Mass Effect 2 - Arrival

Arrival Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
Recommended? Yes
Buy from Amazon

I just finished up my playthrough of the hardest difficulty in Mass Effect 2, and in the process finished unlocking all the game’s achievements along with playing all the downloadable content released after my first playthrough. I missed quite a bit of content, including Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker, but that’s all been played and reviewed now.

Which leaves me with just Arrival, the most recent and supposedly last piece of DLC released in February 2011. It is meant to bridge the gap between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, and from the E3 preview of the third game, it will kick off with Commander Shepard feeling the repercussions of his decisions in the DLC. An interesting decision to place a semi-major plot element in a paid piece of content, but that’s business.

After a bum-rush of Mass Effect 2 related reviews over the past few months, this is probably my second to last piece on the game. I’m planning a Daddy Issues feature and that will be it (unless BioWare sneaks another piece of downloadable content on us, which seems unlikely). But don’t worry, I still need to write about all the different comics in the Mass Effect universe, so there is still more to come.

Mass Effect: Arrival costs 560 MS points or $7.

Arrival kicks off with a personal transmission from Admiral Hackett, he was the faceless mission provider for many of the side quests in the original Mass Effect. It’s apparent the stakes are sufficiently raised with his appearance, and he quickly gets to the point. One of his old scientist friends, Dr. Amanda Kenson, is on a top secret Alliance assignment and has been captured by the Batarians (an extremely anti-human race, and yeah, the aliens with four eyes).

Hackett wants you to go alone, there’s not a lot of story justification for this other than this is a sneaking mission and it’s easier with just one person, but reasons behind it become more obvious in the gameplay elements the DLC provides. All Hackett can say right now is that the Alliance has found some sort of... object.

So you head off to the most distant system on the galaxy map and land on a Batarian planet.

It’s a bit odd just having Shepard in your squad, you can’t rely on the balance the other members provide, but it’s not necessary in the early goings. You’re exploring the prison where Kenson is being held, and there aren’t too many Batarian defenses. One of the Achievements new to this DLC is to sneak in without being noticed, and since I was playing as an Infiltrator, this was perfect (unfortunately, you can’t actually use your Tactical Cloak for help).

This isn’t Metal Gear Solid or even Beyond Good and Evil, the stealth portions mainly just mean don’t shoot the guards in the backs, it isn’t difficult at all to sneak in, and after a few minutes, you’ll happen upon Kenson who is being tortured for information.

Mass Effect 2 Arrival dr Kenson Torture

Kenson also explains the Alliance program in detail: humans found a giant Reaper relic that is basically acting as a countdown for the Reaper arrival. The object’s drumming has been speeding up, and somehow the scientists have narrowed this down to the arrival being just two days away. For whatever reason, this is going to be the Reaper’s first stop in their destruction of the galaxy, and from here they can take the system’s Mass Relay to any other system, such as our Solar System’s.

The Alliance has the grand idea of smashing an asteroid into this system’s Mass Relay, effectively forcing the Reapers to travel around the galaxy the “slow” way (as the Mass Relays act as teleporters for ships). This will delay them by months, if not years: just in time for Mass Effect 3!

Kenson joins the group, one of those one-off characters similar to Wilson in the game’s opening. She’s an engineer so she can use Incinerate, but it’ll still be Shepard doing most of the work. The biggest encounter early on features you fending off a few waves yourself as Kenson unlocks a door. I tried to take them down with my sniper rifle as quickly as I could, but things got a bit hectic as the guards approached. A fun battle, to be sure, if a bit chaotic being by yourself.

As you take off in the shuttle back to the lab, there’s a curious scene where it seems Shepard intentionally hits the afterburners really hot to light some trailing guards on fire. This seems like a “renegade” move, and not necessarily a generic Shepard thing.

Upon arrival at the lab, there’s a big countdown clock counting down to when the Reapers show up. It’s exact to the second, so time is of the essence. You weave your way through all the scientists to come to the actual Reaper relic. Shepard freaks out, yelling at Kenson that the Reapers must have been indoctrinating everyone all along. Kenson proves this point by turning her gun on Shepard and calling in the troops.

Mass Effect 2 Arrival Object rho

Another achievement for Arrival comes from surviving five waves in the battle for Object Rho. I was playing an Infiltrator on Insanity, so this was an absolutely thrilling battle. Fighting alone was tough enough, but there was no single spot you could hide the whole time, especially when the big mech showed up with its rocket launchers and unflinching approach. I actually managed to survive all five waves on insanity, and when I played the DLC again with my soldier on veteran, I got to careless and died. Well, passed out, this is one of those battles you can legitimately lose and still move the story on.

No matter whether you survive the waves (the Object itself eventually disables you), Kenson brings you to a lab and you wake up in a very similar manner to the game’s opening. This time, your awakening is not a happy occasion and you’re locked in the room. In a humorous scene, you actually take control of some LOKI robots and shoot your way to the external door controls, freeing Shepard.

A side effect from being knocked out is that the countdown clock is now down to 1.5 hours! Supposedly, you can actually wait this out and see this rather freaky scene!

From here on out, it’s all guns blazing as Shepard chases Kenson through the facility. Because of her indoctrination, she doesn’t want to smash the Mass Relay anymore, but Shepard obviously does, so it’s a race to the controls. Things usually go in the Commander’s favor, so the asteroid is set for a collision course with the Relay, just one more problem, Shepard needs to get out of there first!

Through a series of unfortunate events, Shepard has been unable to contact the Normandy throughout all this, so he needs to head outside onto the surface of the Asteroid to reach the station’s communication tower. In the DLC’s grandest set piece, you fight out in the vacuum of space with the sound muffled. Too bad the asteroid’s gravity is still holding you down, zero-G battles would be awesome in Mass Effect with its crazy biotic physics.

Before he can leave, the Reaper Harbinger chimes in for a one-on-one chat. He’s pissed at Shepard for pulling this off, but is still universally confident the Reapers will destroy everyone, and particularly humans. Shepard verbally flips him off and hops on the Normandy.

Mass Effect 2 Arrival Outside Base

In an epic cutscene, the Normandy escapes just in time and the asteroid collides with the Relay, setting off a supernova-like explosion that rocks the system and destroys a planet with 300,000 Batarians living on it. This was one of those sore points throughout the mission, the collateral damage would be significant but nowhere near the levels if they didn’t unwillingly sacrifice themselves. Plus, the Reapers were minutes away as it was, they would have been toasted either way.

In one last surprise, Admiral Hackett shows up to personally debrief Shepard. Stuff like this happens when you send someone off on a sneaking mission and they come back with an entire system destroyed. He warns Shepard that the Batarians will want blood, and that Shepard will have to stand trial on Earth in the coming months. At E3, this was revealed to be how Mass Effect 3 started.

Overall, this is a two hour bonus to Mass Effect 2. If you like the game’s gunfights, there are plenty of them here for you, but the real meat is the story implications. It seems like Shepard stopping the imminent arrival will be canon in Mass Effect 3, so you might as well play it now to figure out what the third game’s opening is all about.