But don't worry. I'll try my best to be at least somewhat coherent. There is just so much about this game that I love, I don't know if I could possibly cover it all in an even remotely eloquent way.
I guess I'll start with Shepherd. When I first played this game, I was blown away by the fact that I was playing my Shepherd, the same one from the previous game. I had never experienced anything like that before in my life. It made the story feel incredibly personal to me. My jaw dropped when I watched Shepherd be blasted into space. My heart was in my throat during Horizon as I searched desperately for Kaidan, only to have my heart broken when he refused to look past the fact that I was working for Cerberus. I was thrilled to have Garrus and Tali back on my squad, and to see how those relationships had grown and changed. It made the game feel unique to me in a way that no other game series has really been able to match.
Your squadmates are (for the most part) an improvement over the first game. Besides bringing back Garrus and Tali, you also get characters like Thane, Jack, Samara, Legion, Mordin, and Grunt. Detailed characters with personalities that foster friendships and conflict. You get to see Jack and Miranda, and Tali and Legion have full-fledged fights and arguments, and they feel real. Jack and Miranda, in particular, had been gearing up for a fight from the very second they met.
This is helped by the numerous loyalty missions that you have to do in order to ensure that everyone survives the suicide mission. While I understand that some people might not like the shift in focus away from the main arc of fighting and destroying the Collectors/Reapers, the loyalty missions were my favorite missions hands down. They manage to be varied enough so that I didn't feel like I was doing to same thing over and over again. And you have the chance to actually shape your squadmates while on this mission. Do you let Garrus take the shot, or not? Do you side with Samara, or let her serial killer daughter kill her and take her place? Do you manage to defend Tali at her trial, or is she exiled? These are important decisions that actually matter.
A lot of your decisions matter in this game. The success or failure of the suicide mission, as well as how many causalities you'll have, is directly dependent on the choices that you make. Yes, this happens at the very end of the game, but those characters are gone. There's absolutely no way that you'll be able to see them again in Mass Effect 3. And depending on who dies, that's a major change.
The one place where I think Mass Effect beats its successor is with its villains. Harbinger simply does not have the same presence that Sovereign did. It's missing something. Maybe malice, maybe intelligence, maybe a unique form to call its own. While there is something to be said about an enemy that can't die and just possess another body, Harbinger isn't necessarily that scary when I can kill his avatar dozens of times.
I'm not sure if I should call the Illusive Man a villain. He's certainly a morally grey character, and working with him does feel a bit like making a deal with the devil. But he is also, or at least appears to be, on your side here. There's definitely some nuance here, especially if you choose to whole-heartedly side with Cerberus.
Bioware did tone down the RPG aspects compared to the first game, and made Mass Effect 2 into a more streamlined, action-oriented game. There's still skill trees and weapons and armors to pick up and choose from, but it's less in-depth than a more traditional RPG. I personally, had absolutely no issues with this, but I also know people who hated the changes. So, your milage will vary here. A change in the combat that I did like was the introduction of thermal clips as opposed to heat levels. As someone who generally plays an infiltrator, this was a major quality of life change that made combat a lot more fun. I can actually fire a shot without my weapon overheating and becoming useless for the next few seconds.
Once your crew gets kidnapped, you need to leave and get them right away. Otherwise, they might not all make it back...
There are two DLC characters. I'm of two minds about them. On one hand, their loyalty missions are really fun, especially Kasumi's. And they both do show up in Mass Effect 3. But on the other hand, I never actually used them once I got them, and I'm not quite sure if they were worth the money or not.
The mission DLCs are fun. Lair of the Shadow Broker is a must, especially if you're a Liara fan. And Overlord is genuinely creepy and provides Shepherd the single, most badass moment that they have in all three games.
Grunt is my angry krogan son. Garrus and I raise him, and it is beautiful.
I really like the addition of the interrupts. They provided some of the game's funniest moments. And sometimes you just need to shoot people mid-rant.
And sometimes I say things in these Random Thoughts that really just make me question what kind of person I am inside.
Haestrom's sun's rapid disintegration is a weird detail that doesn't really get addressed.
Omega is one of my favorite places to visit. It's a very vibrant world. Even if that poor guy never, ever gets into Afterlife.
The two engineers, Gabby and Kenneth? I ship them. They're adorable. (And another reason why you should do the suicide mission as soon as possible...)
Mass Effect 2 is hands down my favorite game off all time. I love it. There's nothing more to say than that.
9.8 out of 10
~An Honest Fangirl