ME2 was on sale, so I picked it up. There was a bit of unpleasantness about my ME1 saves: I replayed the game recently to get the right ending, and then my hard disk fried itself. I’m now an apostle of Flash drives as well as

Shepherd at Rivet City, I mean, Korlus

The game is great.  It’s far better than ME1, which was no slouch: the graphics are better, combat is better, the hacking games are more fun, dumb things like the Mako missions are gone.   The character models are improved: Shepherd can smile now.  There’s even things to do in the captain’s cabin.  The Normandy now has restrooms, which must be a big relief to the crew.

Combat is more of a challenge.  Clips are limited, especially for the heavy weapons; enemies are strong enough at Veteran that you really need to use cover; the different types of weapons now actually feel different, yet without the dozens of inventory-clogging upgrades of the first game.  Also, the game now reacts to headshots, which rewards skill and saves ammo.  There are interesting new mass effect options like Charge, but I can’t say I’m good at integrating biotics with weapons. 

The basic plot feels much less like Star Trek, because you’re no longer working as a straight-arrow commander, but for a slightly dodgy private outfit– though you’re still fighting evil Reapers, the moral universe is less goody-goody. 

The new characters are fun– I especially like Mordin, his thoughts spilling out in chaotic clipped sentences– one of the few convincing portraits of a really smart person in pop culture.  The amoral Jack is also good.  The interaction with crewmates, however, is one of the few areas where the game steps backwards.  In ME1 you could have long dialogs with Liara or Joker or Garrus; now for the most part you’re limited to romance… but that’s a disappointment too as you really can’t pursue your romance from ME1.  (Plus the romance options, though wider than ME1, seem less interesting.  Why can’t a female Shepherd go after Jack?)

T’here’s a few cheesy bits– the Scots engineer; renegade Shepherds’ scars; the Illusive Man and his cigarette.  One colony responds to low power conditions by bright flashing LOW POWER lights, which strikes me as being unclear on the concept.  The e-mails are a nice touch, but the in-game news reports would be a little more convincing if every one didn’t reference stories relevant to Shepherd.

Just look at those... tattoos.

Bioware is increasingly adept at eroticism that stops just short of being explicit.  Even in a hive of scum and villainy like Omega, the dancers wear bodysuits.

Anyway, the game is everything that Dragon Age Origins should have been but wasn’t.  I’m only about a third of the way in… this is a big game.  More later…