Artificial Continuum

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

When it comes to DLC, the Mass Effect series has been a mixed bag at best. You have your fantastic add ons (Brind Down the Sky, your mediocre (Kasumi's Lost Memory), and your terrible (Normandy Crash Site). Although it is nice to have regular additions to the amazing franchise that Bioware has created, it is disappointing that that fans are not given a more consistent level in quality to these (some times expensive) features. It is easy to say that the latest update, Overlord, although far from perfect is the best released for Mass Effect 2 so far.


The story is the essential part of any Bioware game, and unfortunately almost every DLC has been lacking in this department so far. The concept for Overlord is a fairly simple one. Cerberus scientists in an attempt to gain influence over remaining Geth forces have interfaced a human mind with a highly intelligent and powerful virtual intelligence. When the VI goes highwire, machinery around the planet goes haywire and launches an all out assault against the science team. However, it does not stop there. The menacing computer plans to spread its influence across the entire galaxy creating a galaxy wide apocalypse. Already the scale of this DLC is far larger then any of those previously presented. For the first time since the main game it feels as if the mission we are undertaking is a worthy one for our now battle hardened team. Although the plot is a seemingly familiar one, Bioware manages to tell the story with a decidedly disturbing, human, and emotional tone. Despite the overarching plot, story only really matters at the onset and ending of the mission. However, the ending to Overlord is absolutely fantastic. The last twenty minutes of the campaign justifies several hours of relative mediocrity and is easily one of the best Mass Effect scenes ever rendered. The choice presented to the players is shocking and surprisingly poignant. There are also moments of refreshing comic relief scattered throughout the missions. However, perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Overlord is how little our main characters do throughout the campaign. Shepard (outside of the bookends of the mission) is surprisingly silent except for several snarky quips. Most upsetting is that your teammates will never utter a word. Although this is understandable due to budget and actor constraints, it is still sad to have your teamamtes stand there like relative puppets. (However, there is a rather nice scene involving Legion and the lead scientist.)

+Great Presentation
+Fantastic Ending Sequence
+Epic Scale
-Slightly Cliched Main Plot
-Silent Teammates
-Story only relevant at the beginning and end of campaign.

Score: 32/40

The base game of Mass Effect 2 remains in this DLC. The outstanding combat and dialogue system remains, with great opportunities presented for both. There are numerous fun action set pieces in this expansion including a rather disturbing series of bosses ranging from a corrupted Geth Prime and the insane VI itself. The dialogue is offered less time to shine, but the amazing interrupt system is once again a standout. There are also numerous puzzles introduced into the gameplay that add to the experience. Perhaps the best introduction gameplay wise into this DLC is the expanded use of the Hammerhead vehicle, first introduced in the Firewalker pack earlier this year. Unlike the original Mass Effect's Mako tank, the Hammerhead is easy to handle and is alot of fun to use. There are numerous creative uses of the vehicle, including some very fun platforming sequences. However, the same flaws present in the original Firewalker pack still remain. The Hammerhead still only has one form of attack, and it you are prohibited from saving within the vehicle. Luckily, there are numerous autosaves which prevents this flaw from totally ruining the experience. Unfortunately, the campaign is also annoyingly short only lasting about five to six hours in length.

+Great Combat Sequences
+Fun Puzzles

Score: 35/40

Overlord is perhaps the most impressive looking Mass Effect content ever released. Exploring the planet the campaign takes place is a breathtaking experience. As the VI on your Hammerhead points out, the scenery is a beautiful sight. Whether its the flames of the volcanic station of the game, the haunting presence of the VI as it stalks you throughout your mission, or the Tron-esque finale Bioware has provided a striking visual experience. The amazing character animations remain, and only experience slight hiccups.

+Outstanding visual design and scenery
+ Outstanding character animations
-Some minor graphical hiccups

Score: 9.5/10

Mass Effect has always shined when it came to an exceptional sound experience, and Overlord is no different. Jack Wall's score returns, although more subtle then in previous iterations. The top notch voice acting is still present, although in smaller additions then in the main game. Shepard's actor gets better with each time he plays the character, and he is far from the wooden statue like soldier seen in the original. However, the real star are the brilliant sound effects. Whether its the pang of bullets shooting past your head, or the eerie insect liking shrieking of the villainous computer Overlord is an aural treat.

+Jack Wall's Score
+Voice Acting
+Sound Effects

Score: 10/10

Overlord may not be perfect, but for Mass Effect fans it is easily the best expansion delivered since the award winning Bring Down the Sky for the series's original installment. Your money is well spent in this short but sweet gem of a DLC.

Aggregate Score: 86.5/100
Overall Score: 88/100


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