BioWare reveals how Mass Effect 2 on PS3 connects to 1st game

David Hughes's picture

[See below for update] BioWare announced a few months ago that they were bringing Mass Effect 2 to Sony's Playstation 3, but gamers had to wait until today to find out how the PS3 version would integrate with choices made in Xbox 360-exclusive first game.

When BioWare's Mass Effect 2 launched early this year, it was praised by many critics for the level of integration it had with the previous game in the series, making gamers feel truly connected with the choices they'd made earlier. Sequels to games are by no means a new thing, but few sequels (even in today's sequel-heavy market) have had such a direct connection with their predecessors. Sure, Uncharted 2 and Halo 3 referenced events in previous games, but those franchises never have players make choices. When it comes to choice-heavy RPGs, tracking and reflecting choices players made across games was considered by developers to be unwiedly, and it would potentially punish players for not playing the previous game(s).

Mass Effect 2 for the Xbox 360 provided an elegant solution: while many events from the first game were referenced in the sequel, only six key decisions actually carried over in the form of narrative branches. These include which character to have a romance with (if at all) and which teammate to sacrifice towards the end of the game. These decisions, along with your character's appearance and stat-build, were scanned and imported by the game on launch, provided your system still had the save-game from Mass Effect At the same time, BioWare established a certain "canon" for the franchise, letting players who had skipped the first game customize their character's appearance and jump right in.

On announcing that Mass Effect 2 would be coming out for the Playstation 3 a year removed from its appearance on Xbox 360, BioWare assured people that there would be 'some' way to connect the sequel with the first game, but that the first game would not be coming to Sony's system. Besides time and development cost, the reality was that BioWare's first entry had been published by Microsoft, and Redmond was surely not going to allow Sony to sell a game that had previously been a prized system exclusive. Nor would they be supportive of any sort of cloud-based transfer of save-game files across platforms, if that could even be engineered. Which left people quite puzzled as to what the sequel would look like.

Now, courtesy of a report by Kotaku, we know that gamers will be able to 'replay' Mass Effect in the form of an interactive comic that distills the first game down to those six key choices. This allows people to not only familiarize themselves with the plot of the game, but feel invested in the choices Xbox 360 and PC owners were able to make rather than 'sticking' people with the BioWare canon.

Otherwise, the more BioWare reveals about the Playstation 3 version, it's equivalent to an "ultimate" or "GOTY" edition of other games: PS3 owners get all previously released DLC on the disc for the $60 asking price, plus the Cerberus Network for future free add-ons and patches as BioWare continues to support the game in 2011. It's unclear at this point whether the interactive comic is also being ported back to the Xbox 360 version, but HULIQ would definitely like to see that happen. After all, it's much easier to go through a short comic than replay a 20+ hour RPG to get the same amount of crucial choices and see how they translate into the sequel.

That said, the comic would be one of the few things differentiating the PS3 version for gamers who own both systems. Retailers such as Amazon have the 'original' Xbox 360 version of Mass Effect 2 listed for $20. All of the current paid DLC that adds content to the game comes out to 1920 Microsoft Points, or roughly $30, so PS3 owners are actually being overcharged by $10 for the privilege of getting a year-old port, 'justified' by the comic perhaps.

Update: According to IGN UK, the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2 is actually running with the same engine to be used for Mass Effect 3. While art assets have not been totally overhauled, the more advanced engine delivers an extra graphical polish to the game not typically found in the straight-up port HULIQ believed the game would be. Also, given the nature of Blu-ray technology, the PS3 version (despite the extra DLC) is a single disc rather than the two discs required for the Xbox 360 version.

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