I've seen many comments around the internet claiming "Mass Effect 2" as gaming's "The Empire Strikes Back". Now for the most part, they're just referring to how it's darker than the first, and improves the franchise in pretty much every way. As much as I agree with those statements, I've noticed that it's far more like "Empire Strikes Back" than simply being darker and better.
Let me start off by saying MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD - FOR BOTH GAMES. Also, if you haven't played both games, this post probably won't make much sense.
Let me explain by first describing the first "Mass Effect" and "A New Hope." In the first "Mass Effect", you start off by heading toward Eden Prime - a beautiful colony which just discovered a working Prothean beacon. Your mission is to retrieve it for the council. This also happens to be an evaluation mission for Shepard, who wants to be a Spectre. As you arrive however, the colony is under attack, complicating the mission big time. At the moment you have no idea what's going on - you're just thrown into this crazy situation.
"A New Hope" starts somewhat similarly. At first, Luke just believes that he and his uncle are simply buing new robots. However, it turns out that these robots are carrying an important message from a member of the Rebel Alliance, complicating things for Luke. In both cases, the main character is thrown all over the galaxy and ends up saving the Cidital/Rebel base. The reaper known as "Soverign" must locate the Mu-Relay and the conduit to open up the cidital, just like the Empire has to find the location to the rebel base to destroy it. Shepard must find various people and artifacts around the galaxy to figure out what Seren's up to just like Luke must find Obi-Wan. Both have to acquire a ship. In many ways, The first Mass Effect is similar to "A New Hope".
Continuing to the main point of this post, "Mass Effect 2" also shares much with "The Empire Strikes Back." At the start of "Mass Effect 2", Shepard dies by means of being spaced after being attacked by an unknown enemy at the time. Two years later, he/she is resurrected by "Project Lazarus." After that point, the game continues. As the game goes on, Shepard must gather a team and gain their loyalty in order to prepare for a later fight. His/her eventual mission is to destroy the Collectors. Shepard faces traps, colonies under attack, and eventually attacks the Collector Base head on.
Similarly in "Empire Strikes Back," Luke is nearly killed by a snowstorm in the beginning (cold just like being spaced,) and must be brought back to health in a bacta tank. The rebel base on that planet is soon attacked by Darth Vader's fleet. This isn't too much unlike a colony being attacked in "Mass Effect 2". Throughout most of the rest of the movie, Luke is being trained in the force, as he will need it to eventually face Vader. Unfortunately, he rushes in too quickly. He manages to escape, and eventually wins in the next movie.
The trap at the end of "Empire" is similar to the Collector trap about half way through "Mass Effect 2". In addition to that, training in the force is similar to building up a team. In both sequels, the enemy displays a personal interest in the main character. But probably the biggest similarity is that they both have a more intimate feeling than the first entry into their respective series.
In both "Mass Effect" and "A New Hope," the focus is more about being introduced to a whole new galaxy, and saving it. In both "Mass Effect 2" and "Empire Strikes Back," the characters take center stage. Sure, the story is still important, but you learn more about the characters themselves than what else is going on. You learn more about the relationship that Luke has with Darth Vader, just like you learn about the Collectors being ex-Protheans. You see Han and Leia fall in love, just like you see Shepard fall in love with, um...everyone. One could even draw comparisons between Illium and Cloud City - both places independent of the galactic government, yet still try to stay legit. In that line of thought, the Cidital is like Corecant, and Omega is like Tatooine. One could even compare Biotic powers to "The Force".
After thinking about all this, one must wonder if someone high up in Bioware is a major Star Wars fan, or is otherwise subconsciously making Mass Effect somewhat like Star Wars. After all, Bioware made what many still consider the best Star Wars game of all time. The series has it's fare share of Star Trek comparisons too. Even so, there is much more to either game than their Star Wars/Star Trek comparisons, and there's also many things unique to the "Mass Effect" series. In any case, as long as we don't get "Mass Effect's" answer to Ewoks, Jar Jar Binks, winy Annikin or battle-droids (the Geth don't count 'cause they're more like the Borg,) I'll be fine with whatever further comparisons may come with "Mass Effect 3."
Wow, I just realized how much a nerd I must be to actually notice these things.