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Mass Effect 2: Arrival Review

Originally posted here.

Mass Effect 2 has had probably the best run of DLC of any game of the generation. The first batch, including a new squad mate, came completely free with a new copy of the game. Later, Kasumi’s “Stolen Memory”, “Overlord”, and “Lair of the Shadow Broker” were worthwhile expansions that extended the life of the game and the Mass Effect universe. Now comes “Arrival”, the last piece of DLC leading into Mass Effect 3. As the last mission we’ll ever get to Mass Effect 2, “Arrival” is a nice enough swan song with several reservations. As a prequel to the third game, the DLC fares a little better, but raises more questions than it provides in suspense and anticipation.

Minor spoilers ahead:

Immediately after loading a game post installation, you’re contacted by Admiral Hackett (played by the awesome fan favorite Lance Henriksen), of whom you had a great deal of voice contact with in the first game. In his physical debut, Hackett asks for a favor: rescue his operative and friend Dr. Amanda Kenson from a Batarian prison on the edge of the galaxy. The catch is that you have to do it alone, as it has to be a covert action to avoid starting a war between the Humans and Batarians. Way to go, Shepard. That’s what you get for operating outside governments and laws.

The combat in “Arrival” is good, but unlike “Shadow Broker” or “Overlord” really nothing new is really added to shake the game play up. It really boils down to clearing out rooms by yourself and heading to the next one. One particular room proves a real challenge, as you’re faced with five waves of enemies that love to flank you with flamethrowers. While you don’t have to beat them all to advance, there is an achievement for it… so best of luck for the hunters out there. Another very small diversion has you controlling a small combat mech, but it lasts a minute and a half at best.

So, while the combat is average, surely the story makes up for it with the imminent threat of the Reapers arriving, right? Well, yes and no. The idea that the Reapers are at the galaxy’s doorstep is fantastic, as is the thought that “Arrival” leads right into Mass Effect 3. Upon rescuing Dr. Kenson, you learn that the Reapers are going to arrive at a particular mass relay in two days and begin their systematic annihilation of all life in the galaxy. Using any means or sacrifices necessary, you must delay or outright stop the Reapers by destroying the mass relay.

While the DLC does deliver to some degree on its story’s promise… it feels like there should have been more to it. Mass Effect’s biggest draw is controlling your character during the pivotal story moments, choosing dialogue and decisions to overcome obstacles, and dealing with the consequences. Unfortunately, there aren’t many conversations at all in “Arrival” and even fewer choices. In short, the mission pack feels far more linear than other missions in Mass Effect 2. There’s less of a chance to feel like you’re making a difference in the story rather than simply playing it out.

If you’re a fan of the Mass Effect mythology and can’t get enough of the world, then “Arrival” is worth playing. There are enough twists in the story to keep you interested and meeting Admiral Hackett makes for a few fun conversations. Unfortunately, you don’t really talk to many people due to the budget constraints of an expansion, so during a few particular moments when Joker would be chatting his head off he remains uncharacteristically silent. If you’re a casual fan of Mass Effect, it might be best to save your money. Overall, “Arrival” isn’t a bad last outing with Mass Effect 2, but just decent. The entire play through took about two hours the first time around, but subsequent attempts with different characters have only taken about one hour. Still, the story implications for the last act of Commander Shepard’s story could be enough to warrant a purchase from the faithful.

6.5/10

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