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Mass Effect 2 cut much of what I loved from the first game. But with this much majesty and mystery on offer, who cares. Mustering the cultural sensibilities of a Mos Eisley space Bar, I could do little but jump in with both feet and explore.
I played much of Mass Effect 2 with one sock on. I'll come home from work, start to take my shoes and socks off, and then something will take hold - Something I think I've forgotten, or a game that I've spent all day looking forward to playing, or even a simple realization that I need to start cooking dinner. Either way, I'll be off, one sock strewn in the hallway, the other planted on my foot and moving at speed.
Today the hook is Mass Effect 2. I had been waiting to play it ever since I sped through the first game. Upon saving the galaxy in a weekend, I immediately ordered the second and after some postal bungling, it crawled into my arms a month later. It was a definite one-sock moment.
I started playing early afternoon and there had been anticipation. A bottle of 7UP Free and three packets of Twiglets stood to attention next to my gaming chair, ready for the long haul. The lights were dimmed, and the girlfriend assured that she could drool over as much Dexter as she liked. She wouldn't be disturbed tonight.
Half a bottle and one packet later, my anticipation had turned into fear. Gone was the first game's complicated inventory management that, despite its gracelessness, I had tinkered over like it was Tetris. Gone too the unwieldy Meko, no more getting my remote control car stuck between hills. Maybe they weren't the best things about Mass Effect, but they were still Mass Effect. I was now nervously led aboard the new Normandy proper.
Then the breakthrough came. As I slunk back into the low recline of my chair and landed on the planet Omega everything clicked.
Behind the lights, slithering in dirty alleys, lowlifes and wayward souls Mass Effect 2 was alive with culture.
Shepard and her crew investigated a nightclub called Afterlife. Its entrance pulsed with a flame of digital light, and inside all manner of life cavorted and breathed. A blue-skinned alien called an Asari danced provocatively for me, and the dance floor never stopped moving. Behind the lights, slithering in dirty alleys, lowlifes and wayward souls slouched sullenly; shopkeepers peddled their wares, grimacing a dispassion to my military garb. Mass Effect 2 was alive with culture.
It reminded me of watching agape as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker walked into the Mos Eisley Cantina, and that timeless music played as every alien head in the room gazed upon the two Jedi. That one scene brought Star Wars to life, implanting in my young head the idea of a culture, a society, a life that exists in this universe beyond our own
It was stirring - so familiar and yet so utterly unfamiliar - this seedy little bar on the other side of the cosmos. And for the first time in my gaming travels, Mass Effect 2 resurrected that feeling and then some.
It might not even be as a good a game as the first, but I didn't care. Mass Effect 2 had a majesty and mystique its predecessor did not.
From there on what was lost from the first game lost all significance. It might not even be as a good a game as the first, but I didn't care. Mass Effect 2 had a majesty and mystique its predecessor did not. All I wanted to do was explore this world, to discover this galaxy, to see what other wonders of majesty awaited me in the deep space of Mass Effect 2.
And so here am I, at 4 in the morning, with just one sock on, utterly entranced and bewildered by this game.
When I played games in younger years, so much of the fun was from my imagination. But rather than mourn its loss, I'm happy to revel in games like Mass Effect 2 that create such a strong impulse to explore. The way we play has evolved, but it still brings the same joy of discovery. This is why I play games.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: