Have you retained the same set of classes from Mass Effect 1? Are there any changes?
We still have the same set of classes from Mass Effect 1 but we really added a ton of powers and really refined the abilities of the classes and the way they use them such that there's a lot more tactical depth and a lot more impact from the choices you make during battles. Both for your main character, and also the two squad-mates you can bring alongside you at any point of time. I think players are going to be really excited to see all the emergent abilities and the way that the tech and biotic and ammo abilities, etc. all interact and intersect. You'll be able to pull off some really cool moves just by trying different things out. If you choose different companions to bring alongside you on different away missions, different combats, and different battles - you're going to have very different outcomes. That’s really satisfying to know that you could make a difference in how things unfold. It’s part of why this is so cool because it’s a shooter and it’s an RPG, so the choices you make have a big impact on the way the gameplay unfolds.
Mass Effect has pretty basic squad commands: go here, kill this, regroup, etc. Is Mass Effect 2 going to offer any additional micromanagement?
Yeah. Some of the differences might seem small, but they add up to a huge impact in aggregate. For example, you can deploy your troops in different points on the battlefield and that actually leads to a lot of tactical depth where you can flank enemies, try to create a positional advantage, or try and create an ambush. It’s cool to try and play different scenarios to see if you can lure enemies in or trap them, and if so take them out one at a time focusing all your attacks on one enemy. The abilities are easy to access for each of your characters so you can choose different tactics in your battles. Biotic abilities, tech abilities, and changing ammo is loaded on to the power wheel as well, so it’s really easy to access that. It makes a material difference in battles depending on what kinds of ammo you select. We're pretty much trying to refine the interface to make it really easy to have full and complete control on the battlefield, and yet make that really easy to access at the same time.
In following that, are we always going to be locked into the role as Shephard or is there potential to control other squad members?
This is a very personal story; you’re playing the role. You're playing the role of Commander Shephard, and you get to define who that character is and make a lot of choices. You get to customize the appearance, and progress your character in different ways – but it’s really about you. You're playing as Commander Shephard and you get to bring alongside you different companions as you explore, as you progress the story arc, as you go to different places in the galaxy. You get to have two companions with you at any time. And then of course, back at your ship, you have your whole retinue of squad mates and teammates that are there. You can talk to them, learn more about them, and figure out who you want to bring alongside you next time you head out of your ship. But it’s really your story, so we really focused on that and making sure that’s an amazing experience.
The inclusion of characters from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2, for instance Rex and Garrus, was done both to carry the story and because of the fans liking some of these characters. Which characters were your favorite and least favorite?
We've really focused on emotional engagement, and that's our vision for our whole group, and the Mass Effect
team has embraced that as well. I think that the outcome of that is when you focus on making characters that are emotionally engaging, really compelling, you develop love/hate relationship with them. You might hate some, you might love some, but they're all going to be incredibly interesting to play with and travel with and explore. Some of them that you might initially dislike quite viscerally, like subject zero, when you progress through the game with that particular character and learn more and more about the character, you're going to find a lot of nuances and detail that you never imagined. You might end up having a completely different impression by the end of the game – I know I did – than you did at the first impression. Which defines you’re really creating characters with emotional depth and credibility and they can provoke reaction – a genuine emotional reaction – and I think we're getting better and better at that with every game that we launch. Mass Effect 2
is the best yet from BioWare.
Some of the major upgrades to Mass Effect 2 are the inclusion of limited ammunition. Will this be for all weapons, or only certain weapons?
Part of the development of Mass Effect 2
is focusing on it as much a shooter as it is an RPG. They’re equally important to the game and part of the things we realized as a recognition on the team is the tension, and the excitement during the action sequence during a shooter game. There’s a certain tension to having a limited supply of ammo or bullets, and just realizing you gotta make sure every one counts. They really do have a tremendous impact. There's part based damaged, you can have increased damage from headshots; some weapons will use more ammo up. A sniper rifle is very powerful, but it uses a lot more ammo per shot and say you're pistol-whipped and that makes you think in combat. You have to really be sparing and focus on how you apply different tactics in battle, and using the ammo strategically and tactically is one of those choices you have to make. So yes, basically there's limited supply of ammo for all weapons. There's two different categories: there's heavy weapon ammo and there's the ammo used for all the different weapons. Even there, different weapons use different amounts of it, so there's a lot of tactical depth and every single bullet you use you have to think about it, which is pretty cool.
How difficult or easy will it be for people who have not played Mass Effect to step into the middle of the Mass Effect 2 universe?
We really provide a seamless introduction to the Mass Effect 2
experience when you start out, so you don’t have to play Mass Effect 1
at all, but if you do you're going to have a richer experience; in some respects, a more personalized experience because you're going to see some of the choices you made in the first game reflected as you encounter new characters that you might have met before or know of some of the characters or choices you made in the first game. The end game for Mass Effect 1
will influence some of the choices that you see in Mass Effect 2
. Some of the things you did or didn't do with characters in Mass Effect 1
will be reflected in Mass Effect 2
, as well. But if you haven't played Mass Effect 1
, that’s totally fine because you get a great story arc that makes certain assumptions as to what occurred in the first game. It’s basically a self-contained adventure with an amazing beginning, middle, and ending, and it’s part of a running story arc trilogy. So there's incentive for you to bring the save games forward, but certainly no requirement, and I think players who approach it fresh are going to have just as great a time as players who played Mass Effect 1
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