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The much anticipated Mass Effect 2 is being released this week and I’ve seen and heard a lot of buzz for the game across the Facebook/Twitter feeds and coworkers/friends. I am at an odd crossroads from where I stand with Mass Effect. In the original game from 2007, I made it about ten hours before I was drowning in an overflowing pool of primary quests, side quests, planet exploring and my horrible obsession to talk with everybody I run into.
I still fondly recall my time with Shepherd and Co. and want to beat it before eventually starting the sequel. However, an attempt to put some progress in finishing one quest several months ago resulted in me picking up several more side quests along the way and just throwing my hands up in the air two hours into that save without finishing a quest.
I did discover two items in the past several months to keep me immersed in the Mass Effect lore, and those are the two novels by Drew Karpyshyn: Revelation and Ascension. Usually I am not one for science fiction (I am just now remembering getting bored and giving up on a Star Trek book report several pages in during the 7th grade), and was surprised I actually got into the game itself. Just as Bioware’s game reeled me in, as does the novels.Mass Effect
Revelation starts off detailing the origins of humanity’s discovery of Prothean technology that led to the First Contact War against species of the Citadel. Within pages I was instantly hooked because I could not remember for the life of me how much I learned of humanity’s Citadel origins in the game. Revelation does a fantastic job at filling me in about humanity’s place in the Citadel, and almost every other race I recall from the game such as the Protheans, Geth, Turians, Collectors, Krogans and many more.
Revelation primarily revolves around Commander David Anderson, a respected leader of humanity, attempting to track down and rescue Kahlee Sanders, a scientist gone AWOL and suspected for treason as her classified base on Sidon is assaulted and with all her comrades killed in the ensuing carnage. Anderson forms an uneasy alliance with the renowned Spectre, Saren in a attempt to rescue her and track down a mysterious Prothean Artifact another scientist at Sidon was obsessively researching on. Revelation unfolds almost like a stereotypical action movie, but there is something about Karpyshyn’s storytelling and taking in the roots of the Mass Effect lore in the process that makes this first book an addicting page-turner from beginning to end.
Ascension is set 15-20 years later, and now follows in the footsteps of Kahlee Sanders. She is now one of the leads at the top secret Ascension Project. It is a program aimed at human children gifted with Biotics and helping them hone and develop their ability. One of their students, Gillian is a peculiar subject who often isolates herself from the rest of the class yet shows incredibly potential. Many outside parties also have an invested interest in her potential, which leads to sinister plotting, betrayals, double and triple crosses and intense shootouts all in the name to preserve humanity.
Ascension has more narrative than action compared to Revelation. It dives deep into the history of the Ascension Project, Biotics, the Migrant Fleet, the Collectors and the massive Cerebus Network under the control of its puppeteer, The Illusive Man. I eventually appreciated Ascension’s emphasis on introducing the characters and spending more time establishing their motives. It resulted with a far more intriguing plot and better payoffs in the end.
Even with my on and off again interest in the Mass Effect game, I find myself loving the novels that resulted from it. From the few hours I put into Mass Effect since reading the books, it has already put so much more into perspective. Bioware are masters at telling a great story in their games, and the books go hand in hand and are in no way a quick cash in of the license. I am eagerly awaiting the recently announced third book in the Mass Effect line titled Retribution. Unfortunately, none of the books come with a code to access the Cerebus Network in Mass Effect 2.