Mass Effect was almost one of my favorite games of all time. The particular tone of sci-fi that it struck was tremendously appealing, and most of the not-saving-the-universe stuff on the Citadel was perfect.
Still, BioWare forced the game into an epic confrontation for the fate of blah blah (which they tend to do instead of being confident in their writing and the attention span of their audience), and there were just enough design issues to keep Mass Effect from living up to its potential.
In a few short weeks, Mass Effect 2 will try to outdo the original with a wide range of improvements.
More Blue Lights
I am not joking when I say that blue lights are the clearest indicator that I am looking at something set in the future. They are always awesome, especially when they glare across most of the screen in majestic horizontal streaks.
The inventory menus in Mass Effect were a mess. Finding something specific required you to scroll past several pages of items that took up too much screen space while managing to avoid being descriptive.
Thankfully, Mass Effect 2 has gone back to the drawing board to come up with a much more elegant solution. When you bring up the inventory menu, you will not be presented with a cluttered list of items, but a layout of all the letters in the alphabet (minus 'S') and a random series of prime numbers.
Simply select a letter or number and you will be presented with the items whose serial numbers begin with your selection. Keep in mind that all health-replenishing items have unique, randomized serials.
Miranda Lawson (portrayed by Yvonne Strahovski from Chuck) has a glorious mane that cannot be contained by the infinite reaches of space, let alone a standard-issue N7 helmet.
Her quaff is leagues beyond anything found in the original Mass Effect, especially given the default male Shepard's affinity for snapping the #3 attachment onto his hairclippers and going to town. The only possible way that Lawson can be outdone? Wrex donning a wig that's identical to her style.
Mass Effect 1 base classes - Adept (biotics), Soldier (combat), Engineer (tech), Vanguard (biotic / combat), Sentinel (tech / biotic), Infiltrator (tech / combat)
Mass Effect 2 classes - Mario (jumping)
Better Planetary Exploration
The explorable planets in Mass Effect were by far the game's biggest weakness. Pressing forward for two minutes at a time while your vehicle puttered across a craggy landscape was not fun, nor was the occasional payoff that came in the form of a recycled bit of scenery or the intergalactic equivalent of a mobile home.
In Mass Effect 2, your dropship will deposit you just outside of each planet's Visitor Center, a hand-crafted building where you'll be able to pick up a pamphlet (available in audio log form, naturally) detailing the various points of interest without the fuss of having to drive yourself all over the place to see them in person.
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