I’m a latecomer to the Mass Effect party, so I had the chance to play Mass Effect 2 immediately after playing the original. This gave me a good look at how things changed between the two games. Other than getting rid of the Mako (a frustrating to control tank-like vehicle), my favorite upgrade in ME2 was the galaxy map.
The galaxy map in Mass Effect is used, as you might imagine, to pilot your ship around the galaxy. In the original game, while the main story locations were indicated on the map, there were lots of side missions and other smaller quests that weren’t listed. So if you wanted to go take care of a side mission, you would have to read about where you needed to go in another menu, and come back to the galaxy map and try and locate the place.
The problem I had was remembering some of these very alien world names – for example, one mission has you going to “Mavigon of the Han system in the Gemini Sigma cluster”. You’ve got to remember these three crazy names, go through a couple of menus, wait for some things to load, and then search around on the map to find each place. There were a couple of times that I actually physically wrote down the destination I needed to go to so I could find it on the map.
In Mass Effect 2, they made a simple change to make this process a lot easier. The titles of each of your active missions (large and small) are listed right on the map. That is the game providing information where and when you need it. When you’re looking at the map, that’s exactly when you need to know where you need to go. No more trying to remember some random strings of letters that make a planet name, it’s all listed there for you. Occasionally the map did get a little bit crowded, but that’s a way better problem to have. And good inspiration to put in some quality time taking care of the universe!