Mass Effect 2: Arrival DLC
Well, here we are! A full 14 months after the release of Mass Effect 2, the final story driven DLC has Arrived. The second of the promised "bridging" DLC packs, Arrival sets to raise the stakes higher than any of its predecessors by dealing with the big baddies of the Mass Effect universe, the Reapers. While BioWare has downplayed its significance in the previous weeks, Arrival will still leave an impression upon anyone who is fan of the first two games. After all is said and done, while it might not live up to its ultimate potential, it's still one hell of a ride.
Story wise, I'll keep this spoiler-free and just give you the bare-essentials. Arrival begins with Mass Effect 1 superstar Admiral Steven Hackett charging Shepard with a special mission as a personal favor. Hackett's longtime friend, Dr. Amanda Kenson, has gone missing in a Batarian system and Shepard is the only one who can get her out without risking a galactic incident. To sweeten the pot, Hackett mentions that she has evidence of a Reaper invasion, an revelation that certainly piques Shepard's curiosity. With all this information in tow, you take on your first solo mission in ME2 and attempt to bust her out. What ensues is a series of twists and turns that prevent this from being far more than a standard rescue mission. I won't give anything away, but as a longtime fan of the series, I was quite satisfied with the narrative and the implications it had for both the present and the third game.
Rescuing Dr. Kenson is just the tip of the iceberg in 'Arrival'.
On the combat side of things, there's not a whole lot that's different in this pack. You take cover, you kill things using your guns and powers, you repeat. However, the solo element it adds makes it all the more intense, especially during a couple of pulse pounding sequences. Arrival makes you appreciate the use of squad mates in ME2, whether you used them for flanking or just for bullet-sponges, there'll probably be a couple of times you wish you had them guarding your backside. Adding a new caveat to the gameplay is the inclusion of a "stealth" sequence near the beginning. Shepard is many things in the ME universe, however, Solid Snake he/she is not. There's nothing wrong with the section itself, it just feels a bit out of place and uninteresting. As for the remainder, there are a distinct lack of boss fights like were seen in both Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker, but the presentation and pacing of the combat more than makes up for oversights such as those.
Admiral Hackett's return is a welcome one.
Presentation wise, Arrival delivers in pretty much all regards. The exclusion of squad mates makes it feel like a much more intimate affair and the dialogue and setting both lend themselves to the gravity of the situation in the DLC. The levels are well designed and there a few fantastic set-pieces scattered throughout that create some very memorable backdrops when paired with the intense action. The previous DLC packs set the standard pretty high audio-wise, and I thought the score here was no exception. The tracks are a lot more subdued than Overlord or Lair of the Shadow Broker, but they had the "Mass Effect 1" feel to them that provided both senses dread and excitement. The dialogue is sharp as well, complete with a fantastic table-setting "epilogue-sequence" and a bone-chilling conversation near the pack's conclusion. Overall, this pack doesn't really feel as alive and vibrant as Shadow Broker did, but it certainly felt more important.
This was one of the more exciting fights contained in the Arrival pack.
In the end, Arrival was just about everything it should have been. There weren't really any corners cut, the production values were high, and it does a good job of acting as a "bridge" to Mass Effect 3. This certainly isn't the "Mass Effect 2.9" everyone thought it was going to be when it was first announced, but that doesn't make it insignificant by any means. The only complaint I have is the design move to not make this a post-Suicide Mission pack only. The decision to play Arrival immediately after Horizon doesn't detract from it necessarily; it's just that so much more could've been added with the assumption that Mass Effect 2 was already completed. Playing it before the Suicide Mission makes very little sense to me and it would definitely confuse someone who was playing the game for the first time. Arrival would've functioned a lot better as a prologue to Mass Effect 3 rather than an epilogue to Mass Effect 2. Still, my personal gripes aside, at 560 Microsoft/BioWare points ($7) anybody who enjoys Mass Effect should pick this up. It closes the book on Mass Effect 2 effectively all while opening a world of possibilities for Mass Effect 3. There's going to be quite an epic conclusion laid out for the Masses when Mass Effect 3 hits later this year.