Mass Effect 2: Arrival Review
Mass Effect 2 has had a hell of a run. It was our highest scoring game of 2010 and also had the highest scoring Downloadable Expansion of 2010 in the form of Lair of the Shadow Broker - and then to top it all off we named it our RPG of the Year 2010.
With this final DLC pack, titled Arrival, Bioware are closing the Mass Effect 2 book for the last time, leaving fans until Mass Effect 3 launches this holiday to see more of Commander Shepard's adventures.
Arrival seems to be intended as a post-game DLC, but can actually be played at any point after the mid-game Horizon mission. It sees Shepard sent into Batarian Space to rescue Dr. Amanda Kenson, a scientist held captive by the Batarians who also happens to have evidence of the impending Reaper invasion.
Shepard's handed the mission by Admiral Hackett, who was often the disembodied voice at the Galaxy Map who dished out missions in Mass Effect 1. It's a nice bit of fan service to see Hackett in person and hear his voice once again, and a nice touch in a DLC that otherwise sees Shepard surrounded by the unfamiliar.
Hackett asks Shepard to go it alone as sending in a whole squad could cause a major diplomatic incident, and that offers a chance for something a little different - stealth gameplay.
Once Shepard is dropped off at the prison where Kenson is held you have the option of either subduing any guards you come across with force or merely sneaking past them the old fashioned way for an extra achievement.
The stealth here is simple and the section is over quickly, but the option to avoid combat is a welcome change. Later on the DLC shifts focus to some large action set pieces.
The set pieces include a large wave-based battle in a largely open room that is difficult as hell (but not compulsory that you survive even past the first wave - though beating all five is worth an achievement) and a standard battle in an awesome-looking setting as the asteroid you're on hurtles towards a Mass Relay.
The above describes just about everything about Arrival - a bunch of the now-familiar Mass Effect 2 combat in some new settings. I enjoyed the aesthetic of the space station Kenson's team is working on after you rescue her - it's slightly different looking in aesthetics to most others in very subtle ways, while the finale atop the asteroid looks simply awesome.
The combat, however, is more of the same - LOKI Mechs, Heavy Mechs, and various humans and batarians filling in various classes from Soldier to Engineer to Adept. I enjoyed the combat of Mass Effect 2 a great deal, but comparing how much new stuff Arrival brings to the table to Lair of the Shadow Broker leaves Arrival looking more than a little lacklustre.
Fighting alone doesn't actually make too much of a difference to the combat, and I didn't miss my allies for the short time this DLC went on for. While the initial decision may irk you, the lack of allies makes more sense as the DLC goes on.
While Bioware claim that decisions made in Arrival will change what happens in Mass Effect 3, I couldn't see any major differences between my two playthroughs that would make a huge difference to the next game in the series. The story is largely linear and heads down a set path - but it's an often exciting path.
Arrival is by no means the best DLC for Mass Effect 2, but it's also a very competent addition to our RPG of the Year 2010 - and more Mass Effect 2 is no bad thing. It adds to the story and gives Shepard more to do - and for anyone who seriously enjoyed Mass Effect 2 that has to come recommended.