Quick note: Mass Effect 1 and 2 are very cheap right now on Amazon - five bucks
for the original game, and nine bucks
for the sequel. Fourteen dollars is an amazing deal for a minimum of ~60 hours of playtime.
Mind you, this is via Amazon's download service, so I think it's only available in the States. If you're not in the US, I'd wait a couple weeks for the Steam Summer Sale - I'm sure they'll be marked down similarly. I picked up both games for $15 combined on Steam a year and a half ago... chances are, the deals will be even better this time around.
The third game is still ~$80 for the digital deluxe edition, but apparently some stores like Gamestop have been selling the regular game for more like $25. Despite all the hullabaloo over the ending, it's well worth it, IMO. (That said, I wouldn't bother with the digital deluxe edition, unless you really
want Shepard to be able to wear a hoodie, because that seems to be about all it gives you. It is a pretty sweet hoodie, mind you.) A single playthrough of the trilogy amounts to about 100 hours of awesomeness, which is around the same as five/six seasons of a TV show, and there's quite a bit of replay value.
There's also a bewildering array of DLC (downloadable content), so here are my thoughts on the various add-ons:ME1
- Bring Down the Sky (free) - Comes with the original game, though if you buy the game on Steam, you'll have to jump through some hoops with EA customer support to get an activation key - the trick is to get into the support chat for ME3 and just immediately ask for an activation key for BDtS. The plot's pretty straightforward: for unknown reasons, an asteroid has been hijacked and is plummeting towards a human colony world, and it's up to you to investigate. This one's actually quite good - introduces the batarians, gives you an awesome asteroid to explore, and at the end of the couple hours of playtime there's a really decent moral dilemma. Also, it's referenced in a couple places in the second game, and there's even a bit of fallout in the third game. Well worth the effort of getting an activation key, IMO.
- Pinnacle Station ($5 on Origin) - Oh, this one really annoys the completist in me, because the combat system in the first game is not very good, and this entire DLC is about the combat system. Essentially, it's a series of minigame simulations where you're trying to beat high scores. You do get the opportunity to win Shepard a retirement home, but it's ridiculously difficult, even on Casual difficulty. I'd give this one a miss.
- [Spoiler] Crash Site (free) - Comes with the game, if you activate Cerberus Network. Unlike BDtS, it's very easy to download your free DLC in the second game. This one is probably the saddest pixel-hunt you'll ever do. I think it's worthwhile - a surprisingly emotional and quiet little moment in an otherwise fast-paced game.
- Zaeed - The Price of Revenge (free) - Hey, it's another squadmate! Zaeed, a ruthless mercenary, is noooot a nice guy, but he's certainly interesting, and I maintain that his loyalty mission has one of the best paragon/renegade splits in the game. This DLC also has repercussions in the third game. Definitely worthwhile.
- Firewalker Pack (free) - This one seemed a lot more important back when everyone was speculating about the content of the third game. Unfortunately, they didn't wind up adopting this hovercraft in the third game, so now it's just sort of a weird series of side missions where you... race around in a hovercraft. If, like me, you enjoy driving games and kinda miss the Mako from game one, you should pick this one up. You're not missing anything if you don't (except for one joke James Vega makes in the third game).
- Kasumi - Stolen Memory ($7) - Another new squadmate! Kasumi is an awesome thief with a hilarious sense of humour. Also, her loyalty mission is a wacky heist involving a dinner party, the Statue of Liberty's head, and the gun that killed two presidents. Once again, this one impacts on the third game. If you have the cash to spare, Kasumi's a fun addition to the team.
- Overlord ($7) - Ouch. This one is really intense, with a lot of horror elements to it, and really messes with the interface between organics and synthetics. It's really twisted (including some bits of surprisingly dark humour), and sheds some light on what a certain covert organization Shepard works for is really all about. I'd grab this one, but avoid playing it with the lights off. Also has repercussions in the third game, but it isn't absolutely plot-essential.
- Lair of the Shadow Broker ($10) - This one would be worth it at twice the price. BUY THIS DLC. It's long - a few hours - and cleverly written and seriously fleshes out Liara's character. It also seamlessly incorporates and test-runs a lot of the mechanics of the third game, which is pretty awesome. You meet another Spectre, there are plot twists aplenty, there's a flying car chase, there's a fight on the hull of a giant spaceship in a lightning storm... and the dossiers on your squadmates at the end are pretty much the coolest things ever. If you don't do this one, you might be a bit confused through bits of ME3.
- Arrival ($7) - Yeeeah, this one is absolutely plot-essential. The start of ME3 kinda makes zero sense without it. It's a really decent few hours of play, regardless - there's a rescue mission gone horribly wrong, an amazing sense of urgency throughout, and the ending foreshadows a lot of the hard decisions to come in ME3. (Also, if you've played this one already, someone discovered that if you let the two-and-a-half-hour countdown run down, you get this horrifying cutscene.) Major repercussions in ME3.
- From Ashes ($10) - This one got a lot of flak as Day 1 DLC, and you can definitely play the whole game without it, but it nets you a new squadmate and a ton of new material and dialogue. I think it's worthwhile - some bits of plot make more sense with Javik around. Also, he's hilarious.
- Assorted Multiplayer DLCs (free) - I was surprised to discover I really, really love the multiplayer mode in ME3, so I can heartily recommend these free expansions. If you've ever wanted to play as, say, a geth, a krogran, a batarian, or a vorcha, now's your chance.
- Expanded Cut (free) - After the hubbub over the ending, Bioware committed to making an extended version to clarify. It's going to be released sometime this summer, and it'll be free. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's not gonna please very many people, but I think it'll still be worthwhile.
Okay. Back to work. I'm hoping I can pull this thesis together quickly enough that I'll have a solid weekend free sometime to just game and game and game. That sounds really nice right now.