Friday, August 20, 2010

Review: Mass Effect: Redemption

Mass Effect: Redemption takes place two years prior to Mass Effect 2, following the story of Mass Effect 1 party member Liara T’Soni as she goes on an emotional personal quest. After Commander Shepard, the famed hero of the Alliance, supposedly dies in a sudden attack on the Normandy, it seems all sorts of groups are vying for the oddest thing – the deceased hero’s corpse. The worst group working towards this goal is none other than the Collectors – now, the only question is, why do they want Shepard’s body? Going into this comic, I have to admit that my expectations were quite high; the two Mass Effect games are probably the best story-telling in any games I’ve ever seen, offering complex choices and amazing tales to tell. I’m happy to say that while this isn’t the best comic I’ve ever read, it definitely was a very solid read, and went well with its video game companion. Redemption focuses on Dr. Liara T’Soni, who many Mass Effect players will know as the calm, somewhat naïve Asari in the first game. Well, guess what, everyone? She’s not calm or naïve anymore. No, in Redemption, Liara has taken a turn for kickass it seems, dealing out her biotic powers on anyone who stands in her way of finding Shepard’s body. It’s definitely a different take on her from what we see in the first game, and while I do like it… well… Okay, I’m just going to put this right out there: Why Liara pick as the main character in the first Mass Effect comic? I mean, I don’t hate her, but I’ve always felt she’s just kind of dull, and that didn’t really change in Redemption, either. She had her cool moments – destroying the Shadow Broker’s communications room on Alingon comes to mind, as well as, “I SAID GET BACK!” – but overall, I would rather have had another character in the spotlight other than her. Garrus Vakarian comes to mind. So I don’t hate her character, if that’s what it sounds like, and I did enjoy reading about her in comic form – I just would rather have had another character in the starring role. Now, let’s go onto something that’s obviously a big factor in comics; the art. I actually really liked the art in Redemption; it overall had a lot of quality to it. One complaint I have about it, though, is that even though it’s all nicely drawn, the actual pre-existing characters aren’t really accurate. The only pre-established characters that I can think of are Liara, Miranda and the Illusive Man, but none of the three were drawn how they should have been, in my opinion. First, you have Liara, who could be any random Asari for all we know; there is no distinctive trait in her appearance with how she’s drawn.
Then there’s Miranda, who, similar to Liara’s situation, could be any hot brunette (though… I suppose technically speaking, that’s not too different from her game look).
And finally, the Illusive Man, who just looks… weird.
So, while these characters aren’t drawn terribly per se, it’s just not accurate considering how they look in the games. It’s not a big complaint, but it’s a small nitpick I have about the comic. While we’re on the subject of pre-established characters, I did like how the writers found a way to include Miranda and the Illusive Man – though at times it did feel a bit forced. For example, would the Illusive Man really have spoken to Liara immediately like he did, then going as far as recruiting her to do a job that was perhaps the most important one in his mind to be accomplished at that time? Especially when she was an alien. It just seems surprising to me, and a bit odd. Omega Station’s inclusion was a nice addition, offering some familiarity (though I suppose since the first issue came out before Mass Effect 2 was released, this wouldn’t have been a familiar spot at the time of Issue 1#’s release, but for me reading it now it qualifies as “familiar”) in the settings. Alingon was okay, but you really don’t see much of the planet other than the inside of the Shadow Broker’s base of operations. We did get a nice description of it, however. As far as the story goes, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t anything really spectacular; this is a tie-in story, which means it’s built very much on the events of Mass Effect 2. This isn’t a bad thing, because it serves its purpose nicely. For those of you who might be worried that this messes up your mind’s image of your own Sheppard – male, female, black, white, etc – don’t worry; Shepard’s appearance and gender, even his or her alignment, is kept completely open. The closest thing we have to a reference of gender is a line from Tazzik, looking at the beaten up body of Shepard – “Hard to tell if it’s even a man or a woman, blown to hell like that.” I loved this line because it played into the whole, “Shepard is completely your own unique character” thing. So, to wrap things up, I really did enjoy this comic. Sure, it has its faults, but what comic or book doesn’t? This is the perfect comic to go alongside Mass Effect 2, so if you’re a fan of the franchise, I’d definitely recommend picking this up. However, there are so many tie-ins to the games that if you don’t have any previous investment in the series, this might be hard to really enjoy. (Wait a second, what did I just say? If you don’t have any previous investment? That must mean you haven’t played the games, so… What are you doing reading this? Go! Play them! NOW!) Guest reviewer Opal Skoien is a regular contributor to the Man In Black Reviews website and the Star Wars fan site


Charles Gramlich said...

DOn't know much about this, although I imagine I'd like it if I get a chance to try it.

GOD said...

Deus Ex series is better

Stewart Sternberg said...

I have enjoyed the game, but I tend to shy away from comics based on videogames. That being said, there is enough character development and world building in the game to allow a framework for a pretty interesting comic.