Over the weekend, I made a brown dwarf-size dent in Mass Effect 2, and now all I want to do is play Dragon Age: Origins all over again. Or maybe redo some cases in L.A. Noire. Or go through The Blackwell Deception one more time in commentary mode. I’m closing in on the “suicide mission” part, and all I want to do is walk away. It has nothing to do with fear. Rather, disappointment. Who cares about surviving a suicide mission if you don’t care about anyone by your side? Let me explain.
Mass Effect 2 is all about building a team. The Illusive Man hands over a number of dossiers to Commander Shepard, which show you the who and where to go parts, and then you’re off to recruit this person deemed vital for your team’s survival in taking on the Collectors. Fine, I’m cool with that. After all, I got every 108 Stars of Destiny in Suikoden and Suikoden II (missed a few in Suikoden V), so I know all about getting people to join one’s cause, no matter how insane it sounds. Recruiting a team member for Mission Impossible generally requires a quest where you go down a hallway through a series of similar-looking rooms, hide behind stuff, shoot enemies, and then chat for a bit with your target. I kid, but only slightly. A few have mixed things up like avoiding sunlight or toxic gas while going down those hallways and rooms. After that, you’ll more or less repeat this process to earn said team member’s loyalty.
I think I’ve already said this, but if I haven’t, well, here it is again: I dislike the shooting aspect of Mass Effect 2. The game’s appeal has and always will be from its lore and characters and the way these alien races interact with one another. And these characters, these people I’ve gone out of my way to get on my team, they do little when actually on a mission besides a side-handed comment here or there, unless they are pivotal to the mission at hand. See, in Dragon Age: Origins, companions talked all the time, about the world at large and how the Chantry sucks and thoughts on dwarven history or the Taint and so on. When you made Big Boy decisions, everyone around you made sure you knew how they felt, which only served to enhance their personalities and my desire to see them happy (or unhappy). The same does not apply in Mass Effect 2; there is no sense of “we’re all quite different, but we have to stick together.”
So far, nobody has reacted in a big enough way to some of Shepard’s choices, most which were along the Paragon path, but I did slip a Renegade action in there once or twice. On each mission, whether it is a recruiting one or just a side quest, I switch out one of my party members constantly, keeping Miranda always for her Warp and Heavy Overload skills. Grunt, Jack, Jacob, Mordin–I’ve tried each one at Shepard’s side. And I’ve come to the realization that I could’ve swapped out any team member for a paper bag, and nothing would’ve changed–so long as that paper bag shot a gun and had a few abilities to select. Harsh, maybe. But I expected more.
Case in point: the Ghost Ship. Oh, and there be spoilers starting in the next sentence. Basically, the Illusive Man backstabs the team and sends them into a trap, but the only people vocal about it are Joker and the ship’s AI. You’d think that, given her relationship to Cerberus, that Miranda would have some strong words–more than a handful–but no, not really.
Ghost Ship (25G): Complete the investigation of a derelict alien vessel
I don’t know. Commander Shepard has now been prompted that we can go through the Omega 4 relay, but I said something along the stupid lines of “gotta build up the team some more.” Just because I want to get everybody for the sake of being a completionist. Given all the hype and worriment that a suicide mission carries, I have to say that I am really not invested in most of my side-mates. And I’ve tried. I talk to them between missions, exhaust dialogue choices, and so on. I try, dang it. But they don’t want to represent themselves as more than check marks–the warrior, the thief, the techie, the cheerleader–and so they seem artificial in nature, and inanimate objects can’t die because they never were alive to begin with.