Before You Play Mass Effect’s Legendary Edition, Read Mass Effect: Revelation

For years, I replayed the original Mass Effect trilogy over and over again, feeling like I discovered something new with every cycle. The breadth of Mass Effect’s universe in just the three core games sometimes feels a little overwhelming, teeming with choices, small details, and ever-changing dialogue. I could waste hours stopping and staring at NPCs in the Citadel, waiting for them to make a passing comment and trying to see if there was anything I’d missed in a prior run. And when I began to feel like there was an itch I couldn’t scratch—the need for more of Shepard’s era but the inability to find any scraps left—I turned to Mass Effect novels and comics. I’ve now grown to love some of those stories as much as beloved arcs from the games, and before you dive into the Legendary Edition, I am begging you to give some of these alternative adventures a try. More specifically, I am begging you to at least read Mass Effect: Revelation.

There are four novels set in the original trilogy’s universe (but only the first canon three are worth a read, in my opinion), but Mass Effect: Revelation is the perfect starter for anyone who’s played and is looking to return to the universe through the Legendary Edition. It’s a prequel to the first game, set in the year 2165, 18 years prior to the beginning of Shepard’s journey. That makes it even closer to the events like The First Contact War, the small conflict that sprung up between Turians and Humans after meeting through the Charon Relay. Revelation acts as a primer for major players throughout the Mass Effect trilogy, and more importantly, provides a greater context for one of the series’ most fascinating villains, Saren.

In Mass Effect: Revelation, there’s a vision of Saren far removed from his first Mass Effect characterization. Away from the Reaper influence and not yet an actual villain to the galaxy, Saren is a decorated Spectre with a distaste for humans and is furious about the death of his brother, who he lost during The First Contact War. Even though the entire book is an excellent briefing on who Saren was before Sovereign manipulated him, it’s the last few pages that truly delight. Saren, who has spent years serving his kind only to suffer extreme loss, realizes he has found his raison d’etre. After spending hundreds of pages trying to understand Saren and how he became Mass Effect’s villain, the last moments are of the Turian fumbling through Dr. Qian’s research on a strange artifact—and if you’ve played the first game, then you know exactly what said artifact is. Queue Mass Effect’s intro.

But that’s not all there is to Revelation, either. Perhaps my favorites bits are when you’re spending time with then-Lieutenant David Edward Anderson and Kahlee Sanders, the scientist daughter of war hero Admiral Jon Grissom (yes, of Grissom Academy fame). Before Anderson is your favorite space dad to Shepard, he’s a wet behind the ears soldier with a crush on a brilliant scientist, and he just can’t get it together.

If you’ve played the Citadel DLC, then you know Anderson went through a tragic divorce with his wife, Cynthia, but Revelation fleshes some of that out. After the heartache subsides, and a night in Chora’s Den dulls the pain, Anderson develops feelings for Kahlee, who you eventually meet as Shepard in Mass Effect 3. Are you piecing it all together yet? Play your cards right in the third game, and Kahlee will send Anderson a message, telling him he better make it out of the war alive and come home. At the end of Revelation, Anderson and Kahlee don’t pursue a romantic relationship and decide to part ways. But, I’m guessing several near-death experiences later – combined with the existential threat of a Reaper invasion – may have her a little hopeful they can rekindle that romance when things are safe.

While all of the first three novels provide valuable canon and background information on the universe, Revelation is just the gift that keeps on giving. It’s self-contained compared to the other entries and probably more rewarding than most. It may not have any big reveals at the end of the day, but the small nods to the book sprinkled throughout each game indulge me with those rewarding “aha!” moments. Those little instances where I recognize a name in a codex entry, a battle reference, a subtle nod through the dialogue. It’s the type of stuff I didn’t catch on my first playthrough of the series, but when I returned after reading Revelation, it was such a delight that I chased more media from Mass Effect’s extended universe.

I’m not saying you have to read all three books and a big stack of comics, no matter how good they are. But I will, once again, insist you give Revelation a try.

Next: Mass Effect’s Omega Was Based On Star Wars’ Mos Eisley

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Andrea Shearon is a news editor at TheGamer who loves RPGs and anything horror related. Find her on Twitter via @Maajora.

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