Well said, on multiple fronts. Bonus points for working in Dave too. Maybe Shepherd should have followed in Dave's footsteps and just called in an old Alliance friend to the Presidium for a late night review of battle plans to cut through all the Council BS and concoct a viable conventional victory strategy despite the numerous naysayers.
One of the many reasons I was drawn into the ME universe so enthusiastically was the sense of depth to the world1, as well as the layering of interesting real world questions/problems into a fairly familiar, but enjoyable space-opera format. Add in a central hero who the player could actively shape to fit various molds and I was hooked.
ME2's shift to focus on the more "mundane" lives of various people throughout the galaxy2 only expanded that sense of depth and layering to the universe, and I loved getting deeper into what felt like a living galaxy even if it came at the expense of the narrative cohesion of the overarching plot with the Reapers. While the player was encountering and resolving small problems throughout ME1, I would say the sense of making the world marginally better in various small ways was central to the appeal in ME2 for me. I love the images you paint of Shepherd working pragmatically through the galaxy's various problems, since that was the kind of world I wanted to believe we would see as the series went on based on Shepherd's personal journey to that point.
With that said, ME2 was also the moment I began to dread the way the Reapers were initially set up, even though I enjoyed them in ME1 itself. When combined with some of the basic space-opera tropes pervading the series generally, the Reaper threat seemed destined to end the series in a singularity3 and I didn't want the world altered in such a drastic way with so much left to explore4. After seeing how much potential there was for smaller scale interesting stories in the ME IP, I really wished they would have started with a different main plot than the Reapers, or that they would find a way to deal with the Reapers without resorting to something like the Crucible. I started to become worried that it was going to be tough to keep that smaller scale world I was enraptured with alive in the face of the galactic threat. I was less worried when I heard assurances that ME3 would just conclude Shepherd's story without being the last in the series, but given the way the series ended, that was clearly a false hope.
And you're right about the soul sucking aspect of the ending in so far as the sweeping nature of the ending invalidates the hard work and interesting questions that came before it. RGB and glowboy didn't just kill the future I wanted to explore, they also sapped the struggle to reach the ending of its meaning, especially if peace love and harmony have to be imposed upon the galaxy through Shepherd's whim rather than actual growth. What was the point of working so hard to get Mordin to see the problems with the Genophage if in the end I just flip a switch that gives all Salarians instant understanding of life from a Krogan's point of view? Why struggle so hard to get the Quarians to not just avoid wiping out the Geth but actually see them as equally valid forms of life, when in the final act Shepherd is going to make everyone the same?
BSN name: delphicovenant42