Review: Mass Effect 2: Arrival

Alright, so here's the deal: Before the jump, I'm not going to spoil anything. After the jump, I will try to avoid direct story spoilers but discuss what Arrival means in terms of Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. It's a hard topic to avoid when talking about this DLC pack, and needs to be addressed. Capiche? Capiche.

At Silicon Sasquatch, we love ourselves some Mass Effect. I've played through Mass Effect 1 and 2 twice each, bought and played through all of the ME2 DLC, and earned almost all the achievements in both...and I'm the person on staff who is the least hardcore about the game! Put simply, we enjoy the game's mechanics and universe so much that the opportunity to dive back into ME2 one last time and get a nice bridge between it and the highly anticipated Mass Effect 3 is very, very hard to avoid.

That said, I enjoyed it but as a DLC package for Mass Effect 2, I find it hard to put Arrival ahead of some other extra missions Commander Shepard has gone on. It's not quite as interesting from a gameplay standpoint as the Overlord or Kasumi: Stolen Memory missions were, and I don't think the storyline was handled as well as The Lair of the Shadow Broker. There are times in Arrival where I felt like the level design was a touch convoluted. I think Arrival also relies a bit too much on combat — one of the new achievements in this DLC is tied directly to a specific combat sequence, and I can't for the life of me think how you could get it the first time around. Hell, the second half of the mission has an almost-bewildering amount of shooting dudes given the context of the situation.

That said, Arrival does tell the story that bridges Mass Effect 2 and 3. And it does provide additional context and, above all, gets you excited for Mass Effect 3 to get here NOW. So, it has that going for it. Lastly, it provides you another chance to go back into the game — and even with some issues, more Mass Effect 2 is always a good thing. It may be a bit fanboy-ish, but when the topic of ME comes up, it's hard to be completely subjective. The game series has proved itself to be that good.

So dig in. Whether now, to avoid as many spoilers as possible, or as an appetizer to get back into the mood for Mass Effect 3, this deserves to be played, for better or worse. It's a shame that the hook of being the gap between Mass Effect 2 and 3 can be used to get fans to struggle through an average experience.

So let's discuss the impact of this DLC on the storyline of the game. I don't think it really adds much to the game that we didn't already know — and if you've played through Arrival, I think you'd agree. The conclusion it provides isn't terribly interesting or, really, all that new; what is, however, is the context it provides. To put things vaguely, we knew what would happen, but not when, and Arrival answers that second question. It's not something I was expecting to happen so quickly within the Mass Effect universe, but it does make sense; what you have to do in the DLC also leaves a believable impact.

The other storyline facet Arrival provides relates to the consequences of that event and its impact. That Commander Shepard may have to go explain his actions back on Earth, and that players may have the chance to role play these choices, is going to tumble around in my mind for a good, long time leading up to ME3.

Otherwise, though, the frustrating part of Arrival for me is how the combat curve snaps the tension built by the setting and circumstances. There is a time and place for lots 'o combat, but what should be a time-sensitive instance in a laboratory is NOT one of those for me. Why the hell is a laboratory that well-staffed with security flunkies, anyways? Especially when this is supposedly an unbelievably top secret operation — hell, you have to play the DLC without teammates because Admiral Hackett wants you to go it alone. That said, the ability to play the first segment of Arrival in a stealthy way was interesting, as were a couple things in the second half of the pack. One little moment in particular was really cool, if a bit throwaway.

I am going to be very interested to see how BioWare resolves storyline consistency issues now, too. There are now a lot of permutations of how to play and what content to tackle in ME2 — between the different endings, the resolving of Lair of the Shadow Broker, and whether or not you played Arrival, that's a LOT of different things to try and explain. I'm sure BioWare can handle the problem, but they can't bring Commander Shepard back from the dead again, so seeing how this happens will be an intriguing aspect of Mass Effect 3.

Frankly, again, I feel that the Lair of the Shadow Broker, Overlord, and even the Kasumi DLC packs were more fun to play; however, only Shadow Broker can even come close in terms of story importance in the Mass Effect universe. The gameplay may leave a little to be desired, but as a prologue to Mass Effect 3, it's a requirement.

Recommended for:

  • Its impact on the Mass Effect universe — as the bridge between ME2 and ME3, it is vital for fans
  • Providing context to the events to come in Mass Effect 3

Arrival is a downloadable add-on for Mass Effect 2, available on Xbox Live Marketplace for $6.99/560Microsoft Points and PC and PlayStation 3 for $6.99. The reviewer purchased the downloadable content and completed it on the normal difficulty setting, earning one of three achievements.

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