Mass Effect 2

Before I go into detail about Mass Effect 2, I’d like to share something shocking that happened to me while I tried to get the game for the Xbox 360:

A couple of weeks ago, I finally found the time to stop by a retail store to buy Mass Effect 2.  It was still $60.  I chose the Xbox 360 version because I have the first game for the same console and I wanted to transfer my save data for the second game.  I was very busy, so I left the game unopened on my desk for 3 days. On Friday night, I removed the plastic wrap, security seals and became shocked at what I saw inside. In the disc side was a blank disc with a Mass Effect 2 disc cover printer; it even had the Verbatim logo near the hole. The manual included was a very thick NHL 2K7 booklet.

I was furious! I was scared that they would not believe me. I decided to call them up and told them about what happened. Luckily, the manager was very nice and said “Just bring it back with the original receipt and we’ll swap it for you”. I drove there immediately, told the clerk my story. The manager gave me another copy and told me to go to customer service to get the exchange and have my receipt updated. I opened the second case in front of the clerk and at last, I finally had the real Mass Effect 2: 2 discs, manual and the Cerberus Network Card which has caused some controversy with selling used games at high prices.*

I have heard some news about these incidents; there are scammers out there who will either have a shrink-wrap machine, or carefully reseal the plastic wrap and fill the case with something different so the weight feels the same.  I just never thought it could happen to me.  I learned a very valuable lesson; if I ever buy a game from a retail store I don’t frequent, I will double-check the contents before I leave.  They also told me that I wasn’t the first person at that store this happened to.

Mass Effect 2 is the second game of the planned trilogy. It is made by BioWare, a Canadian developer.  Some of their previous games include Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Neverwinter Nights, Baldur’s Gate*, Mass Effect and Dragon Age: Origins.  The first Mass Effect game has also drawn Star Control comparisons of its own.

First of all, I am proud to announce that I have encountered only 1 glitch in Mass Effect 2.  While I was talking to an Asari, they flashed in the background for a split-second after walking away.  I remember the first game had characters stuck in wall, textures popping in while exploring the newly loaded level, awkward deaths and sometimes strange eye movements during conversations.

While I haven’t finished the game completely, I have played it through enough to see how it reminds me of Star Control II:

  • The player has direct control of the ship when traveling between planets and different star systems in a star system.  It consumes fuel and needs to be refueled at fuel stations.  Mass Effect Relays are used for long jumps.
  • The player is immersed deeper into scanning planets.  There is a radar that needs to be moved manually around the planet's surface.  The player can find minerals and signals such as distress beacons.  There is a line graph that creates waves according how close the target is.  Any minerals collected can be used for upgrading things such as weapons and armor.
  • Mass Effect 2 retains its non-linear progression and the player's alliances depends on their stats, previous actions and the responses chosen during a conversation.  I liked how it reminded me of my actions in the previous game and how it affects the sequel.

Even though Star Control and Mass Effect are two different universes, the similarities between the two could pave the way for more sci-fi adventures to come back to mainstream.

Here are some quotes I found from other sites that compare Mass Effect 2 to Star Control II:

The big change is that if you want to travel to a star system that isn't near a Mass Relay, you have to fly there by leaving a nearby star system and manually traveling there. Similar to classic PC game Star Control, this uses a certain amount of fuel, and you need to have enough fuel to make it.

‐, Chris "Atom" DeAngelus, "X360/PC Review ‐ 'Mass Effect 2'"
A game that helped to push the themes of exploration and causality in gameplay is Star Control 2, and its influence is clearly felt here as well.
‐, James Murff, "Mass Effect 2: Background"
While flying between planets to perform various tasks and missions, players can also explore peripheral planets in search of minerals (necessary to upgrade weapons and other research). This is accomplished by scanning planets and launching probes to gather what you find – anyone familiar with Star Control II will have a pretty good idea of what to expect here; this feels like a modern version of that.
‐ Alan Bell, "Mass Effect 2 Review",
But the truth is that there is no sacrifice because the fuel is cheap compared to loans obtained during the missions, so I can not say that the new form of travel is a considerable improvement over what he offered Mass Effect PC Game, nor meets the expectations of those who would like Bioware has been set a little more in games like Star Control II.
‐ "Mass Effect 2 Game Review", PC Game Trek

Mass Effect is definitely worth checking out.  The first game can be purchased at a lower price and the second one can still be played without remembering anything from the first.  Mass Effect 2 is an incredible improvement over the first.  If anyone’s looking for a new game that has some kind of similarity to Star Control, Mass Effect is definitely worth looking at.

I hope I don’t come off sounding like a BioWare spokesperson.  I think they’re a great developer and they made many games that I love.  When it’s time for TFB to tell Activision that it’s time for another Star Control, I hope they’ll see games such as Mass Effect are successful.  It’s a great game.  It’s a good example of how today’s technology and game design theories can make a game like this more straightforward and make people think more carefully about the decisions they make and what they want their character to turn into.  If a new Star Control game is ever made, there will be many changes and surprises to see.

I am aware that Infinite Space has been released for the Nintendo DS.  It’s a sci-fi RPG game with inspirations from the novel Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.  Also, David Stark informed me that he updated his game, Space Exploration: Serpens Sector which mixes elements of Star Control and Strange Adventures in Infinite Space.  There’s a lot of brainstorming to do and I hope it turns into something that can fascinate everyone.

What do you think about comparing games that share similarities with Star Control?

Metacritic: Infinite Space

* Some people have noticed video game retailers selling used copies of Mass Effect 2 for nearly the same price as the new copies.  However, the Cerberus Network card can only be used once to redeem downloadable content without having to pay an additional $15.  Depending on the price of the used game, consumers are technically paying more for something that does not include additional content unless they pay the extra $15.  The Cerberus Network card is a way of encouraging more new game sales.

** The video game rights to Baldur’s Gate is currently owned by Atari. However, BioWare has previously made Dragon Age: Origins, which is similar and adds a dark twist to the fantasy RPG.

(Comments have been disabled for this article)