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Review: Mass Effect 2's Arrival DLC

Momma said knock you out.
Ronia Shepard's momma said to knock you out.

The Arrival is the last bit of DLC we will see in Mass Effect 2, and while it does serve as a bridge between this title and the next, it occurs before certain end-game situations start occurring. Which is a bit puzzling, to be honest, as it could just have easily served as post-campaign material on its own terms, and the plot seems more geared with its eye to the future.

The question remains, is this a worthy $7 purchase?

At first blush, the mission is simple. Admiral Hackett, part of the Alliance to which you formerly belonged, wants you to rescue Dr. Amanda Kenson, who has been taken prisoner by a group of Batarians. As the Alliance does not want this to turn into a provocation for war, Shepard seems fit for the job, what with her abilities and her ship.

At first I thought this was too straight forward, and speaking with Kenson afterward, you learned she discovered a Reaper artifact. Cue dealing with that. Cue specific spoilers into which I won't really delve, though I will touch on some generalities.

What I found intriguing is what this DLC shows: Mass Effect 2's level design was incredibly linear. The game knew where it wanted you to go, and it pretty much narrowed you into that path--the levels were at least varied enough in how they looked and how they were shaped that it wasn't as apparent. In this particular DLC, however, this means corridors and rooms, where many of the enemies look alike. In that regard, though, if you enjoyed the gameplay and fighting of Mass Effect 2, there's nothing to stop you from enjoying more of the same, and in the context of playing it in a full game, rather than as an individual mission you just load up to play (as I did for the purposes of this review), it will not go amiss.

There aren't horribly many decisions to make either. The one that I thought I was going to have to make, was railroaded for me--my Shepard made a decision that was rather big without my input. At first I cringed at this, as the series has been pretty good at letting me make those life-altering decisions. At the same time, it became apparent pretty quickly toward the end where this was headed.

Don't worry, doctor, Ronia to the rescue!

Which is likely a precursor for what to expect in Mass Effect 3. It's not just making difficult decisions, it's dealing with the consequences of such. Given that this piece of DLC is put in the middle of the game, the time constraints they've placed upon themselves in the mission itself, in order to lend it a measure of gravity, mean that there was only one outcome. No, the decision my Shepard could make was largely of how she was going to deal with the situation at hand. Though the brunt of that will have to wait to be seen in the next full game.

All in all, it works as a piece of story, though it's not as grandiose as the tale told in Lair of the Shadow Broker, and it isn't as varied in its gameplay as Overlord. Unlike Overlord, the integral decision we make isn't the crux of the matter, however, and the story feels like it makes a hard decision for us that we've made in other, smaller missions, which is what made it a bit more effective for me. It's a much more subtle piece of work that posits the threat Shepard faces come November.

Of course, this means you would largely be paying $7 to run around corridors, shooting enemies (or, in the beginning, possibly just, y'know, walking past them, something I'd like to see more of), engaging in a few larger battles, having a large decision be made for you, and being given a light touch of what to expect in Mass Effect 3 alongside some material for thought on the difficulties of making decisions during undeclared war. For me, that last part was worth it, but your mileage may well vary.

This piece of DLC was purchased by the reviewer and played on the PC. He played it through once, only choosing Paragon options. Gameplay took a little over an hour.

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