The end of a video game isn’t as final as it used to be, and BioWare is embracing this fact with some new “Mass Effect 2″ downloadable content to whet our appetites for the upcoming “Mass Effect 3.”
The plot of “Mass Effect 2: Arrival” is as incredibly simple as the title suggests, revolving around a scientist on the edge of space, Dr. Kenson, who has discovered the Reapers will be “arriving” in less time than anyone could have guessed. As Commander Shepard, the player is called in to rescue her and find out what she has learned.
“Arrival” shows off its only unique feature as soon as the content begins with the complete absence of any other team members from the core game, with the excuse that this is a “classified stealth mission” Shepard has to undertake on his own. Unfortunately, this leads to the game suddenly becoming incredibly easy, so much so that the lack of backup is hardly noticed, even on the hardest difficulty. It’s ironic and incredibly pathetic that BioWare decided to fix the biggest problem with its previous DLC (the lack of character interaction) by simply removing all of the recognizable characters from the new mission.
The “stealth mission” is barely a third of the content, but since the whole package can be completed in little more than an hour on the medium setting, that’s not saying much. Once you’re done “sneaking” past all the guards that never turn around or even look in your general direction, the rest of “Arrival” devolves into mindless, repetitive combat.
“Mass Effect” is supposed to be a series that combines exploration, combat, conversation and choice, but in “Arrival” there are only rooms full of moronic enemies stacked one after another. Be sure when you’re reading this to place a definite emphasis on the word “moronic,” as there are certain parts of the mission where your opponents will be too busy running back and forth between cover points to even care what you’re doing, let alone pose any challenge to you at all.
That’s not to say there is nothing plot-relevant in “Arrival.” In fact, as the mission unravels, you’ll find the door is thrown wide open to reveal exactly how “Mass Effect 3″ will begin. Sadly, this leads to an incredible amount of handholding, as the game practically grabs you by the ear and drags you from cutscene to cutscene until the end of the mission.
Even the big plot-relevant choice is made for you, forcing Shepard to make a decision that is no doubt out of character for a good portion of the “Mass Effect” fans. This is a huge step down from the number of choices the series has previously offered players, and the only solace fans can take from it is that it occurs in a horrible piece of DLC and probably doesn’t reflect the state of the choice system that will be in “Mass Effect 3.”
The worst part about “Arrival” is how nothing the characters say makes any sense in the grand scheme of the plot of the “Mass Effect” universe. At the end of “Mass Effect 2,” you see the Reapers are still light years from the edge of the galaxy, but then suddenly you start playing “Arrival” and they’re two days away from a system on the edge of the map.
Then, once the mission is over and Shepard is being debriefed, everyone acts like the Reapers have been stopped and humanity has months or years to prepare before they become a sizable threat again. I don’t know how they figure travel speed in this fictional story, but if something can travel billions of miles in under a week, there is no reason why it wouldn’t be able to move at the same speed a second time. Your actions in “Arrival” should be nothing more than a trivial delay for the Reapers, rather than the massive victory declarations BioWare shoves at you to make you feel better about wasting $7 on this crap.
Ultimately, “Arrival” is a poor piece of downloadable content because it feels disconnected from the main game in an incredibly jarring way. The logic behind what the characters claim is idiotic, almost as though someone who has never played the series wrote the script, and “Mass Effect” gameplay without your squadmates is boring unless you play on the hardest difficulty.
Since every player will be subjected to the consequences of this DLC in “Mass Effect 3,” regardless of whether you played it or not, the smarter choice would be to save yourself some money and just read a plot summary instead.
1.5 out of 5 stars
Jayson Gruenwald is a senior majoring in English. Submit Herald Arcade column questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org