Mass Effect 2 Legendary Edition doesn’t really add as much new to the game as the first game did. In terms of mechanics and gameplay, the game is identical to the original. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that as Mass Effect 2 is a fairly solid game originally. It would be nice to see a similar overhaul as Mass Effect 1 got, however.
So there isn’t as much to compare in this review, and I’ll mostly go over Mass Effect 2 itself as a game and how it compares to the first game. If there are any differences in the remaster worth mentioning, I will point them out. As a whole, this didn’t really blow me away as much. But let’s get to it…
The Middle Story
What becomes clear from the get-go is that with Mass Effect 2, EA was banking on making a trilogy. A lot of the story in Mass Effect 2 feels like it builds up to what eventually comes in Mass Effect 3. In many ways, it feels like more of a bridge between Mass Effect 1 and 3 than anything else.
Mass Effect 2 shifts the focus away from the threat of the Reapers in this game and once again puts them more in the background. The main threat in Mass Effect 2 is the Collectors, a species working for the Reapers to abduct human colonies for whatever their purpose is.
You’re hired by Cerberus to stop the Collectors at any cost. A mission with a much higher risk than the one in Mass Effect 1. Mass Effect 2 raises the stakes, brings more squadmates to serve you, and overall succeeds at giving you a larger threat.
One thing I immediately noticed was how much sharper the writing was. Gone were the long static dialogues with overbearing exposition. Instead, we have a far more active dialogue with characters actually emoting more and feeling more like actual characters. The writing was one of the weakest aspects of Mass Effect 1, and that’s where Mass Effect 2 excels.
The story has its dumb moments that made me question it a bit, though I won’t go into those for the sake of spoilers. Just be prepared to question some of the writing.
More Action, Less RPG
Mass Effect 2’s gameplay feels a lot more streamlined and action-oriented than the first game. Though where the first game’s combat felt very clunky and janky, Mass Effect 2 feels a lot more polished in comparison. Though there are a few things that haven’t changed for the better in my opinion.
The addition of thermal clips means you no longer have weapons that function as they did in Mass Effect 1. You now have to reload your weapons, which essentially means you expel heat by ejecting the thermal clip from the gun. It makes sense, but it feels added just because they wanted a game with a reload mechanic.
The leveling system is also very different. In Mass Effect 1, you could freely distribute points in any skill and you had a lot more skills and stats to put points into. In Mass Effect 2, each character has 4 skills to put points into. Shepard can have slightly more with some additions but it still pales in comparison to how much control you had over your character stats in the first game.
Each skill can be leveled up 4 times but leveling up each skill costs increasingly more points for each level you want. This means you potentially end up with excess points for some characters depending on what build you want. The game also annoyingly flashes the Squad menu at you and reminds you that you have unspent points if you decide to save up points for later. It becomes really annoying since some skills only become available once a member is loyal to you.
Another aspect of Mass Effect 2 that becomes apparent is the immediacy of the main story. While you are given time to do loyalty missions that ensure your squad has a higher chance of surviving the final mission, if you decide to acquire the Reaper IFF device, it puts the game on a timer that means you eventually will be given a choice to either keep dallying or go do the final mission.
This wouldn’t be a problem if your final squadmate wasn’t exclusively obtainable by doing said mission. It makes Legion probably the squadmate you build the least comradery with since he joins your crew at a state where you’re rushed into doing the final mission.
On my first playthrough, a lot of my squadmates ended up dying because of this. I’ll blame this on me being rusty, admittedly I hadn’t played the second game in years. But it’s a huge beginner’s trap to fall into, so be aware of it. My second playthrough ended up much better and I ended the game with all my squadmates alive.
A More Cinematic Experience
Mass Effect 2 puts a lot more emphasis on its story, which isn’t bad necessarily. As I mentioned, the story improves a lot over the first game. But it comes at a pretty big cost.
A lot of the exploration from the first game is removed entirely. You now accumulate resources by simply scanning planets and launching probes to gather the resources. You have to do this a fair bit and it’s extremely tedious and boring compared to the first game. Sure, driving the Mako was janky and stuff, but at least it gave a bigger feeling of accomplishment rather than literally grinding resources.
Some of the DLC missions involving the Hammerhead vehicle bring back some of the manual resource gathering. But this is only for a series of missions and is never utilized in the main game. So a lot of the game feels unnecessarily dumbed down for the sake of making it more action-focused.
A Remaster Without the Remaster
The Legendary Edition doesn’t really bring much to the table that wasn’t there before. Even the visuals don’t feel that different, although the textures obviously look higher res. But this is largely the same exact game as the original.
In fact, the remaster feels even buggier than the original as I would frequently encounter glitches and small bugs that were annoying, some even crashing the game. One bug that was exclusive to the remaster was a character having red eyes. Overall the remaster feels even jankier than the original game, which is a shame as it should be the definitive way to play the game.
I also noticed some animation bugs, such as Garrus not opening his mouth when he’s shot on Omega, or the character getting stuck facing a single direction during gameplay. For being a remaster, I didn’t expect it to add even more bugs to the game. A lot of bugs from the original game don’t seem to have been addressed either, making me wonder why they bothered with the remaster in the first place.
For what I dislike about Mass Effect 2, there is a lot more I like though. I’m happy to say that while the hacking minigame in Mass Effect 1 was completely botched by the remaster, the ones in Mass Effect 2 remain unchanged. They also feel more fun than the one in Mass Effect 1, making you feel like you’re actually doing some hacking and not just playing Frogger on your omnitool.
The game’s missions also feel a lot more varied than in the first game. You’re no longer sent to near-identical bunkers to clear out hostiles. You’re given more diverse objectives and each location feels a bit more memorable.
I also truly enjoy the more action-oriented gameplay, and the classes still feel very distinct from each other. But I wouldn’t mind if the game didn’t lean so much in the action direction. I wish it retained elements of what made Mass Effect 1 so much fun.
For instance, there is a lot less choice of armors in Mass Effect 2. You can customize your armor with different colors. There are some other armors to wear as well. But a lot of them don’t allow you to not use their helmet and aren’t nearly as customizable. So a lot of the point of using them for cosmetic reasons is gone.
The voice acting in Mass Effect 2 is stellar compared to what it was in Mass Effect 1. The voice actors here actually made me feel more engaged in the story. For instance, Tali’s voice actress deserves an award for her heart-wrenching performance during her loyalty mission. Combined with the writing, I feel this game does a much better job telling the story rather than just dumping exposition on you.
The sound design is also really good, as is to be expected. The first game had some issues in this regard, but with a higher budget, the sound design here is improved. That being said, this is another case where the remaster of Mass Effect 1 improved so much on the original that Mass Effect 2’s remaster feels unremarkable in comparison. Everything is as it was in the original game, and it’s a little disappointing.
The music is also not as good as it was in the first game. I find it hard to place my finger on it but I don’t remember as many tracks from Mass Effect 2 as I do from the first game. The score still retains that balance between electronics and orchestral elements but the themes do not feel as memorable.
I also felt a bit disappointed that the end credits didn’t have a properly licensed song this time. When you end the first game with Faunts, it would be nice to have something similar for Mass Effect 2. I guess they saved that for the third game…
Mass Effect 2 is a stellar action game that retains some RPG elements but made it clear what direction the series was going to take from this game onwards. The focus became more on the writing and the combat, sacrificing a lot of the depth that Mass Effect 1 had in its RPG elements. Granted, that does not make Mass Effect 2 a bad game and overall, I would much rather play it over Mass Effect 1 any day.
I do wish the remaster didn’t feel so rushed though. In my opinion, the Legendary Edition should’ve been the definitive way to play this game but with the additional bugs and visuals that hardly look much better than the original 2010 game, it’s hard to recommend it.
Mass Effect 2 Legendary Edition
Mass Effect 2 Legendary Edition ends up feeling like a remaster that doesn't do a whole lot other than offering marginally improved visuals and adding more bugs to the game. This makes it very difficult to defend its existence other than as an excuse to sell the game on modern consoles.
- Improved writing over the first game
- Great voice acting and sound design
- Great combat
- A bigger scope with higher stakes
- More bugs than the original game
- Graphics don't feel as improved as they should
- Lack of options for tweaking graphics
Sound & Music