Five Torches (Out of Five)
“Lair of the Shadowbroker,” BioWare’s latest DLC for Mass Effect 2, is a worthy final chapter to the second game in the popular science fiction franchise. The fast-paced mission takes you across Illium and space to help Captain Shepard’s former crew member/old flame Liara track down the Shadowbroker, a dangerous alien who trades in secrets.
Playing on the Insanity difficulty with my character at level 30 and Grunt and Miranda in my squad, I finished the DLC in 4 to 5 hours — and had a great time doing it.
(Some spoilers to follow, but no major ones.)
The DLC’s story of love, betrayal, and good intentions gone awry is a compelling one, especially if your character was romantically involved with Liara in the first Mass Effect. You’ll get even more out of it if you’ve read the Mass Effect comics that bridge the first and second games (and I highly recommend you do — you can download all four for $.99 each in your iPhone/iPad App Store).
The humor in the writing adds greatly to the story. An Asari Spectre described Illium to me as “Omega with expensive shoes,” and at one point during a firefight, Grunt inexplicably calls them, “little pieces of crap!”
The Shadowbroker’s dossiers are a treasure trove of entertaining content all on their own, including Jack’s secret submission to Galactic Poetry Monthly, and Miranda’s email confirmation from an exclusive intergalactic dating service.
The writers appear to be directing some of the humor at themselves. When Liara first asks for Shepard’s help, Shepard sarcastically asks if Liara just wants Shepard around to “hack more terminals,” a possible nod to complaints about the minimal role Liara played in ME2 after being so central to ME1. And given all the forum comments about Jacob’s general uselessness in combat compared to other squad members, I laughed out loud when I read the Shadowbroker’s description of Jacob as having a solid service record, but “clearly placed on Shepard’s team primarily for stabilizing elements of personality.”
The setting for Liara’s quest greatly enhances the narrative, too. From the interior of the city’s luxury apartments to the top of a great starship, the designers use the locations to great effect. I especially enjoyed the ability to zap enemies with redirected lightening.
The skycar chase was surprisingly fun, too.
I say “surprisingly” because missions involving vehicles in ME 1 and 2 have primarily been exercises in frustration, with cumbersome vehicles, checkpoints that are too far apart, and painstakingly slow travel (I’m looking at you, Mako). But the developers avoid these pitfalls in “Lair of the Shadowbroker,” and flying the car between buildings at high speed feels like you’re in a scene from The Fifth Element or Star Wars.
If none of that convinces you to play “Lair of the Shadowbroker,” this might: At the end of the mission, the Shadowbroker Base becomes permanently accessible to you. In addition to the dossiers, the base includes a terminal which allows you to re-allocate powers for anyone in your squad (something you could previously only do for Shepard), missions to fund, purchasable element-rich planets, and new technology — all of which can be used to better prepare your squad for the Suicide Mission.
The only thing the Shadowbroker Base doesn’t give you is Liara as part of your permanent ME2 squad, which is too bad. But at least you can continue your relationship with Liara (just make sure to ask her up to your apartment for drinks).
The DLC also lays the groundwork for Mass Effect 3 with what appears to be an intriguing premise.
With good writing, challenging combat, new weapon and armor research, a permanent intel center, and vehicle travel that (finally!) doesn’t suck, “Lair of the Shadow Broker” is well worth the 800 points.
- The Magic of Gaming: ELEMENTAL: WAR OF MAGIC is Out Today! Plus, NEVERWINTER and SIMS MEDIEVAL Are Coming Soon
- DRAGON’S LAIR Coming as iPhone App
- FABLE III Hands-On Gameplay Preview
- The Magic of Gaming: FABLE III’s Rejected Prostitutes, FINAL FANTASY XIV Fails, and DON’T TOUCH MY GEMS!
- The Magic of Gaming: People Won’t Stop Asking Me to Marry Them in FABLE 3 Multiplayer!