Mass Effect 2’s final location – the Collector Base sat beyond its Omega-4 Relay – sits on screen from the moment you first fire up the game. In the distance, burnt debris circles a black hole’s accretion disc: a graveyard of spaceship wrecks slowly being drawn toward their final deaths. It’s an ominous sight – and a signpost to where you will also be drawn, pulled towards this place just as inevitably for the game’s beautifully designed final moments – its Suicide Mission.
A decade on from Mass Effect 2’s release, its finale stands up as some of BioWare’s best ever work – and while the game’s follow-up certainly competed in its emotional stakes, the Suicide Mission remains unparalleled in terms of its labyrinthine choice complexity. Not that much of this is visible to the player, of course. The best thing about the Suicide Mission is you can go into it blind, hoping you’ve done everything you can to protect your ship and crew – and still feel a gnawing doubt not everyone will make it out alive. But while this opaqueness makes for a nailbiting ride, it also hides some of BioWare’s best decision-made gameplay, as choices here and from throughout your path through the rest of the game converge. It’s why this mission fascinates me – long before I saw flowcharts being made to expose its inner workings.
Mass Effect 2 is a game about assembling your crew and earning their trust in readiness for this final mission. And what a crew – a rogues’ gallery of aliens, former enemies and thinly-forged alliances, which makes for the trilogy’s largest and most diverse cast. As the mission begins, it’s a thrill to see this family you have spent dozens of hours with come together as the Normandy is plunged into danger – and as you realise any one of them can bite it.