The original Mass Effect marked something of a departure for notable developer BioWare.
Gone were the traditional Dungeons and Dragons-style mechanics of its previous games Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights – although these were recently revived with the studio’s Dragon Age: Origins.
In their place were gleaming starships and spacestations, sprawling planets to explore and an emphasis on more intense, gunplay-based combat.
Around these, Mass Effect wove a space opera with enough narrative depth to prompt comparisons with Star Wars and Star Trek.
Fox News’ alien sex scandal aside, the game was met with universal praise as a compelling and quality RPG, and now the sequel is set to create further success for the franchise when it arrives later this month.
Mass Effect 2 picks up where the original leaves off, with Commander Shepard once again working to defend the galaxy from the imminent assault of the mysterious Reapers. This time, he has been tasked with a suicide mission and needs to assemble an elite crew of spacers if he is to save humanity.
Players explore the worlds of Citadel space in search of key characters that could prove to be an asset to their formidable squad.
Should they believe themselves to be fully prepared, they can choose to attempt to this crucial mission at any time, but their endeavours will depend greatly on the decisions they have made – or have yet to make.
In fact, choices are once again a key selling point for this new instalment in the Mass Effect trilogy.
During conversations with characters and aliens they encounter, players can drastically alter their options, Shepard’s reputation and the consequences they will later face through the stance they take: polite, neutral or aggressive.
More importantly, fans of the original Mass Effect will be looking forward to seeing how the decisions they made pan out in the sequel.
Throughout the build-up to Mass Effect 2 BioWare has promised that every choice – even the seemingly insignficant ones – will affect the universe and characters, whether it’s the government structure or whether an ally lived or died.
BioWare has also assured fans that some of the first game’s more notable flaws have been resolved. The lengthy elevator rides are no more, the main questline is considerably longer, there are fewer barren planets and the gunplay mechanics have been refined.
Throw in an all-star cast, from returning favourites Seth Green and Keith David to newcomers such as Martin Sheen, Carrie-Ann Moss, Tricia Helfer and Michael Dorn, and Mass Effect 2 has everything sci-fi fans want from an epic RPG.
Mass Effect 2 is the first instalment in the trilogy to be wholly published by EA, which previously only released the PC port of the original game.
As such, the publisher is working hard to ensure the sequel matches the success of its predecessor and attracts veteran fans – while also attracting newcomers to the sci-fi franchise.
An extensive marketing campaign is no doubt in the works, but the company has also dedicated significant resources to raising awareness of the game’s arrival through some enticing retail incentives – not the least of which is the Collector’s Edition.
This premium SKU comes in a striking collectable tin case and includes a copy of the game, a 48-page hardcover Art Of Mass Effect 2 book, the first issue of the Mass Effect: Redemption comic and a bonus DVD that features behind-the-scenes and making-of videos.
The Collector’s Edition will also feature download codes for exclusive in-game items, including new weaponry and armour. Additional downloadable armaments are also available to those who pre-order the game from such stores as GAME and Play.com.
Both BioWare and EA have even been promoting Mass Effect 2 through its other releases.
An in-game reward awaits any who purchased the iPhone spin-off Mass Effect Galaxy, and certain suits of armour that have been released as DLC for November’s Dragon Age: Origins can be used on Commander Shepard.