Tuesday, March 29, 2011
In the latest piece of Mass Effect 2 DLC, Commander Shepard finishes up his duty for the second game in exactly the same way he came into this world: on his lonesome. You live alone and fight alone, soldier. No, that doesn’t mean he’s heading to the Bahamas to put his feet up with a Bahama Mama and wait for the Reapers to come to him. Oh no, he’s heading across the galaxy to attempt to stop their arrival in the aptly named “Arrival” DLC... without his band of merry men.
The 2 hour or so final episode sees Shepard respond to a request from fan-favourite, Admiral Steven Hackett, who tells the space-hero that one of his friends and associates, Dr Amanda Kenson, has been captured by Batarians on the planet of Aratoht while undercover as an operative. Shepard must infiltrate a Batarian outpost – alone! – and rescue Dr Kenson to find out what she knows about the inevitable Reaper invasion, before setting off on a mission to hamper their progress. Unfortunately, rather than provide any real gripping moments and real anticipation for the upcoming third instalment, Arrival tells a story of tenuous ties and a rather pointless journey for Commander Shepard, which is disappointing whichever way you look at it.
What makes Mass Effect 2 great seems to have been stripped away for a more linear combat-orientated shooter experience with this final piece of Mass Effect 2 DLC. Want player choice? Well, you can’t have it. Want a cliff-hanger ending for Mass Effect 3? Well, you can’t have that either! What about interesting boss fights and new mechanics like the Lair of the Shadow Broker introduced us to? Nope, sorry, you’ll have to look elsewhere for those sort of thrills.
So what exactly does the Arrival DLC offer the player? Simple. It offers them plenty of chance to shoot shit up. It’s as simple as that. Wherever you are in the Arrival DLC, BioWare decided that shooting mercs and the odd Varren and Mech would be enough to satisfy the player, choosing to adopt a horde-style element at various intervals to essentially artificially lengthen the experience. Now that’s something that we could readily accept if BioWare hadn’t sacrificed Shepard’s squad in the process and teased us with dialogue sequences that carry no real consequence. It’s like Mass Effect 2, without what makes it so brilliant.
That’s not to say it’s completely terrible then. No, because as we’re all aware, Mass Effect 2’s shooter mechanics are good enough to hold up on their own and although the story isn’t thrilling, it’s watchable for anyone with a mild interest in the whole Mass Effect lore and over-arching story. But without everything that made Lair of the Shadow Broker and the main game so great, we’re left with a very sub-standard shooter. Something that are ten a penny in this industry.
I guess then the only real reason to play this latest piece of DLC is for the achievements – trust us, missing this strand of story will not really matter in the grand scheme of things. There are three achievements in all which relate to the main “story” of the DLC, but don’t think it’s straightforward, as two of these are missable. Sneaking into get Dr Kenson without stirring attention will prove easy for Infiltrators and you can ramp down the difficulty on the battle for Object Rho, so it’s not all bad. It’ll distract you from the mundaneness of it all anyway, which is nothing but a good thing!
After the brilliant Lair of the Shadow Broker episode though, it’s a shame that BioWare ends Mass Effect 2’s run on such a substandard piece of DLC... a piece of DLC that strips everything that we loved from the main game and left us with nothing more than a run-and-gun shooter. With next to no dialogue, no major choices and RPG elements to speak of and no squad interaction, the Arrival DLC unfortunately has left us with a sour taste in our mouth. Going out with a bang, BioWare? Hell no... I’ve had farts that were louder than that and more complex... Hey, at least Mass Effect 3 can’t be as distinctly mediocre as this, right?