Artificial Continuum

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bioware has done it. While the famous video game studio may have stumbled with previous editions to its stellar space opera, the latest DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker is something to behold. Delivering on not only a great Mass Effect experience but a unique game in and of its own.

The essential part of the Mass Effect series is its story.
Unfortunately (with the exception of Overlord), previous Mass Effect expansions have not been able to complete fulfill the expectations set by fans of the series. Lair of the Shadow Broker delivers, telling an emotional narrative that even rivals the main campaign.

The story follows Commander Shepard, and former teammate Liara as they struggle to take down a powerful and omniscient crime lord, whom Liara has a personal grudge with. Together the two face terrorists, high flying car chases, personal revelations, and more then a bit of humorous banter.

The plot carries on at breakneck speed. The action continues almost constantly, but feels completely natural. This makes the gaps between the chaos all the more important and impactful. Lair of the Shadow Broker feels truly cinematic, even more so then the main game.

In true Mass Effect fashion, Shadow Broker is a character driven tale. Liara T'Soni, a friend and squadmate from the original game, steals the show. Her character is truly expanded beyond the relatively shallow shell seen previously. Liara actually evolves as a character throughout the course of the narrative, something which is surprising considering that the campaign is relatively short.

However, Liara is not the only scene stealer. Something that Mass Effect 2 was missing was a memorable villain, Lair of the Shadow Broker has several. From the morally ambiguous Spectre Tela Vasir to the Shadow Broker himself, Bioware has collected an interesting rogue's gallery.

Even the normally hollow Shepard has his moment to shine. Perhaps where Shadow Broker is most memorable is its fun and amiable relationship created between its protagonist and Liara. The two joke and banter like old friends, and it feels incredibly genuine. It's also really funny.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for your squadmates. Although Bioware makes sure to add in a cool feature that allows them to further flesh out your battle hardened team, your squad will once again remain completely silent for this mission. While understandable due to budget constraints, it's still a frustrating experience.

+Exciting Main Plot
+Dozens of memorable moments
+Great Characters
+Great Comic Relief
-Silent Squadmates

Score: 38/40

Story is the only aspect that makes Lair of the Shadow Broker such a success. The expansion delivers everything the fans have come to love with the addition of a new temporary squadmate, new game feature, smarter AI, and interesting combat locales.

While she does not remain with your party permanently, Liara makes an interesting and welcome addition to your team. Her biotics powers are unique, and allow for some combat. Liara's addition to the game also comes with a revistable location that will updated with upcoming expansions.

The enemies are also more intelligent. They can now throw flash-bang grenades and employ clever flanking tactis, all adding to the experience. Add on some of the most original locations in the history of the series and you have some really memorable combat sequences.

Easily the most drastic edition to the game, the high speed car chase may be the clunkiest edition as well. While its exciting and a fun change, the controls for the vehicle are stiff and confusing. Luckily, this experience is so short that you are ultimately left with a cool experience without the frustration.

+All that made Mass Effect 2 good
+Smarter enemies
+Memorable Locales
+/- Chase Sequence

Score: 38.5/40


Mass Effect has always been a stunningly beautiful game, and Lair of the Shadow Broker continues this to great degree. With great new locales that look jaw-droppingly good, and increasingly complex character animations Lair of the Shadow Broker looks better then ever.

While you may encounter the occasional awkwardly animated scene, there is little negative to be found.

+Character Animations


Mass Effect 2 has perhaps some of the best sound ever in a video game. From expertly crafted sound effects, genuine voice acting, and a powerful score, the game is an absolute aural treat. Lair of the Shadow Broker is no different.

The same expert voice acting returns, along with Jack Wall's score. The music itself is perhaps even more spectacular this time around. Jack Wall pens new themes for the Shadow Broker and his team, while incorporating themes from the first Mass Effect to accompany Liara.

+Voice Acting
+Sound Effects

Score 10/10
Definitely the best edition to the Mass Effect franchise in months, this expansion is necessary for any fan of the series.

Aggregate/Overall Score: 96