I found Garrus (!) today, which was badass. The story and characters are great again, and I'm very glad for it.
All the above negativity, while annoying (or downright depressing as in the scanning), doesn't mean I dislike the game. The missions are a lot of fun.
Oh, here's the equivalent of an international act of terrorism though. There's no Mako! No longer do you just deploy on planets in the Mako. Driving the Mako around, taking screenshots, and discovering places of interest on planetary surfaces was possibly my favorite thing about ME1, and it's gone here. I've only encountered one extra mission, and I must admit that, though there was no Mako, it was really unique. I detected a crashed ship, and went down to investigate. The ship was hanging precariously on the edge of a cliff. I made my way across it, with new paths opening up as pieces of it fell and crashed down around me, and finally got to the computer so I could download logs and find out what happened. Just then, the whole ship shifted and began sliding off the cliff. The Normandy came just in time to pick me up. Very cool mission, and tense because the ship shifted and groaned the whole time. I hope others will be as unique and make up for no Mako.
Biotics are more useful. Abilities now follow targets. No longer will my force chokes be avoided!
The graphics, lighting, interface, etc. etc. is all very much visually improved. Me like.
To backtrack, my very first impressions of the game upon loading were the EA store, cash exchange for DLC, and achievements. ME2 definitely is part of this new breed of DLC-happy single-player games. But of course there's a store, and of course you can't just buy the DLC. You have to buy EA points or something, and then there are also ME2 points or something, and then you cash in for extra missions and whatnot. The real $ equivalent is relatively high. Achievements also appear all the freaking time in-game. That would be fine, but it's the achievement progress that clutters things. It seems like everything I do, this big Headshot 1/20! and Technology upgrade 3/10! etc. etc. pop up. I don't care! Just let me know if I finish one. I'll look to see what they are if I'm going to worry about completing them.
When you start ME2, you can import an ME1 save file and keep the decisions you made in that game. I started off without the save to see what the default choices were, and it turns out I made two different ones. I reloaded with my save game for continuity (and because my choices are better, duh). It's awesome how the choices I made in ME1 actually carry over. For instance, the fact that I saved the council has been referenced at least 10 times. I'm not sure what happened to my alien Asari lover yet though. I did find Garrus, and Joker is my pilot, and Dr. Chakwas is still there taking care of everyone in the medical bay.
Yep, so I'm just bummed out by how lame my session was tonight with all that planetary scanning. I really hope I just did way too much of it at once and that now there's not much left to do. We'll see, but I doubt I'll feel like playing again soon. I know there's a lot of fun to be had, so I'll get back to it eventually.