And there’s the catch…

Amidst all the E3 information overload Bioware released their latest DLC, Overlord, on 15 June. I played through first with my Paragon Shepard and then for a second time with my Renegade Shepard. The first play through for me has to center very much on game play. I have to divide my attention between looking at my hands and glancing at the screen and as such, miss a lot of what is happening on the screen. I am so focused on hitting the right buttons at the right time without dislocating a finger or wrist that the a big chunk of the story is missed. Hearing isn’t my strong suit and in between the high keening noise of tinnitus, wobbly inner-ear bones that makes sound seem louder and softer erratically and the effects of APD, I miss the vast majority of the dialogue the first time round. The second play through of any game is the one I enjoy. I am able to process familiar information easier and knowing what’s going to happen less requires less focus and concentration to be placed on watching the controller and so I am free to look at the screen more often. Unfortunately, it also means doing the horrible bits twice, but at least this DLC only had one of those.

The action begins when arriving at Hermes station, part of a Cerberus research base. It starts nice and slow, easing one back into the action and after hearing what’s gone wrong, i.e. Geth are overrunning the base, you pick up the hammerhead and head out to three other stations. I detest vehicles. I really struggle to control them, particularly when I have to drive and shoot. Moving faster require quicker reflexes and I don’t have those. The hammerhead was less of a nightmare than I thought it would be. I was lead along a path delineated by big lamp posts and ran into the occasional armored turrets which wasn’t difficult to take out. Air vents were dotted along the routes and hovering above them provided additional lift to reach higher ground. Those were very easy to use as well. A short drive with only one turret en-route took me to Vulcan station.

I jumped out, ran in, hit a button and ran back out at which point I had to do a little stone jumping over a river of lava to reach the second part of the station. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t exactly difficult either. The combat inside the station was a walk through the park as well and when things heated up just a tiny fraction, there was enough room for error to take out my particle beam on armored enemies and play it lazy. There is a cruel but cool little scene here where a door opens and one of the little robots are merrily typing away on a console. You shoot off both its arms and it runs around the room, coming to a halt next to Shepard. A renegade option is available to, whilst you’re talking, shoot its head off.

Next up is Prometheus station. Before heading to the station, you can collect 6 Cerberus data packs for an achievement. Most are guarded by a turret or two, the first is unguarded and the last for me were guarded by to mechs that were very easy to take out. They were an easy find, but there is no save option midway and after running into a little wrist/thumb dislocation issue and dying, I had to start from the beginning again. There are a few animals strewn across the fields and if you accidentally or purposefully, accidentally in my case, run them over, you’re informed that “Defenseless herbivores are no match for guided missiles”, which was rather odd; didn’t think a hit and run involved missiles, but there you go.

Once you reach the station, there’s a Geth cannon protecting it and shields protecting the cannon. It’s an easy job to take the generators out by letting the cannon do it for you and once its shield is down, a few hits kills it. I enjoyed this station the most. It has the audio logs of the kind and quality that I love. Little gems of personal messages, in particular a few messages about someone called Lanigan that wasn’t very popular for stating things like “if the Geth are activated, we’ll all be dead in two minutes” and for dressing up in Geth parts over Halloween. There’s a tiny scene where an announcement is made that station wide music will now be played and once the music is queued I was suddenly reminded of Bioshock and how its use of music was what drew me into its world so much. There’s a ridiculously easy mini-puzzle to create a walkway to the control you need to access and once you hit the button, the station begins to collapse, Geth are activated and you have to make a run for the exit whilst shooting. Nothing too difficult at all arises along the way and once I exited the station, my immediate response was “again, again”. It’s missions like these that make me love Mass Effect.

Atlas station was horrible. I was thrown into a virtual reality with bright orange shifting walls that was a psychedelic nightmare reminiscent of The Matrix code, particularly when the orange eventually turned to green. A was lead into a room where the story was told in flashes with bright white characters that appear after investigating a shiny anomaly that made my head hurt. I was ready to give up before I’d even gotten to the grand finale. That wasn’t much better. In a circular domed room, I had to shoot at shiny balls that were data packets attempting to upload to EDI in the Normandy. A couple of Geth attacked during different phases, but thankfully, the actual game play wasn’t difficult despite the eye piercing graphics. I made it through eventually, but not without a throbbing headache. If you’re prone to seizures and/or migraines, I wouldn’t recommend it.

I enjoyed having some new Mass Effect content to play and it was near perfect except for the shiny ending and again made me want to start another Shepard just so I can jump into that universe once again. I’m ambivalent about the rain man-esque portrayal of the autistic character, but that’s a whole other post. Overall, it provided a few hours of fun without much frustration, such a pity about the shiny virtual reality that really could have been done better with a little more imagination and effort.