Mass Effect 2: Arrival DLC
Genre: Roleplaying/Third-person Shooter
Price: 560 MS points / $6.99 or £5.49
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release Date: Available Now!
Arrival is the latest and final DLC pack for Mass Effect 2, which has already had a deluge of add-on content since its release in 2010. This finale for Mass Effect 2 is intended to set things up for the third and final part of the trilogy, which is currently slated for a holiday 2011 release. Let’s see how this final episode holds up.
Fans of the Mass Effect series have been hearing about the looming Reaper invasion since the first game, and it is clear that this threat will provide the main antagonists for the third and final chapter. In Arrival, it is revealed to Shepard that new evidence has come to light showing that the Reapers are coming sooner than was ever previously imagined.
Commander Shepard is contacted by Admiral Hackett about a mission of the utmost secrecy; a mission so covet that Shepard won’t even be able to bring the crew of the Normandy along for backup. The nature of this operation revolves around an undercover agent that has been imprisoned deep in Batarian space and requires liberation. The importance of this rescue mission is two-fold, as not only is this agent a close personal friend of the Admiral’s, but she also has evidence of the Reaper invasion that will force the Council to take action.
As the plot unfolds, the agent, Dr. Amanda Kenson, reveals the details to Shepard regarding said evidence and convinces Shepard that drastic measures must be taken. These “drastic measures” provide a huge ethical and moral dilemma for Shepard in which the lives of the few will need to be measured against the lives of the many. This all creates an excellent source of suspense and urgency since the decision must be made quickly if the “Arrival” of the Reapers is to be prevented.
Unfortunately while there is an enormous choice to be made, Shepard decides to make this choice without player input. This was quite shocking coming from a studio and a game that is so focused on player choices and roleplaying. While I understand that sometimes developers need to lead a story in a certain direction, it was very unsatisfying to have the decision completely out of the players’ hands. There were certainly ways for the story to be written that would have allowed for player choice to be included, even if the events to follow were inevitable. There is a smaller choice to be made after-the-fact, but this amounts to little more than “should I be a dick or a good person?” and did little to make up for the earlier snub.
While the combat of Mass Effect 2 improved immensely over the action of the first installment, Arrival seems to sacrifice the things that make Mass Effect truly great in favor of more action. While it is always fun to blast waves of Batarian guards and to incinerate pyros only to watch them explode among their comrades, that’s not really what Mass Effect is about. There are certainly better games when it comes to third-person shooting, but the reason Mass Effect 2 stands above many others is because it has something deeper.
Mass Effect 2 is great due to a whole mess of factors. These factors include the combination of the ability to tell a great story, the ample opportunity for interactions between Shepard and the crew, the ethical choices which can sometimes be truly profound (although not always), and the chance to meet all different kinds of alien lifeforms before blowing their brains out of their skulls. In Arrival, there is a pretty interesting story that does pave the way for the next part in the trilogy, and there is definitely plenty of alien slaughter, but with the removal of the squad members and the moral choices it comes off as far more generic than any previous Mass Effect offering. For players that are familiar with Doom and the many corridor shooters that followed, you know pretty much what to expect: walk down a series of halls annihilating the enemies that pour into each room. That’s about it.
The other huge issue that I had with Arrival was its incredibly short length. While I didn’t expect a 30 hour epic on the scale of the full game, I expect more than I got. From the time I started up my save file with the new DLC installed until the time I got the achievement telling me I was finished, only one hour had passed. Now when I say one hour I don’t mean an hour and a half, and I don’t mean an hour and fifteen minutes. I started playing Arrival at 10:05pm Eastern Standard Time and that achievement dinged at precisely 11:05pm EST. While there is the chance for some replayability to unlock the other 2 achievements, one hour to complete the entire story of Arrival is just abysmally short.
I’ll be very clear about my feelings on Mass Effect 2: Arrival. It is not bad. It’s fun. There are some interesting segments; one part in particular where Shepard directly controls a security mech. However, these are things that anyone downloading a Mass Effect episode would instantly expect. The things that are lacking, on the other hand: the player input on the direction of the story, the interaction with Shepard’s companions, and a length of gameplay worth more than a pittance, are what Mass Effect players (or at least this player) really want. Because of that, I find it hard to recommend Arrival to even the hardcore Mass Effect fans. I would suggest waiting until Mass Effect 3, when the Reaper menace will finally be dealt with once and for all.
For offering us Batarians to kill and not much else, Arrival gets: