Coming off of the impressive Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC and being the final piece of content for Mass Effect 2, The Arrival has some very large expectations to live up to.
Unlike every other past add on for Mass Effect 2, The Arrival is a solo Commander Sheppard adventure. The companions you’ve grown accustomed to having by your side every mission are sitting this mission out. The lack of companions doesn’t necessarily hurt The Arrival in any way but it is a curious choice to exclude them. Having companions to back Sheppard up or chime in with banter was always a welcome addition to any mission. Bioware may have chosen to exclude companions to make The Arrival more difficult or to punctuate the fact that Commander Sheppard is the lone force standing against the threat of the reapers. It could also have been an intentional move to keep the muted companions that have been criticized in past add-ons from being a prominent area of focus.
While previous downloadable content has always been fairly straightforward, The Arrival may feature the most linear story of any Mass effect add-on. There is not a single moral decision throughout the entirety of The Arrival, instead there is one ultimate, unavoidable outcome that every Sheppard will make. The argument can be made that anyone’s Sheppard would have no choice but to pursue this particular course of action but the lack of making any choice, which is a staple of the Mass Effect franchise, hurts the Arrival. There are however a few renegade and paragon points that can be gained throughout the progression of the story.
The Arrival should take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours to run through completely. With the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC being fairly lengthy I expected a longer story filled with more areas than was ultimately delivered in The Arrival. With the story taking place in the Batarian part of the galaxy I would have loved to have seen much more interaction with that particular species, especially given their history with Commander Sheppard and the human race as a whole.
The Arrival does draw a very interesting parallel to the “Bring Down The Sky” DLC that was released for the original Mass Effect, more reflection of this fact by Commander Sheppard or Admiral Hackett would have been nice but this particular plot thread could be picked up in Mass Effect 3. A final cutscene showing the impact the events of The Arrival had upon the Batarians would have helped bring the story full circle and really illustrate the consequences of Commander Sheppard’s actions.
The Arrival is a crucial addition to the Mass Effect story that anyone invested in the franchise should purchase. That being said it is far shorter than and not as strong as the “Lair of the Shadow Broker” downloadable content released late last year. However, it will be a very interesting jumping off point for Mass Effect 3 to begin from and I’m very excited to see how the repercussions of the events of The Arrival play out come September.
This review is based on a retail copy of the 360 version of Mass Effect 2: The Arrival.