Choice, action, consequence. De-construct Mass Effect 2 and you would realize that the sum is much greater than its parts. This is largely due to the choices it presents and the implications of the resulting consequences on a universe so painstakingly created. Midway through Arrival, the player is presented with a massive choice. Five seconds later, the game makes it for you without so much as asking. All that is left for the player to do is to react to the consequences. It’s a move that is very uncharacteristic of the Mass Effect 2, which has always encouraged players to carve out their own story. It feels hollow, much like everything else about Arrival.
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The story kicks off with an incoming transmission from Admiral Hackett, a character that has existed on the fringes of the Mass Effect storyline in both games. Dr Kenson, an old friend of Hackett, had been investigating a Reaper artifact in a remote system occupied by the Batarians, and had critical information on the imminent Reaper invasion. Things went south for her when the Batarians got suspicious and arrested her. Things go south for you when Hackett asks you to go in alone to rescue her.
This is the second fatal flaw of Arrival. As a cover-based third-person shooter, Mass Effect 2 is competent at best. The combat in the game comes to life with the strategic options available through squad selection and tactics. As a solo operation, it feels just about adequate, with the player literally moving through corridors from one combat zone to the next. There really is no justification of reducing the scope of the game and forcing the player through something that is done exponentially better by the likes of Gears of War and Uncharted, and the whole thing reeks of a rushed release.
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That is not to say that everything has gone wrong with Arrival. A couple of moments are genuinely laced with thrill and excitement towards the end, and the story, despite being a linear affair, has interesting implications on the Mass Effect universe, which should come into play in Mass Effect 3.
In the wake of excellent add-ons such as Project Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker, Arrival feels like nothing more than a playable trailer for Mass Effect 3. Through this forgettable piece of DLC, Bioware has demonstrated the different ways Mass Effect 2 could have gone wrong, and by clocking at just above an hour on normal difficulty, it is not doing any favours to its Rs 390 price tag. It’s a pity that a game as glorious as Mass Effect 2 gets a swan song where every note is off-key.