Mass Effect 2 with Ray Muzyka

The doctor will see you now

Mass Effect 2 is quite possibly this year's most anticipated game and Dragon Age: Origins has managed to reap enormous success for BioWare since it's November launch.

The Canadian developer is undoubtedly riding high at the moment then, so we thought it high time we caught up once again with co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka to talk all things Mass Effect 2 before the game's impending launch.

We found that there may be life beyond Mass Effect's projected trilogy and much more.

You're very in demand for interviews at the moment due to the sheer anticipation surrounding Mass Effect 2. How do you respond to the huge excitement surrounding the follow-up?

I just recently finished a start-to-finish playthrough of the game and I've said it before, I really feel that this will be seen as one of the best games from BioWare when it comes out. It's just really compelling, the intensity is over-the-top and the pacing is outstanding. When I was playing, I still feel like I want to go back to the universe. I want to play more. The shooter aspects of the game have been amped up, but then so have the RPG aspects. So, it's as much as anything an RPG and a shooter combined. I think it's going to be really compelling to all of our fans and it's going to be really high quality.

The story was really one of the most integral parts of Mass Effect 1. Can you go into Mass Effect 2's a bit without ruining any surprises?

Sure. Well, it's the dark second act of the Mass Effect trilogy. You still play as Commander Shepard and there's an alien menace that's abducting entire human colonies, so you have to gather a squad of bad ass operatives to overcome the challenge and save the galaxy. It's a lot of fun.

And you can transfer your old Mass Effect 1 saves over to the new story. How will this work?

You should keep your save games from Mass Effect 1 if you have them and you can just import them in. The Mass Effect 2 experience you then play through will reflect the choices you made both in terms of companion characters and also the choices for the end game depending on how the story ended for you in Mass Effect 1.

Not only that, we have a plan for a trilogy, so the choices you make in Mass Effect 2 - we'd love to carry those forward into the next instalment as well. It's all part of a story arc. But having said that, it's still a self-contained adventure. You don't have to have played Mass Effect 1 to enjoy Mass Effect 2. We'll explain the context of the game, make certain assumptions and allow you to make certain choices to carry on basically, taking on the role of Commander Shepard right from the start. It'll be good either way.

Technologically speaking, how difficult was it to tie the games together with a trilogy in mind? It must have been quite a challenge.

It was, but we had this planned for a while, so we had an idea of which threads we wanted to carry forward and which loops we wanted to tie up to bring it all together, but it's still challenging, yeah. I mean, even within just one game the number of permutations in choices and consequences is hard, but to carry all that forward across a trilogy is even harder.

Can you tell us a little more about the game's new alien threat, The Collectors?

We want players to be able to explore their motivations and let them develop on their own. But they are one of the newly revealed enemies you'll face in the game and they're certainly a big part of the nemesis that's behind the threat to humanity. They're a really diverse, sort of hive-mind, insect-like race and they'll present some really big challenges for players during the course of the game. They have some advanced technology as well, and their motivations aren't always what they seem to be. I think players are going to have a lot of fun uncovering those motivations, exploring the backstory but also fighting them.

And what can you tell us about Legion (a Geth that pursues Shepard throughout the game) too? He seems like a very interesting character who is obsessed with Shepard.

Again, the players will have to figure out and find out about that on their own, but we aren't going to reveal any more about Legion. I don't actually want to say any more than that, because to say any more would reveal some of the backstory. But yeah, he's a cool character.

Shepard's joined by quite a motley crew of bad asses and fighters this time around too.

We've revealed a number so far. There's Thane who's a Drell assassin and you have to try and recruit him to become part of your team. And the Drell are a new alien race that we're introducing for Mass Effect 2, so we'll cover their motivations and backstory. Grunt is a Krogan warrior - we've revealed him as well. Wrex was a fan favourite from the first game, so Grunt is the same race and you actually get to see a lot more of the Krogans in this game too. If you explore some of Grunt's backstory you get to see a lot more of them and see them interacting, which is pretty cool.

You get to see more of the asari too, so you'll get to go to Illium, which is the asari homeworld and is amazing. We alluded to it in Mass Effect 1, but you get to see more of it in Mass Effect 2.

You get to build a squad of characters you want to take alongside you, and I think they're really compelling characters across the board. And they're going to provoke emotional reactions too, so you're going to like some of them and you're going to dislike others. The way they interact as you bring them along on your travels is pretty cool too.

Mass Effect 2's enemies look very fearsome too. More so than anything we saw in Mass Effect 1. What new weapons and abilities have you incorporated to help in the fight against these tougher foes?

One of the neat things about the weapon system in Mass Effect 2 is on your travels, you'll get to uncover a lot of advanced alien technology, which you can use to mod your weapons and you have the same general, basic types of weapons you had in the first game. There're a couple of new ones too (like the grenade launcher), but you get to modify them and it's up to you how far you take that. The more modified they become, the more powerful and differentiated they become in terms of their look and effect on the battlefield.

Is exploration still the same in Mass Effect 2, where you're visiting planets and discovering outposts, minerals, artefacts and so on?

It's similar, but we've improved it. Some of the feedback we got from the first game was really centred around the combat experience, but we've also made technical improvements across the board like faster loading times, the frame rate being locked at 30 frames-per-second, textures loading smoothly and seamlessly - things like that.

Then the other form of feedback we got was integrating in the optional content - like the uncharted worlds - more tightly into the main experience and then adding extra fidelity to those worlds too, so we've addressed both these things for Mass Effect 2.

There's still optional content, but visually they look stunning - they're very diverse and the fidelity is really high. In some cases they'll actually improve your odds of survival in the main quest if you take on a lot of the optional content.

Will we see any crossover between the Mass Effect books, comics and iPhone game in Mass Effect 2?

Yeah. The books are totally integrated into the story arc, so if you take the time to read through those books - they're totally optional - but you'll see some of the things that were referred to in those books. Some of the elements in those books actually play a pretty important role in Mass Effect 2 too.

With the depth, richness and diversity of the Mass Effect games, can we expect to see future titles being developed beyond the planned trilogy?

Mass Effect like Dragon Age is a franchise and so there will be continued developments to be revealed later whenever that entails, but we have a goal of continuing to broaden our universe and continuing to build the franchise.

What about a Mass Effect movie or TV series? Is that something you'd like to do?

Yeah. We have active plans to build a lot of ancillary products in all of our franchises, and Mass Effect is no exception. I'd love to see us take that to linear media like television or movies as we've already taken it to books, comics and so on.

Mass Effect 2 is out January 29th on PC and Xbox 360.

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