Mass Effect 2 takes the story of the first Mass Effect title and turns it on its head. Instead of being a sanctioned branch of the galactic government, Shepard is now a member of an independent organization working outside the law. They've also been dead for a few years before Cerberus has managed to revive them — so it's no surprise if they need an update on galactic happenings.
There are plenty of assignments in Mass Effect 2 that don't relate to the main story but allow players to become reacquainted with their favorite science-fiction dystopia. These are the ones players should prioritize if that strikes their fancy.
10 N7: Anomalous Weather Detected
In N7: Anomalous Weather Detected, Shepard scans Canalus, a planet in the Dirada System of the Pylos Nebula, to find that there is significant Geth activity on its surface.
They haven't gone away since Saren's demise and seem to still be working for the Reapers, though their goals are unclear at best. A giant device they've set up on the planet is causing erratic weather, so Shepard must fight through the Geth in heavy fog in an attempt to deactivate it and return Canalus back to normal.
9 Omega: Struggling Quarian
On Omega, a seedy space station where criminals, gangs, mercenaries, and more gather, Shepard meets a young man named Kenn and gets the opportunity to learn more about Quarians who are on their pilgrimage. In the first game, Tali describes her pilgrimage to Shepard but it's limited to optional dialogue. In Omega: Struggling Quarian, Kenn is attempting to leave the station but is struggling to deal with a powerful local merchant.
8 Illium: Medical Scans
In the mission Illium: Medical Scans, Shepard must deal with the ramifications of the previous game. Fans who played through the first Mass Effect will remember a mission on Feros in which a colony was being mind-controlled by a Thorian. Now, the colonists are struggling to retain their rights. A corporation, Baria Frontiers, has been performing invasive medical tests on them — something they inadvertently agreed to when trying to get treatment after the incident. The mind boggles at how future corporations might try to take advantage of citizens who go through extraterrestrial events like this.
7 Citadel: Crime In Progress
This assignment allows players to get a glimpse of how Quarians are discriminated against by other races. It's hard not to draw parallels between this and real-world social dynamics.
In Citadel: Crime In Progress, Shepard discovers a Volus and a Quarian arguing in the marketplace. When they approach the pair, they find a C-Sec officer trying to mediate — the Volus swears that the Quarian has stolen his credit chip, leaving Shepard to puzzle out the case.
6 Tuchanka: Old Blood: Missing Scout
Mordin Solus is a new recruit to Shepard's team during Mass Effect 2. As a Salarian and part of his government's Special Tasks Group (STG), he was involved in research on the genophage. During Mordin's loyalty mission, one Krogan is found in a holding cell. When Shepard tells him it is safe to leave, he insists that he can't since he might be able to help them find a cure for the genophage. Seeing how desperately Krogan want to cure their disease and what they'll personally give up for even a shot in the dark can make for a truly heartbreaking encounter.
5 N7: Abandoned Research Station
When Shepard investigates the remains of a wrecked merchant freighter, it leads them to a space station in the Strabo system of the Eagle Nebula. Upon investigating it further, they discover that the virtual intelligence (VI) went rogue, killing the humans before they could deactivate it. While this is definitely a fun parallel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, it also displays the risks of working with this advanced machinery. The Quarians, who were driven to near-extinction by their own advanced technology, the Geth, should be a cautionary tale for the rest of the universe.
4 Illium: Indentured Service
Mass Effect lore may mostly paint Batarians — and other notoriously "evil" races — as the slave traders of the galaxy, but Illium: Indentured Service shows how the practice is not limited to this world's seedy underbelly.
Asari, a generally well-respected species, can be slave brokers too, as demonstrated in this assignment. A Quarian with an Asari slave owner asks Shepard to help her by getting a corporation called Synthetic Insights to buy her service contract.
3 Omega: The Professor: Missing Assistant
When Shepard is recruiting Mordin Solus for their team, he'll note that his assistant, Daniel, has disappeared — naturally, they'll be asked to look for him. Though Omega is framed in a negative light by the games, it is also home to many civilians who simply have no better place to go. David is working with Solus to stop an outbreak of plague on board, and Shepard must convince the skeptical Batarians of this.
In the assignment Arrival, Shepard is sent by Admiral Hackett to investigate a missing undercover operative, Dr. Amanda Kenson. He says that she claims to have evidence of the upcoming Reaper attack, but was kidnapped by Batarian locals. When the player reaches her, it becomes clear that she may have found the evidence but was subsequently indoctrinated by the Reaper relics. Shepard must fight against her and attempt to save the local Batarians from destruction. It is another harrowing case of the indoctrination that Shepard has seen throughout the games and proves that it can happen to even the strongest minds the galaxy has to offer.
1 N7: Blue Suns Base
N7: Blue Suns Base is one of many examples where Shepard must take on the galaxy's varied mercenary groups. These quests introduce the groups to the player and demonstrate what their individual goals are. Now an employee of Cerberus and not a government official, Shepard must interact much more often with less-than-reputable organizations. In this particular assignment, the mercenary group known as the "the Blue Suns" has been using a distress beacon to lure ships in before killing and robbing them.
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