Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Big Game Hunting - Game versus Comic: Mass Effect

There are a handful of comics that only exist thanks to the great success of the games that inspired them. But just how good are these comics when compared to their digital counterparts? This week we look at some of four comic series that have been written to expand the worlds and stories of the Mass Effect universe. The series are Redemption, Evolution, Invasion, and Homeworlds, all written by Mac Walters. Please note that, while I will attempt to keep this article as spoiler-free as possible, some are simply unavoidable due to the content of the comics.

What's the comic about?
Redemption shows us Liara T'Soni's search for Shepard after a devastating attack on the Normandy. Evolution is the story of the Illusive Man and his involvement in the First Contact War. Invasion focuses on Aria T'Loak and her battle to keep Omega from Cerberus. Homeworlds is the only one that contains four smaller stories focusing on four different characters: James Vega, Tali'Zorah nar Rayya, Garrus Vakarian, and another round with Liara.

When does the comic take place in relation to game events?
This varies between series. Redemption takes place sometime after the attack on the Normandy in the beginning of Mass Effect 2. Evolution is backstory, taking place before the events of all the games, during the First Contact War. Invasion deals with the time between Mass Effect 2 and 3. Homeworlds, again being a shift from the norm, varies depending on which character is in the spotlight.

How true are the characters?
Given that the writer here was also the lead writer for Mass Effect 2 and 3, it's no surprise that the characters are almost completely consistent with their game appearances. Reading the dialogue is like playing the game, and it's wonderfully easy to hear their voices saying the words in your head. Occasionally characters felt forced, particularly Liara in the beginning of Redemption – but that could be down to my own personal connection, or lack there of, with particular characters in the series.

What about continuity?
No flaws in continuity here! In fact, the comic does the exact opposite, by filling in the blanks that players may notice in the games. For example, we get to see how Liara became so determined to get even with the Shadow Broker, Saren's involvement in the First Contact War, Aria's complicated relationship with Cerberus.

What does the comic do that the game doesn't, or can't?
Essentially it is able to give more details about the backstory or side stories that were not included in the games. The game, naturally, is only able to focus on the events that Shepard is involved in. The comics are able to delve further into the world, to focus on the people and events around Shepard and outside of his/her timeline, without the limitations of being restricted to one viewpoint character.

Can I read this without playing the game?
In all honesty? Probably not. Because each comic series focuses on a different point in time, each one would expect the reader to have played a certain amount of the games. Redemption shouldn't be read before playing through at least the first hour or so of Mass Effect 2, while Invasion is best played after completing Mass Effect 2 entirely.

Want to give these comics a go? Dark Horse are collecting all four of these graphic novels - plus short stories from MySpace Dark Horse Presents, USAToday.com and the Dark Horse digital store - into an oversized hardcover collection called the Mass Effect Library Edition Volume 1. It's released at the end of May and available to pre-order now!

Rae is trying to resist another complete play through of the Mass Effect games!

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