June 18, 2010

Review – Mass Effect 2 “Overlord” DLC

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 3:31 am

Latest in the ongoing series of DLC releases for Mass Effect 2 is the Overlord add-on, which has Commander Shepard battling a rogue Virtual Intelligence. Bioware has again approached their downloadable content with an eye to quality, including an excellent new soundtrack and some great visuals—but this package seems to have also been designed to test new designs for planet exploration following the demise of the Mako and the revision of galaxy exploration in Mass Effect 2.

Each DLC pack has offered a gameplay experience unique from the retail release, if often a brief one—the Stolen Memory DLC presented a sharply designed adventure mission, with Sherpard infiltrating the home of a prominent crime boss, and the Firewalker pack introduced Hammerhead vehicle sequences. Overlord provides a much less combat-intense experience, focusing on the reintroduction of vehicle exploration and the delivery of the dark science-fiction elements that have helped make the Mass Effect universe distinct.

Something of an electric ghost story, the plot isn’t particularly engaging at first, but picks up sharply towards in the last leg, even though you’ve probably guessed how it ends by that point. In the interim, it provides suitable atmosphere and the basis for a handful of Geth engagements. For science-fiction adherents this will be a bite-sized snack rather than a main course, but it’s enjoyable while it lasts.

There are some very sharp visual elements here; the depiction of the enemy VI is absolutely stellar. Most notable, though, is a sequence where Shepard—presumably through the hijacking of his cybernetic implants—is made to perceive the world in a digital state. If you think Mass Effect meets Tron, you’re on the right track. It may seem a trivial feature, but this experience goes a long way towards making a game you’ve probably spent sixty hours with feel fresh again. The stark downside is the brevity; as with much of the Mass Effect DLC, it’s over quickly, and you’re left wanting more.

The Hammerhead tank—previously featured in the Firewalker pack, which came free to Cerberus network members—returns here. Most players will be familiar with this vehicle already, but those who bought the game used and didn’t feel the need to cash in for the Cerberus DLC pipeline will be seeing it for the first time. It’s worth noting that if this vehicle had been featured in the retail release, the total omission of planet exploration would not have been necessary; unlike the dreadful Mako, the Hammerhead is actually fun to pilot. While the vehicle would not justify the sort of time one was required to spend driving across barren worlds in the original game, a more limited explorative approach would definitely have been viable.

As with the previous Firewalker pack, Overlord seems designed to test these waters, as this is precisely the approach Bioware has taken: players are deposited in an open area, though much smaller than the massive expanses featured in the original Mass Effect, and tasked with navigating this area for the sake of locating missions and resources. Limiting the scope affords a few significant benefits: first, the visual design of the area is excellent, so much so that your vehicle’s onboard computer will point it out, ensuring you don’t miss the hard work of the artists. More importantly, the level design here is markedly more intelligent than the often infuriating hills and canyons of the original Mass Effect; limited platforming elements have been included, and exploration flows much more naturally—you won’t find yourself struggling to edge up a rock face or driving endlessly around mountain ranges to find your objective. The trade off is the occasional invisible wall, but this is a fair compromise.

Combat in the Hammerhead, though, is still somewhat tedious: there’s little dynamism, and while the maneuverability of the vehicle allows for limited strategy, you’ll quickly note that driving is far more entertaining than fighting. Perhaps in response to this weakness, enemy encounters while driving the Hammerhead have been limited in favor of the exploration and platforming. With the formula of the Firewalker pack adjusted, Overlord provides a more balanced Hammerhead experience, and hopefully represents a template to be employed in future offerings.

Unfortunately, role-playing elements available in Overlord are limited. There’s not much opportunity to exercise your Sherpard’s personality, with only one real player decision being offered. Given that this is a combat-light mission set, some more significant conversation and role-playing elements would have gone a long way towards filling out the package. Nevertheless, the inclusion of light platforming and puzzle elements interspersed with Geth battles and Hammerhead piloting sequences makes for a well balanced package, and a suitable vehicle for some of the more unique experiences provided by Overlord. At two hours of gameplay for 560 Microsoft points, Overlord isn’t overly cheap—but if you’re looking to extend your Mass Effect playthrough, it’s a solid effort that adds a little more variety to the game.

Mass Effect 2 – Overlord
PublisherElectronic Arts
System – Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows (Xbox 360 Reviewed)
Release Date – June 15, 2010

*A copy of this title was purchased by Gamesugar for review


  1. Thanks for including a price! That is one of the most important factors in my decision to download digital zeros and ones.

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — June 18, 2010 @ 7:59 am

  2. Hammerhead needs more shields and armour, and a guadge to read them. Missles go after a target, but not your target usually, but not a problem with taking out turrets. Over all a great DLC and the hammerhead is still good at exploring places. Would however like a tank vs. tank fight, geth do not have tanks except for colossus which are just SLOW moving turrets.

    Comment by Elliot Slack — June 21, 2010 @ 10:56 pm

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