[Videogames/Xbox360] Mass Effect 2 & 3 (95% and 85%)

The nice thing about the Holidays break is practicing “hygge” (a Danish term referring to cocooning), especially when it is cold outside and nights are long. What a appropriate time to dive into Mass Effect 2 and 3?  I loved the first Mass Effect (https://scientistabe.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/videogames-mass-effect-xbox360-95/) and I recently acquired the whole trilogy at once to keep my collection slick, yet I did not have time to play with Mass Effect 2 and 3. Since they are both connected, I decided to review both of them in the same time.

Plot:
The game starts sometimes after the original ME. Shepard is still onboard the Normandy, carrying on the usual job after taking care of Saren and taming the Reaper menace at the Citadel. If you remember, you saved the Citadel from Saren and brought on the threat of the Reapers and Geths on the table to the Council. Now with several members of the Council dead and the Citadel gravely destroyed, they finally got a taste of their own medicine and decided to increase the awareness on the Reapers.
Suddenly, a giant spacecraft (that will be later identified as the Collector base) coming out of nowhere blast through the Normandy and tearing it apart. In a swift move, Shepard throw Joker into an escape pod and send him into safety. With his space suit only, Shepard is sent into space and quickly suffocate from the lack of air.
A mysterious crew, under the flag of Cerberus, recover Shepard body and resuscitate him using a unknown technology called “The Lazarus Project”, a 2-year and 4 billion credit project that involved Miranda Lawson (a key teammate and romance partner) and medical officer Wilson. Two years elapsed and you wake up as Shepard amid the destruction of the medical station. Shepard get the help of Jacob Taylor (another selectable teammate) and officer Wilson, trying to escape the station. Just before able to escape the station, Miranda comes in and shoot Wilson, labelling him as traitor and escape the base to meet with the Illusive Man, the man behind Cerberus and also what will constitute “the man behind the curtain”. Nobody knows who he is, some people even question if he is a human being or a cyborg (due to his eyes). The Illusive Man acknowledge you of a particular mission: investigate the attack and disappearance of colonists on the Horizon colony from insectoid creatures nicknamed “Collectors” (such creatures are acting as harvesters for the Reapers). As you arrive and repeal the Reapers attack, you get a chance to reunite with Ashley Williams (from ME), only for a time that she appears surprised and skeptical of your affiliation with Cerberus. You learnt from Ashley that Cerberus is considered as a mercenary organization with shadow activities and questions your real intentions.
After this first mission, you get back into friendly waters. You get reunited with the Normandy SR2 spacecraft, a replica of the first Normandy equipped with EDI (an AI interface). It also hold Joker as the main pilot. During different missions, Shepard will recruit different members of his team including old friends as Tali  and Garrus (from ME), but also new characters including Mordin (a Salarian involved in the xenophage responsible of the Krogan genocide), Thane (a Drell Assassin that has some similarities with “The Crying Freeman” main character of the eponym manga), Jack (a human with supra-natural biotic abilities due to Miranda’s father experimentation on her), Samara (a Asari member of the Justicar order), Legion (a reprogrammed Geth that has separated  and Grunt (a Krogan warrior). As the team gets assembled, Shepard got knowledge of an abandoned Collector ship by the Illusive Man, such ship may provide the key to travel into the Omega 4 system. Turns out that this ship was a ambush but also that the Illusive Man was aware of such ambush and kept Shepard out of this critical information. Shepard learned from the Collector expedition that he needs an IFF to safely travel through the Omega 4 system.
While Shepard is looking for a IFF into a derelict Reaper, the Normandy is hijacked by Reapers, with Joker only the last person to escape the harvest. As Shepard heads back and find Joker alive, he decides to head to Omega 4 to rescue the Normandy personnel. After rescuing those that were alive and not turned into husks (Human-reaper hybrids), Shepard faces and destroy a Human-Reaper machine and the Collector base. As Shepard reports back to the Illusive Man, Reapers appears from remote places in the galaxy, bringing the cliffhanger to ME3.
ME3 starts six months after ME2, with Shepard detained in a futuristic Vancouver for his affiliation to Cerberus. As Shepard is informed by Anderson of the loss of communication with colonies of the solar system, a giant Reaper appears in the sky, breaking  havoc into Vancouver and bringing Hell on Earth. Shepard is reinstated in part of the Alliance, joined by Ashley and James. As Shepard heads to leave the solar system, Admiral Hackett ask Shepard to head first to Mars as Liara (another key character of the original ME) has found the blueprint of the “Crucible” an ancient Prothean superweapon that could defeat the Reapers. This expedition results in Ashley severely wounded and by the capture of “Eva Core”, a female Cerberus android with its own AI. EDI decides to integrate itself into this android, giving a physical appearance to EDI and accessory a girlfriend to Joker :).
The plots revolve in many battles on different planets against the Reapers to bring together the different alien races into the alliances. Some of them brings victory to their people (giving Tali and the quarians finally their planet back) but also a loss of several of these planets (Asari, Krogan and Turian). The plot resolve about two major items: fighting off Cerberus and gaining expertise and effort for the Alliance for the final battle.
The game ending follows the same trajectory: final assault on Cerberus HQ (with the killing of the Illusive Man’s henchman Kai Leng),  return on Earth as the Citadel warped over Earth and beamed through a devastated London, the attachment of the Crucible to the Citadel and the final encountering with the Catalyst: a child-like AI that is part of the Citadel and the creator of the Reapers. Your decision will result in slightly different endings: Controlling the Reapers, destroying the Reapers or blending synthetic and organic lives.
The ending sequence also let open for future iterations in the ME franchise.I don’t want to spoil it but after watching the ending sequence (and let the credit sequence scrolls!), it suddenly make more sense on how ME: Andromeda append to the trilogy.

Gameplay: Overall the gameplay is great, although I thought it was better in ME2. The UI is sleek and play as a FPS like ME. ME2 maintains the exploratory feature that was part of ME, with the Mako replaced by a small hovercraft in ME2. As a compensation, you can scan  planets for extracting minerals necessary for different upgrades during the game.
However, ME3 has greatly reduced this interactions, with no more scouting on planets and probing only for recovering artifacts. Another annoying issue I had with ME3 was the lack of trading options. In ME, you could sell your old guns. In ME3, it is no more the case, you have to spend your money on any weapons. ME2 was providing an array of different missions, whereas ME3 are pretty streamline, with very few relevant missions.
Another masterpiece of ME series is the soundtrack composed by Jack Wall (ME and ME2) and Clint Mansell (ME3), purely electronic and synthetic music, nicely matching with the futuristic theme that have this very “Daft Punk” sound. reminiscent of their audio work on “Tron: Legacy” and from the Moog synthesizers that were produced in the late 70s-early 80s. I have played the vanilla version, not much DLCs were added for a reason. First, to my biggest disappointment the Trilogy is not a “GOTY Edition” that includes the DLC, second I found outrageous that you have to pay top price for these DLCs even if they are 5+ years old, with no season pass available. Bad EA, bad! Lets put this aside and discuss the plot (ME2 and ME3 combined), again a very excellent plot although the ending was disappointing but still good.

Summary:
If you like 3rd person action shooter coupled with adventure, love SciFi and have been bathing in Star Trek universe and similar (Babylon 5, Serenity), you are missing something big. You should definitely grab your edition. If you can grab the trilogy, just go ahead and grab it as it will save you some $$$. However, also checkout in Gamestop clearance bins, you may save $$$ by buying them separately (ME3 was the cheapest of all three). For the DLCs, I am reluctant to pay for them. It is just outrageous that after 5 years, EA will charge you $ at top price for them and offer no season pass for getting all of them at decent price.

“This is Commander Shepard and this is my favorite Sci-Fi game trilogy on Xbox360”

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