on Mar 2, 2011
Some people claim that Mass Effect 2 is not a brown corridor shooter. Allow me to retort:
Gah. I haven’t been subjected to such high doses of brown since the original Quake.
It’s not just the lack of color, but also the overbearing industrial style. It’s as if everyone in the galaxy lives in warehouses. Yes, we get some nice color in Jacob’s mission. And the non-combat areas of the game are at least as vibrant as the ones in Mass Effect 1, perhaps even better. But as soon as we start fighting it’s back to flat, boxy, linear, and monochrome.
Let’s list the missions in the game. Industrial corridor shooter levels are in bold. Levels which are lively and varied are in italics. Areas that are a mixed bag are in unadorned text.
Investigate Collector Ship
Recruitment & loyalty missions:
Garrus: Eye for an Eye
Grunt: Rite of Passage
Jack: Subject Zero
Jacob: The Gift of Greatness
Legion: A House Divided
Miranda: The Prodigal
Mordin: Old Blood
Samara: The Ardat-Yakshi
Thane: Sins of the Father
I’m sure some people will argue with a few of my classifications one way or the other. Maybe Garrus: Eye for an Eye and Miranda: The Prodigal should be in bold because most of the action takes place in a warehouse far away from the interesting bits of the Citadel. Maybe Recruit Tali should be given credit for being colorful and well-lit, even through it was a sea of concrete and industrial crates. We can bicker over individual entries, but I think the trend is clear.
Again, we see the Jekyll & Hyde nature of this game. Omega, Illium, and the Citadel are all bright, colorful, and feel lived-in. (By space opera standards.) But once the shooting starts it’s like we’re playing a late 90’s first person shooter – warehouses, crates, and nondescript industrial stuff. What happened to places like Virmire and IIlos? Does every battle need to be close-quarters? There was no reason to smother players in crates like this.
You could argue that Mass Effect 2 has just as many interesting areas as Mass Effect 1, but since it’s a far larger game the overall percent is worse. Still, it would have been really nice to mix things up with an ice world. Or some alien ruins. Or a beach. Grasslands. More residential stuff. Gardens or temples. I think the game just has too dang much industrial scenery.
Lair of the Shadow Broker was really, really good, in that it presented spaces that looked plausibly residential, detailed, and interesting. (At least, until your reached the titular lair.)