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Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker Review

September 10 2010

Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker Review
by Samodean

The best description I can give for “Lair of the Shadow Broker” is to call it the Summer Blockbuster of Downloadable Content. “Lair of the Shadow Broker” is available for Xbox 360 or PC for $10 or 800 Microsoft Points, and requires a full version of Mass Effect 2 to play. This review is based on the 360 version and will contain somel spoilers.

“Lair of the Shadow Broker” starts off just like any other Mass Effect 2 DLC, with a message on Shepard’s personal terminal. However, it is far more than any of the other DLCs we’ve seen for the game. Unlike “Firewalker” or “Operation Overlord”, this is no side story; it is a fully-developed story central to the overall plot of the franchise. Cerberus has some intel on the Shadow Broker that may be of interest to Shepard’s former crewmate, Liara t’Soni, so it’s off to Ilium.

Tying the game in with the Mass Effect: Redemption comic miniseries, the intel indicates that Liara’s former ally, Feron is still alive and a prisoner of the Shadow Broker. For those unfamiliar with the comic, Feron was an operative for the Shadow Broker who disobeyed orders. He helped Liara recover Shepard’s corpse, which the Shadow Broker was attempting to sell to the Collectors, seemingly sacrificing himself in the process. Liara isn’t about to leave him in captivity, and asks for Shepard’s help.

While off gathering information, an attempt is made on Liara’s life. Shepard’s investigation coincides with that of a fellow Spectre, Tela Vasir. Vasir is a fun character. She gives Shepard someone on his own level to interact with and shows just how far above traditional law enforcement the Spectres really are. The investigation eventually leads Shepard to the Shadow Broker’s assassin and, Shepard being Shepard, badassery ensues. Not to be outdone, Liara steps up and shows that she deserves to be at Shepard’s side.

With the assassin on the run, we’re treated to something new to the franchise. What summer blockbuster would be complete without a high-speed car chase? We get one of many fun references to the first Mass Effect with Liara commenting that the flying car is still “better than the Mako.” Though admittedly not much; the flying controls are terrible. Boosting reduces your handling, but if you don’t boost constantly, you’ll lose the assassin. It’s still a fun spectacle and only Shepard would look for weapons on a taxi cab.

It’s not all detective work and car chases, though. The same great Mass Effect 2 gameplay still makes up the bulk of the content, though the enemies have seemingly leveled up as well. Not only are they a bit tougher than before, but they’re sporting some new skills like Kasumi’s Flash-Bang Grenade. Liara will be a member of your squad through most of the content, bringing the Biotic abilities Warp and Singularity with her. She’s loyal to Shepard from the start, unlocking her third combat ability, Stasis, which renders a foe helpless, but also immune to damage.

After a fun boss battle with the Assassin, it’s off to find the Broker himself, but not before a possible confrontation between Liara and Shepard. Through use of a conversation interrupt, I was finally able to get Shepard to reference the relationship he had with Liara in Mass Effect. He called her out on the cold shoulder she gave him during their first encounter on Ilium, with Liara firing back that Shepard “cast [her] aside for a tattooed woman with anger issues,” referencing the choice I made to become romantic with Jack. It’s a great demonstration at maintaining continuity, something missing from recent Dragon Age: Origins DLCs. Later in the game, there’s an option to rekindle the romance, though I did not take it.

Continuing the summer blockbuster theme, the assault on the Shadow Broker is a visually stunning bit of effects mastery. A majority of the mission takes place on the outside of a ship flying through a lightning storm. In between tense combat encounters, I often found myself just staring at the sky; the background scenery is nothing short of stunning.

Eventually, Shepard and Liara find the Shadow Broker and holy crap. What I found on the other side of that door was definitely not what I was expecting. The Shadow Broker is definitely one of the most unique creatures BioWare has created. Of course, regardless of how impressive and imposing a figure the Shadow Broker presents, there’s nobody in the galaxy Shepard won’t punch in the face. What follows is one of the most unique and fun boss encounters thus far in the series, and a suitable finale to our blockbuster.

Up to this point, “Lair of the Shadow Broker” is everything you could ask for, but it doesn’t stop there. With the Shadow Broker defeated, Shepard has full access to his database. The Shadow broker has full dossiers on each of Shepard’s crew, further expanding on their already fantastic character development. There are several other computer consoles available, each adding something to the game, but the most welcome addition is the ability to redistribute ability points for each crew member, an ability previously only available to Shepard.

I only have two complaints. First, I encountered some occasional momentary freezes while playing, though whether an issue with the DLC, or just the Xbox I cannot say. Second, I really would have liked if Liara had remained available as a squad member after the end of the DLC. That said, it took me approximately two hours to play through the DLC, with at least an entire third hour spent reading the Shadow Broker’s files. With a full 200 Achievement Points available, “Lair of the Shadow Broker” is well worth the price, and should serve as a model for any future DLC from any company.


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nonentity's avatar
nonentity 11:11am, 09/10/2010

Agree on all points, except that I miss a better integration of the romances. My character had romanced Liara in ME1, “switched” to Tali (my favorite even in ME1) in ME2 and it pretty much did not come up in any conversation at all. I could even kiss Liara with no problem or anyone saying “what about Tali?” or something.
The closest thing was Liara asking if you do all the things you do, to give “Miss vas Normandy” her planet back, more or less. That’s AFTER the kiss sequence though.

Also - the Paragon option during the maybe-maybe-not kiss was very misleading. The Paragon option is kissing your old girlfriend and betraying your new one? Oo Seriously?

Other than that absolutely nothing to complain, my favorite Bioware DLC to date.

Just why was Witch Hunt, which was released on the same day, such a huge fucking disappointment…
Looking forward to your review on that, judging by the comments in the official Bioware forum I’m not totally alone with those sentiments.

nonentity's avatar
nonentity 11:16am, 09/10/2010

Oh yeah, forgot, they did well on Liara. Definitely liked her more in this, she seemed…. more real. In ME1 she always seemed kind of distant, not as “real” as ie. Garrus or Tali. She never was one of my favorite characters till now. But I really liked her in this.

Definitely liked her more than Ashley or Kaidan though - just why were the human characters the most boring ones in ME1? Jacob has the same problem in ME2, Miranda is a bit better in this regard.
Zhaed and Kasumi got potential but as you really can’t fucking talk to them they remain little more than talking boxes that do well in combat. Real shame. I’d be really fucking pissed if they used this “party member having no dialogue tree/personal story” model for DA2, ME3….

Buddha's avatar
Buddha 08:33am, 09/11/2010

You’re not alone in your feelings for Witch Hunt… though that’s a conversation for another review.

As for Liara, I found that I appreciated her even more after reading the 4 part comic book mini-series.

It gave her life… even passion… which was something missing from her in Mass Effect 1 certainly, and even to a lesser degree Mass Effect 2.

malagaj's avatar
malagaj 04:59am, 09/13/2010

I agree with you all. I think in ME 1 liara was not the best character. The personality was kind of stiff. Now ME 2 has given much life to her and I think she would have been a good companion in ME 2. Shame really. Then again I can’t wait what they got stored on ME 3.

On as side note was this the last dlc for Mass Effect2?

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