Review: Mass Effect 2 - Lair of the Shadow Broker

You should be well-aware of my boundless enthusiasm for Mass Effect 2. Fans of the podcast will know about the drinking game that has sprung up around the title: Every time I effusively praise Mass Effect 2, shots are to be taken.

Bioware really saved the best for last with  Lair of the Shadow Broker. Previous DLC outings were great, especially Overlord, but Shadow Broker really delivers on the core promise of the series.

The central character in this mission is Liara T’Soni, the Asari researcher from the first game. Liara was something of a bit player in the main events of ME2, consumed with her hunt for the feared information mogul, the Shadow Broker. My Shepard was in a relationship with Liara in the first game, and I was frustrated to find that I couldn’t pursue her in the second. Shadow Broker fixes that, in one of many gracious nods towards fans as enthusiastic as myself.

Sexytime aside, Shadow Broker brings the ruckus as you engage in a firefight that stretches from one side of Illium to another. Illium felt underutilized in the main game. Billed as a futuristic Dubai where hedonism and capitalism go hand-in-hand, everything seemed a little too clean. Being that a large portion of the mission takes place in a brothel, while asari prostitutes dodge fire from a rogue Spectre, I think we can say “Underbelly Achieved.”

Speaking of that Spectre, it was nice to see Bioware acknowledge the continued existence of the Council’s secret agents. She proves to be a capable and interesting one-off antagonist for the first portion of the mission, and is one of the best boss fights in the series.

The final leg of the mission takes place in the Shadow Broker’s lair itself, which provides an interesting callback to the final dungeon of the first game, and has one of the most stunning views in the series. I won’t spoil what happens beyond that.

All of this happens at a very fast pace, with brief breaks for investigation and conversation. Keeping with the set precedent, the writing is phenomenal. When you finally get Liara in your party, it’s like reuniting with an old friend. If you choose to re-kindle the romance with her, it’s tastefully done and is surprisingly heartfelt. It was nice to get closure on her story, which is central to the events in Mass Effect 2, but was frustratingly obscured before. The biggest bummer is that Liara doesn’t join your squad, opting instead to pursue new obligations.

I have to question Bioware’s wisdom in putting this essential bit of lore inside of a $10 piece of DLC that released 8 months after the game itself. Some important stuff happens here, and I think that some of it would have fit in better with Mass Effect 3. As it stands, the DLC is pure fan service, and the devoted few will certainly pay the price of admission. The experience runs about 2 hours, if that matters to you, but it’s densely packed and worth the space-bucks.

After you finish the main story, definitely read the text logs about the members of the Normandy team. I don’t want to give away specifics, but the information contained therein ranges from gut-bustingly funny to kind of heartbreaking. The episodic nature of the Mass Effect 2 experience allows you to get to know these characters very well, and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll get some hints about where everything is headed.

Should you buy Lair of the Shadow Broker? Definitely. Especially if you’re the kind of person who would laugh at jokes about asari and salarian anatomy. The worst part about the whole thing is that Mass Effect 3 seems to be nowhere on the horizon. Rather than quenching my thirst, Lair has made it that much worse.