Saturday, March 03, 2012

Mass Effect: Deception Review

I've noticed a growing trend lately where game-related novels have been on the slide in terms of quality and more importantly, getting the feel of their respective parent universe right. This is a great shame as game related novels used to really enhance a game's back story and would provide the reader with so much more depth and insight into their beloved virtual world.

The Halo franchise is a strong example of this. The novels originally expanded things nicely and were so well done that their contents actually began working their way into the game's themselves, confirming the novels as canon to the universe. Lately however, the Halo novels have been far less inspirational. I personally have no issue with the Forerunner Saga though many disagree with me, and then there's the abomination entitled Halo: Glasslands which is so off the mark that it insults what Halo is.

Sadly, I must announce that the Mass Effect franchise is on the same path with the embarasing release of Mass Effect: Deception.

Set after Mass Effect 2 but before Mass Effect 3, Mass Effect: Deception brings Gillian Grayson back into the tale as a young adult bent on revenge for the death of her father in the last novel. Returning from her exile with the Quarians, Gillian learns of her father's death at the hands of Cerberus and vows to kill the Illusive Man. Her minder and guardian who followed her into exile, Hendel, has no choice but to accompany her back into Citadel space.

Her journey takes her to the Citadel itself where she re-unites with Kahlee Sanders and meets her boyfriend and partner, the legendary David Anderson, both of whom are trying to spur the Citadel Council to action against the looming Reaper threat. The joyous reunion takes a backseat when Gillian throws a temper tantrum and storms off to rashly pursue her goal, forcing the others to search for her.

Despite the fact that the novel only takes place a few years after we last saw Gillian, she's magically 18 years old somehow. She was also a youth plagued by autism, however there's no mention of this what-so-ever completely changing the nature of her character from someone with a serious condition to just your typical hotheaded teenager.

That's a very fundamental change, but the mistakes made by Mass Effect: Deception don't stop with novel-only details. Apparently the Quarians are no longer concerned with sterlization anymore, as people can walk among their ships without any kind of decontamination or precautions. They also have a warehouse on Omega. The Batarians have a presence on the Citadel again and even let Humans on their homeworld, completely removing the strong hostility between species! Biotics are now also classified by Level, instead of their implants being recognized by that.

Mess ups like this are just sloppy and show a complete disregard for everything that has come before in the franchise's near five year history. The thing is, I don't know if the author, William C. Dietz is to blame or if BioWare or the publisher, Del Ray, should be held accountable themselves, since they obviously had to sign off on this work.

Let's put it this way, Mass Effect: Deception is so poorly done and so off the mark for what's expected of the Mass Effect franchise that both BioWare and Del Ray have issued a formal apology and have promised to make a host of corrections and revisions for subsequent releases of the novel (you can read this apology here). How often does that happen?

The shame of that however is that this isn't software, it's a paperback novel, so you can't exactly release a patch. This means that for those of us who have already wasted our money on this novel, we can only enjoy a corrected version if we buy it again. And with that, I'll pass, thank you. It's not right that I should have to re-spend simply to fix their mistakes, and you shouldn't either.

Mass Effect: Deception is a embarrassment of inconsistency and juvenile story telling. It doesn't feel like Mass Effect and the characters and even many of the settings in the book feel completely off from those we know and love. If you're still interested in the novel, I strongly recommend you skip buying it and simply read the summary here.

We can also only hope that Mass Effect: Deception will ultimately not be considered canon.

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