Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #4: Beginner’s Guide to Video Games & Novelisations, Part 1

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Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

Today I want to introduce some video game series, and their novelisations.

This post is mostly aimed at people who are new to video games, or those who are interested in playing but don’t know where to start. I’m listing some well-known series, as well as their novelisations, in case you want to try the books out too!

The Assassin’s Creed series

Assassin's Creed

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

The series follows a man named Desmond Miles, who using a machine called the Animus, delves into the memories of his ancestors to learn more about the rivalry between the Assassins and the Knights Templar. The games cover several time periods: the Third Crusade (Assassin’s Creed), the Renaissance (Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed Revelations), the Colonial era (Assassin’s Creed III, Assassin’s Creed Liberation and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag), as well as the French Revolution (the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity). Playing as his ancestors (the most famous of which is probably Ezio Auditore), you must uncover the secrets to becoming a master assassin, as well as the Templars’ plans.

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Because you get to be an assassin? Also, meeting various historical figures like Leonardo Da Vinci, the Borgias and the Sforzas (Caterina Sforza even quotes her infamous line) and Niccolo Machiavelli is amazing. The digital versions of locations like 15th century Venice and 16th century Rome are also gorgeous. And did I mention you get to be a super stealthy assassin?

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

All of the following are by Oliver Bowden: Renaissance, Brotherhood, The Secret Crusade, Revelations, Forsaken and Black Flag.

The Bioshock series

Bioshock Infinite

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

A series of games that explores the idea of a dystopia/utopia. In Bioshock and Bioshock 2 (which I have previously discussed), the player ends up in an underwater utopia known as Rapture. Unfortunately, the city isn’t quite what it once was, and is now filled with drug-addled mutants, psychopaths and terrifying hulking creatures known as Big Daddies. In Bioshock Infinite, the third game in the series but the first chronologically, the player finds themselves in a seemingly utopian city floating in the sky. Booker, the player character, has been instructed to rescue a young girl who is imprisoned there in order to pay off his debts. However, how it always is with these sorts of places, things are not quite what they seem…

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

In regards to the first two games: because they’re scary and so, so immersive, you may be terrified but you’ll keep ploughing on! As for Bioshock Infinite, it is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL game with a mesmerising (and heartbreaking) story.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

Rapture by John Shirley and Ken Levine, and Bioshock Infinite: Mind in Revolt by Joe Fielder and Ken Levine.

The Mass Effect series

Mass Effect

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

A trilogy set in the future, where the human race have discovered faster than light travel – and many, many alien races. The player assumes the role of Commander Shepard, a completely customisable character who can be either male or female. During the first game, Shepard must stop a rogue by the name of Saren from taking over the galaxy with an army of sentient mechanised beings, called the Geth. However, Shepard soon discovers that there is a much bigger threat on the horizon – an alien race known as the Reapers, who purge all life in the galaxy every 50,000 years, and their deadline is fast approaching. Through his or her journey, Shepard builds up a loveable squad to join them aboard the SSV Normandy, not all of whom may survive the mission…

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Mass Effect is my favourite game series for so many reasons. But the main reason is that you are in control of every choice Shepard makes – and whatever you choose may have a permanent effect on the world, the galaxy, the universe – forever. Let that planet die and it’s gone, its people wiped out, no more resources, nothing. Betray that squad mate and that’s it – they’ve left you, never to return. Every choice you make has a consequence, whether it be bad or good. Not to mention that every single character is fantastically created, and you feel a genuine connection with each and every one. This video game makes me cry, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

There are both novelisations and graphic novels for Mass Effect: Revelation, Ascension and Retribution by Drew Karpyshyn, Deception by William C. Dietz, Redemption, Evolution, Invasion, Homeworlds and Foundation by Mac Walters (graphic novels).

I’ll be doing a couple of posts of this type, look out for Dragon Age, Deus Ex and Halo in the next post!

Are you new to video games, or have you played any of these? Have you read any of the novelisations?

Review

Review: Mass Effect Foundation (Volume 2) by Mac Walters

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

You know the drill by now. I saw a Mass Effect book on Netgalley, so I requested it. I am an unashamed fangirl of the series, and will read everything and anything I can get my hands on, despite not being overly impressed with the books so far. However, I enjoyed the first volume of the Foundation series more than previous series, so was looking forward to reading the next volume.

This particular chapter of the Mass Effect story is set between the events of the Mass Effect 2 prologue and the main story, when Commander Shepard is presumed dead after the attack on the Normandy. It brings in plenty of familiar characters: Miranda, Jacob, Thane, Jack, Kai Leng and the Illusive Man. The reader learns how Jacob came to be a part of Cerberus, and how Shepard’s body was found. It also introduces a couple of new characters, but to be honest I was more interested in learning more about my beloved squad mates from the games – and it didn’t disappoint.

I’ve always seen Jacob as a truly nice guy, although he’s never been a favourite character of mine he was always someone I felt my Shepard could rely on, someone who was utterly loyal. In Mass Effect Foundation he is shown as the soldier out to protect civilians and friends, at any cost – fitting my view of him. And as ever, Miranda is loyal to the job, despite the consequences. Oh, and it’s not just cameras that linger on a view of her rather full derriere, apparently…

With some truly gorgeous full pages of art, this is definitely a lovely collector’s item for Mass Effect fans – particularly one of Jack and Jacob fighting a group of Batarians. The colour scheme is also definitely very fitting, including subtle shades of greys, oranges and reds, with the added neon colours of the various bars and establishments of the Citadel, Omega and Illium.

However, some of the panels just felt really lazy, as if they were almost just the original sketchy ideas, rather than the finalised drawing. One section of the story featured a lot of ‘faceless’ panels – I could understand this if the characters were far off in the distance, but this was even when they were the main focus of a panel. In one chapter, the features of Jacob’s and Miranda’s faces varied wildly, and in Jack’s chapter some of the art was just so unpolished to the extent of looking unfinished.

I have to say though, my absolute favourite part of this new addition to the Mass Effect universe was the bonus story at the end. It’s a 40’s style crime noir, featuring a brave Hanar (yes, you read that correctly) and his attractive Asari companion. It’s everything you could ever want in such a story: a Hanar solving crimes, mowing down hordes of Krogans effortlessly with eight pistols at once, and of course our hero gets the girl. Plus this quote:

‘”This one thinks the Krogan scum must ask the question – does it feel fortunate? Do you, scum?”

Overall, an interesting addition to the Mass Effect universe, but sadly let down by some of the artwork. However, it’s work it just for the bonus short story at the end.

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: January 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month (Tuesday this month, due to the Book of Apex tour!) , I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

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This month I read fifteen books, which as far as I’m aware is a personal record! Admittedly there were a couple of novellas and graphic novels, but I’m happy with my progress. The Death Pit by A.L. Kennedy, Into the Nowhere by Jenny Colgan, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, Archaeology: the Basics by Clive Gamble (refreshing my memory!), Supernatural: Origins by Peter Johnson, The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) by Samantha Shannon, The Creature in the Case (The Old Kingdom #3.5) by Garth Nix, Watchmen by Alan Moore, Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone & Walter Geovanni, Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) by Laini Taylor, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, Mass Effect: Foundation by Mac Walters, The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells and The QI Book of the Dead by John Lloyd.

Standout books include Brideshead Revisited, Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Screaming Staircase. I’ve now read fifteen books towards my goal of fifty for this year – so I may have to raise it, but I also have to remember that my reading will greatly decrease from mid-August.

 

Challenge progress:

 

Currently reading:

Mistborn (The Final Empire #1) by Brandon Sanderson The Trojan War by Barry Strauss

 

Reviews on the blog on this month:

 

Other posts:

 

Upcoming:

  • I’m taking part in the Book of Apex tour, organised by Andrea @ Little Red Reviewer. Yay, speculative fiction!
  • I’m also taking part in Insta-love 101, hosted by the lovely ladies at A Novel Idea. Boo, insta-love!
  • And finally: the Review Copy Cleanup hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea! and Nyx Book Reviews – time to tame that Netgalley ratio!

 

And that’s been my month! Pretty busy I think! How was January for you?

Review

Review: Mass Effect Foundation (Volume 1)

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

If you know me, you know the Mass Effect series of video games is one of my favourite things. You may also know that I’ve been slowly working my way through all related books and graphic novels, and so far have been sadly disappointed. So it is with great delight that I proclaim this particular volume my favourite Mass Effect related book so far!

This is, in a similar way to Mass Effect: Homeworlds, an origin story. Whereas Homeworlds focused on Tali, Garrus and James Vega, Foundation takes a look at the original companions of Commander Shepard: Ashley Williams and Kaidan Alenko, as well as featuring other well known figures such as Kai Leng, the Illusive Man and Wrex (Wrex, I’m so sorry…). Continuing Mass Effect‘s brilliant streak of tough, bad-ass female figures, Foundation opens with a mysterious red-head (yay!) who is not quite as she seems – but neither is her young companion. A shocking and surprising first chapter sets up the rest of the book.

One thing I really liked about Foundation was how it tied into the first Mass Effect game. Remember the very first mission on Eden Prime, where you find Ashley? On the way you encounter some of her team – well here you find out exactly how they managed to get themselves into that situation. It was really fun recognising all these minor characters and tying the plot pieces together. The artwork was generally of a great quality, although there were a couple of frames where I had to wonder whether the artist had really considered the angle – the character faces looked a bit odd. Ashley didn’t look quite like her virtual counterpart, although admittedly her image does change a little between games – but she was wearing her classic pink and white armour! The full pages at the beginning of the book were absolutely gorgeous, wonderfully dark and fitting for the series – and to me the characters even looked like they could be a variety of Commander Shepards (for all that have not played Mass Effect: you can customise Commander Shepard to look how you want. Also, for all that have not played Mass Effect: do it NOW!).

Overall, definitely a recommended read for fans of the Mass Effect series. I always love reading origin stories, and Kaidan’s even made me feel a little sorry for him – and normally he’s one of the characters I don’t really care about all that much. The artwork was generally of a very high standard, with some really standout pieces and perfect colour scheme.

Back in November, as part of Sci-Fi Month, I wrote a post about my love for the series, and also featured a guest post by Mass Effect Story Doctor John Sutherland.

Past Features

Weekly Roundup #35

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My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.

Bought (ebook)

Partials by Dan Wells

Netgalley

I seriously, seriously suck at this not requesting everything from Netgalley thing…

Sheltered Volume 1 by Ed Brisson & John Christmas Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone & Walter Geovanni Mass Effect: Foundation by Mac Walters The Troop by Nick Cutter After the Silence by Jake Woodhouse The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant

  • Sheltered Volume One by Ed Brisson & John Christmas – I like dystopia. I like graphic novels. Ergo, I will probably like this.
  • Red Sonja Volume One: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone & Walter Geovanni – apparently a reimagining/reboot of the original character, which I know nothing about. But graphic novels! Swords and sorcery! Yay!
  • Mass Effect: Foundation by Mac Walters – if you know me, you know I’m a little bit obsessed with Mass Effect, and read all the books based on the series that I can get my hands on, despite them not often being very good. Well I’ve actually already read this one and it’s possibly the best so far – review to come shortly.
  • The Troop by Nick Cutter – this sounds like a super creepy version of Lord of the Flies, which I had to read in school and really enjoyed. When I got approved for this book I went to download it and found out it had been archived, which puzzled me – but then it appeared back on the site so luckily my ratio shouldn’t get messed up (or… any more messed up…)
  • After the Silence by Jake Woodhouse – I wanted to read more books set in the Netherlands, so here we are! This might not be the best book to read though, as it’s about murders…
  • The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe – this has a very strange mix of DNFs and five star reviews on Goodreads… I’ll just have to read it myself and find out!

What new reads do you have this week?