Title: The Art of the Mass Effect Universe
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: February 21, 2012
The art and aesthetics of BioWare’s Mass Effect series have always been part of the massive appeal of that universe. The setting for Shepard’s story (and those tales that will come beyond) is broad and deep with even the tiniest details designed with care and precision. It is no wonder then that the first book to chronicle the art of the entire Mass Effect trilogy is presented with the same skilled craftsmanship that exemplifies all BioWare products. Even if you aren’t a fan of their games, this book is worth a look for the various pieces of art featured within.
The Art of the Mass Effect Universe is primarily divided into three parts, each of which spans one of the games in the series. Mass Effect 2 gets the largest allocation of pages, but it is the ME1 section that I found the most interesting. In it are featured a multitude of images that track the design evolution of several of prominent races of the series including the Salarians, Quarians, and Turians. Additionally, there are also numerous depictions of random humans and several specific characters such as Saren and Matriarch Benezia. It is fascinating to see what might have been in regard to familiar races present throughout the saga. Some of the material is duplicated from Prima’s The Art of Mass Effect, but there is a wealth of information not carried over from that book. In particular, the variety of designs for both Sovereign and the Normandy are lacking in the new Dark Horse volume, which is unfortunate as there was some interesting work done there.
The art assets presented in the Mass Effect 2 portion of the book focus primarily on characters and locations. Some of the data is recycled from the art book packaged in the Collectors Edition, but not all. Several of the standout pages showcased are dedicated to the outstanding weaponry of the game. Although there is a good deal of information presented on the design of the Collectors and their minions, it is somewhat lamentable that the other new race in the game (the Vorcha) is completely absent. Downloadable content is covered in some small detail, with the exception of the Overlord and Firewalker missions. Lair of the Shadow Broker is well-represented, with some scenic art and design for the Shadow Broker himself. For the ladies who love Thane Krios, there are a number of interesting designs for the development of the Drell and there are some significant details on a few of Jack’s tattoos for fans or cosplayers. Sadly, this is just enough to whet the appetite for more.
[Possible Spoiler Alert: The review text below contains information officially released by BioWare and as such may not be considered actual spoilers. If you are inclined to avoid all details before the game launches, however, you’d do well to skip the next paragraph. Just scroll past the trailing image and you’ll be safe.]
Conversely, character art is the lightest of the images presented in Mass Effect 3 section but there are, surprisingly, a number of spoilers presented. As this book will ship before the game, hopefully BioWare will make official announcements covering the material prior to its release to shield spoilerphobes from any unintentional disclosure. Most of the section contains previously revealed images showing old friends such as Ashley Williams, Kaidan Alenko, and characters seen in game play videos like Anderson, Garrus, and Liara. There are some beautiful images of the Cerberus and Reaper forces and those do very well in making the wait for Mass Effect 3 even harder. Additionally, the concept and location art for the new planets in the game are gorgeous and visiting them in Shepard’s journey will no doubt be a feast for the senses.
[End Spoiler Alert]
In general, The Art of the Mass Effect Universe is a wonderful collection of character designs, awe-inspiring vistas, and extremely interesting designs in both vehicles and weaponry. No doubt it will make a fine source for Mass Effect prop builders. Frustratingly, it is not a completely comprehensive collection of the art behind the series. As seen in other sources, there are many more assets related to the Mass Effect Universe than are presented in this codex. Hopefully additional editions to this range of reference material will be released to fill in the gaps. Some of that may come in the form of a limited edition of the Art of the Mass Effect Universe offered from the BioWare store that will contain an additional 24 pages dedicated to the comic books (which may feature unreleased design material) not presented in the general issuance of this volume. The Collector’s Edition of Mass Effect 3 will also contain an art book, with presumably even more designs, so there is more on the horizon from the fine folks at BioWare.
In conclusion, this is an outstanding companion piece to the Mass Effect saga. Not complete, certainly, but a fine window into what has evolved into an epic and well-loved series of games. If you love the games and the setting in which they exist, you will very likely not go wrong by purchasing it. I certainly plan to.
Rated: 4.5 / 5 Renegade Interrupts
Just got this myself. I really enjoyed seeing the design evolution behind the various alien species. Quite a few online retailers seem to be selling this at a 50% discount right now (Amazon, for one) so it’s a good time to pick it up.