sunnuntai 8. tammikuuta 2012

Mass Effect DLC Guide

The Mass Effect trilogy is once again the hottest topic of the day, not just in this blog but the whole video game scene. The third and final chapter in the story of Commander Shepard, perhaps the greatest character in video game history, is just around the corner, and I'm guessing that some people have replayed, or begun to replay the first two games as a reminder of the events thus far, or to fix their earlier mistakes. That's what I've done, although I did not mean for my original Shepard to get lost in cyberspace; the dumb policies for being able to import a save file prevented - or rather will prevent - me from importing my very first Shepard to Mass Effect 3, so now I have a new one. A better one. A Shepard 2.0, so to speak, or 3.0, if his resurrection in the beginning of Mass Effect 2 is taken into account. I'm hoping that by the end of Mass Effect 2, my whole crew will be very much alive and that Ashley Williams and I would have some unfinished business in the game of love. That would lay out the perfect grounds for my personal game of Mass Effect 3. If I had started Mass Effect 3 with my old Shepard, I'd have missed the events in the Arrival DLC, forgotten most events leading up to the game altogether, half my crew would've been dead, my Shepard would always have been remembered as a reckless retard who botched the suicide mission in the end of Mass Effect 2, and I would probably have a smurf kid to pay maintenance for (I'm pretty sure Shepard will be a dad/mom in Mass Effect 3, IF he/she slept with Liara).

This review/guide was originally about the DLC for both games that have been released thus far. However, there are many reasons things can't go down that way. First of all, it'll still take me hours to punch through the first game, I can't keep the review in wraps as long as it takes me to beat both games, and the DLC. That's bad for business. Secondly, I can't even afford all the DLC for Mass Effect 2 I'm still missing - and which I'm totally pumped up about - that won't be until Wednesday. The DLC for Mass Effect 2 costs way more Microsoft Points than the DLC for the first game. ...Didn't know there even was DLC for Mass Effect? I don't blame you, since that seems to be somewhat of a general misunderstanding among the Mass Effect fanbase. One of my friends just got into Mass Effect, and he was sure there was none, that was OK, but then along came my best friend, who's been into Mass Effect from the very beginning, he actually introduced me to Mass Effect, and even he didn't know there's DLC for the game! All the more reason for me to be a beacon of enlightenment.

This is more like a traditional review than the guide I made for the downloadable content of both Dragon Age games, but I couldn't come up with a better name for it than the "Mass Effect DLC Guide". Neither one of the add-on packs is big enough for a review of its own, since they're essentially additional side missions for the game itself instead of in-depth continuations of the story. They are not even filling any actual gaps, so what can be said about both packs is that neither one is essential in the build-up of the outspoken "full Mass Effect experience". Not like at the very least Arrival or Kasumi for Mass Effect 2. So, you aren't forced to buy them. Whether you see that as a good or a bad thing is totally up to you. Are they good at all? Well, Bring Down the Sky costs a mere 80 Microsoft Points - that's measly, considering Microbuck$ owns this game - and Pinnacle Station costs 400, so you might say that it really doesn't matter to a consumer if they're good or not. 95% of LIVE members always keep that much in their virtual pockets. Of course it matters to a true player, though, so let's get started. First, let's...

The batarians are up to no good.
Released: March 2008
Cost: Free (PC), 80 Microsoft Points (Xbox 360)

A group of batarian terrorists has hijacked an asteroid in the uncharted Asgard system and set it on a collision course with Terra Nova, a nearby planet colonized by millions of humans. With the help of his crew and the few Terra Nova natives stationed on the asteroid, Shepard attempts to stop the rock dead on its tracks.

Bring Down the Sky is like any story mission in the original Mass Effect. The main difference is that it makes no changes to the big picture; beating it does not concretely change anything. Completing the mission takes a little over an hour on mid-levels (25-30). Even then, the only thing that takes time is the extensive dialogue. Bring Down the Sky is a damn easy mission; the only way you're going to get any challenge out of this add-on is to take it on as soon as you leave the Citadel for the first time.

Being easy does not mean being bad. I find Bring Down the Sky's Armageddon-ish story extremely interesting, because it introduces batarians, an alien race that was only mentioned in codexes and conversations during the original Mass Effect - they didn't join the retail fold before Mass Effect 2. Also, it's a refreshing sidestep from the awesomely repetitive side missions in the original game. Even though it's somewhat repetitive in itself, it's different from everything you've had to do so far in the game. Also, completing it, regardless of your Shepard's Paragon/Renegade alignment, results in the discovery of some good equipment, always welcome EXP harvest, and even an Achievement for your troubles. Considering that the add-on's price stands at 80 MS Points, which is something like 50 cents, Bring Down the Sky is a keeper.

RATING : 8.5

Looking to kick some ass in the style of
Mass Effect
? That's 400 Points well spent, then.
Released: August 2009
Cost: 400 BioWare Points (PC), 400 Microsoft Points (Xbox 360)

An Alliance Admiral named Ahern issues Shepard an invitation to take a tour on a remote, top-secret station dedicated to training perfect soldiers by ways of combat simulation.

Pinnacle Station has assignments like any other mission you could imagine to take on in Mass Effect, but the truth is that it is rather a minigame above everything else. Enjoy shooting people? Do you consider it a sport? Are you more into scoring high in combat than an immersive story? Then, you can ditch Mass Effect and fulfill yourself with what Pinnacle Station has to offer.

It really doesn't work for me. Before I found out what Pinnacle Station was all about and before I tried it, I couldn't even imagine Mass Effect in a "capture the flag", "time trial" or "fight for survival" setting. It just isn't that kind of game, the combat is not nearly as refined or essential as it is in Mass Effect 2 and the upcoming 3. I could easily imagine those games having combat-based minigames like Pinnacle Station.

I have to be unbiased, though. Personally, I'm very disappointed with Pinnacle Station and I deeply regret sinking 400 Points into it, but I know there are a lot of people to whom Pinnacle Station is exactly what Mass Effect needed. It's also true that even I might find it entertaining once I've beaten the game and done everything else in it - it gives the game meaningless, yet cool post-story content to kill time with. The biggest draw here is the incredible difficulty to beat all of Pinnacle Station's challenges to the hilt - even if you have a Level 60 squad, the final scenarios are known to potentially kick your ass from the Voyager to the Citadel. Keep trying - there are three Achievements to be gained from this here bundle of murder.

It cost too much, that's its greatest flaw. I think such a minigame should've been part of the game all along, and not suddenly pop out of nowhere almost two years after the game's release, and just five months before the release of the sequel. I also think that it would've been best to save it for the sequel, since its combat mechanics are so damn much better, but I guess BioWare had enough DLC lined up for Mass Effect 2 already. Good entertainment for anyone into this sort of thing, my love for Mass Effect comes from somewhere else.

RATING : 7.0

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