When Mass Effect 2 was released, we were promised a string of downloadable content that would serve to enrich the lore of the Mass Effect universe and tie up loose ends before the third installment in the series finishes Commander Shepard’s story. After a few extra character packs, new weapons and items, and cosmetic skins, BioWare finally started to deliver with releases such as Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker. But apparently, the bounty of content was not meant to last. Arrival is the final piece of DLC for Mass Effect 2, and it landed on XBL and PSN on March 29. Does it give Mass Effect 2 the send off it deserves, or is it a harbinger of bad things for the series?
Arrival starts off promisingly enough, with Commander Shepard getting a personal call from Admiral Hackett of Alliance Command, asking the commander to covertly infiltrate a Batarian planet as a personal favor. Shepard is charged with the rescue of one Professor Kenson, and due to the sensitive nature of his mission, is required to go in alone. Of course, Shepard’s rescue mission soon turns into something much more important, as he becomes embroiled in a plan to delay the invasion of the Reapers so that the galactic community has ample time to prepare a counteroffensive.
As mentioned, this add-on is purely Shepard’s tale. While it makes sense for the first half of the mission, suspense of disbelief is strained when the game forces the player to continue the solo foray in the second half, as there’s ostensibly enough time for Shepard to either rendezvous with his team or for them to track him down. The add on continues the streak of newer gameplay styles added to Mass Effect 2, adding stealth and solo improvisation to the list of gameplay variants on its already impressive list. There are still quite a few firefights, which are all the more enjoyable now that Shepard lacks the back up his squadmates normally provide. In the second half, Shepard is running against the clock, and it’s not a difficult feat to finish within the time limit, but if players dally too long, they’re treated to an entertaining nonstandard game over, so that’s something of interest, at least.
Arrival clocks in at around 90 minutes to complete, and I did so on the Insanity difficulty. It is somewhat of a disappointment after quality experiences such as Lair of the Shadow Broker, as Arrival answers no real questions and has no choices that make a tangible difference to the end result. Nevertheless, the underlying game mechanics and writing are still up to Mass Effect 2’s standards, making it still head and shoulders above most other DLC, even if it’s not up to BioWare’s usual standards.
After the misfires and shoddy quality seen in the DLC for Dragon Age: Origins, I had my concerns over Arrival, but my concerns were only half realized. On one hand, Arrival features great gameplay and some nice surprises, but its short length and lack of true player choice makes this somewhat halfhearted DLC. To be honest, Mass Effect 2 deserved a better finale. If you’re a huge fan of the series, then Arrival is a worthy investment. Anyone else, though, probably won’t appreciate spending the $7 for such a half-hearted postscript.