Monday, September 17, 2012

Extra! Extra! Video Game Edition

No, it's not Wednesday; this week we are taking a look at some books that are based off of video games. Wednesdays post will be about video games that feature great stories. Friday... Well, who knows! It's just that kind of week!

Normally, I do these lists haphazardly and without much order. That all changes today! I'm unveiling the new, coveted number 5 slot! Whatever fills the fifth slot will be my favorite out of the entire list! This will continue from this post forward, and I'll do a seasonal (or annual, or whatever) best of the best post, because everything should have flashbacks!

Here goes!

Magic the Gathering: The Purifying Fire
Wait, wait, wait, Magic is a card game! I must be losing it, everything is upside down today!

Not quite! Well, not in any way that's an issue here. This book follows Chandra Nalaar, one of the many new Planeswalkers made popular in the video game, "Duels of the Planeswalkers."

This book is probably one of the better recent MTG books I've read. Normally, they suffer in quality, but this one is fairly consistent and follows up with Chandra directly after her antics in the Graphic Novel named after the game.

There are better MTG novels out there, but they deal with characters before the video game cast began to revolutionize the series. As a book, I give it a 6/10, but I still cite it as one of the better video game novels.

Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne
While I haven't read the other novels in the Dragon Age universe, I did enjoy the Stolen Throne enough. I enjoyed it more because it added additional lore and flavor to a video game series I love.

The story itself follows King Maric and Loghain before and during their freeing Ferelden from from the Orlesian Empire. Maric is a character we never meet in the games -- instead, we see Loghain's traitorous acts towards his son, Cailan. If I had read this before playing, the beginning of the game would have left me in a lot of turmoil and I would have vowed an even more dire end of Loghain.

As it was, he got off lucky in my first playthrough. Not so much in the second.

The book itself features pretty solid writing, even if some of the locations of scenes are hazy or uninteresting. I give it a solid 7.

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Conspiracy
The Resident Evil series of games was one of my favorite when they were released. I especially loved Resident Evil 2 and the Remake of Resident Evil 1 on the GameCube.

This novel, which is the first in a series of seven (including a prequel, numbered 0). It is the novelization of events that happened in Resident Evil 1 and it is able to go into even more detail than the game did, which is saying something. You learned more about the characters, the mansion, and the overall world through the novels, and it was a perfect follow up to actually finishing the game.

The series itself wasn't so strong. Every other novel (1, 3, 5 and 6, to be exact) was based on one of the games. The novels in-between (2 and 4) were used to bridge gaps with characters that didn't appear in consecutive games, and, without any source material to be based off of, were absolutely terrible.

The Umbrella Conspiracy itself, however, gets an 8 (which ties it with the third novel in the series, City of the Dead)

Warcraft: Lord of the Clans
Important note! I have never been a fan of World of Warcraft. I am STILL bitter that they changed the Real Time Strategy games I loved as a child into the apparently soul sucking MMO. And, somehere after that, they added anthropomorphic pandas... what the hell?

That being said, the earlier Warcraft novels were based on Warcraft 1-3 (well, mostly 3, but that's ok) and had their ups and downs. Lord of the Clans, however, shined above all the others. I absolutely loved the story of Thrall, an Orc born into slavery as a gladiator worked his way out of slavery and into becoming the leader of the Horde. It might not have been a terribly original plot, but the storytelling itself made up for it, as did the supporting cast. I still pull this off the shelf from time to time and read it to this day.

It was THIS close to getting the number five slot. Even so, I'm giving it a 9 rating. This may be tinged with nostalgia, but I accept that.

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
If you don't remember this game, you missed out. Sure, it was a buggy mess, difficult to control, and overall one of the more difficult games I've ever played (probably due to the first two points), but it was a really interesting jump in the gaming industry.

As far as I know, Shadows of the Empire was the first multi-media story of its kind. It released with a novel, a junior novelization, a video game, a series of comic books, and more. They all told more or less the same story, but sometimes from different points of view.

While the game follows Dash Rendar, the novel itself acted as a gap between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, following Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader, as well as introducing the wonderfully interesting characters, Prince Xisor and (one of my favorites) Dash Rendar.

The writing is a touch dated, but it is an excellent bridge between the two movies and one of my favorite Star Wars novels of all time (and I've read far too many of them). It gets a 9 from me, and this is definitely due to some nostalgia, but that's ok.

I struggled a bit coming up with stories I genuinely liked. Most video game novels, in my experience, are absolute crap. There are a few I'd still like to read (Bioshock: Rapture and the Elder Scroll novels, maybe a few more), but I'm content with this list and highly doubt anything would dethrone Shadows of the Empire anyway.

Come back Wednesday to see which games have the best stories!

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