On Our Desk - 14

Written by bit-tech Staff

November 17, 2008 // 8:15 a.m.

Tags: #faith-martin #mass-effect #n52te #nostromo #on-our-desk #review #sumo-omni

Companies: #belkin #bit-tech #razer

Mass Effect: Revelation

Publisher: Del Rey Publishing
UK Price (as reviewed): £5.49 (inc. Delivery)
US Price (as reviewed): $7.99 (inc. Tax)

Mass Effect: Revelation is the next item up on our list and is one of two tie-in novels based in the Mass Effect universe, both of which are written by Drew Karpyhyn of BioWare.

Of the two, Revelation comes first. While Ascension is a book to help bridge the plot between Mass Effect and the much anticpatied (but probably long off) sequel, Revelation is a prequel to the first game – and is a New York Times bestseller, no less!

Unfortunately, because the book has to cater to those who haven’t played the game just yet or who have no intention of doing so, the start of the book is quite slow and mired in the back story of the universe.

The prologue is a densely written mash of predictably flawed heroes and required explanations of how the science of the Mass Effect works. We learn about how humanity first found the ruins of the significantly advanced by curiously extinct Prothean race on Mars and the huge political ramifications that it had for the Earth. We learn about the First Contact War and why the relations between the Earth Alliance and Turian government are so strained.

On Our Desk - 14 On Our Desk - Mass Effect Revelation
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All interesting stuff to be sure, but the writing isn’t quite subtle enough to carry it all without a few brow furrowing moments and strained attention spans. Thankfully, by the time the plot proper has started enough of the backstory has been put across that it doesn’t need to be delved into again.

The story follows one Lt. Anderson, one of Earth’s most promising young officers and most capable commanders. Anderson has risen quickly through ranks of the Human Alliance Military, but it’s cost him dearly – his marriage is over and he lives for nothing but his job. He’s alone and he knows it – which makes him an ideal candidate for the Spectres, who are basically the James Bonds of the Galactic Council.

When a secret Alliance base is assaulted and only one researcher manages to escape the scene, Anderson is sent to investigate and finds himself working both against and alongside a Turian Spectre known as Saren as the two privately try to pursue their own agendas. While Anderson is eager to end the mission as bloodlessly as possible and wants to bring the attractive young researcher in safely, Saren has a different perspective. An extremely violent racist, he’s more interested in chasing down the researcher for his own purposes.

On Our Desk - 14 On Our Desk - Mass Effect Revelation
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Saren and Anderson are obviously going to be familiar characters to anyone who’s played the game as they take on the roles of the player's nemesis and advisor respectively. Seeing the relationship between the characters and the backstory they share, which is hinted at in the game but never fully explained, is a real treat for Mass Effect fans, as is reading some more explanation of the alien cultures.

There is a little less deep characterisation than we’d hope for, admittedly. Anderson for example has all the potential to be a really interesting and complex character, but Karpyshyn instead only briefly touches on his motivations and glazes almost straight over the turmoil of his divorce as if it were a boring necessity. It never ruins the book, but it does shift the focus more to all-out action than we would have hoped for this series tie-in.

Despite that though, Revelation remains a thrilling read for anyone who just fancies a bit of light sci-fi action. It doesn’t matter at all if you’ve not played the game as the characters are all introduced afresh and the plot is set before the game.

If anything, Revelation makes an excellent introduction to Mass Effect and is a great way to gauge whether or not you’d like the full game. It’s certainly cheaper than buying the Collector’s Edition!

Verdict: Mass Effect: Revelation is an enjoyable read for all audiences and is capably written. It isn’t exactly recommended reading, but if you’ve been a fan of any previous BioWare games then it should pique your interest.
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