Mass Effect: Paragon Lost

masseffectparagonBioware’s Mass Effect universe is so vast and rich that three video games are simply not enough to share its stories. Armed with hyper advanced technology, humanity has spread out among the stars to rub elbows with a galaxy full of aliens, with their values and vices in tow. After a comic book and four novels, Mass Effect: Paragon Lost is the first animated, direct-to-DVD film set within the Mass Effect Expanded Universe. Developed by famed animation studio Production I. G., the movie fleshes out the back story of Lt. Commander James Vega, the thick necked, brooding Marine who accompanied Commander Shepard in his mission to stop the Reapers from destroying Earth.

Paragon Lost depicts the events of Vega’s past as alluded to in Mass Effect 3. Set before Shepard’s return in Mass Effect 2, Vega and his squad of Marines are sent to the human colony on Fehl Prime to end a skirmish launched by Krogan Bloodpack mercenaries. After the battle is won, Vega’s team are permanently stationed at the sleepy colony to keep an eye on things. The cozy assignment quickly turns sour with the appearance of insectoid aliens called the Collectors (the primary antagonists in the second game) who assault the colony by kidnapping its occupants. Vega, his Marines, and an Asari scientist must work together to survive and find out what the Collectors want with human colonists.

Paragon Lost is a notable step up from the previous Bioware/Production I.G. collaboration, Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker. Using an animation style similar to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the film is an action packed romp designed to appeal to Mass Effect fans who haven’t grown bitter and disillusioned with the final game’s controversial ending. That said, those looking for insight into that ending won’t find it here because the events are wholly unrelated. In fact, if the film had featured someone other than James Vega (still voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.) in the lead, it would have very little to do with Mass Effect 3.

The narrative itself has some exciting moments but on the whole, the work is fairly bland. As with any film that pits aliens against soldiers, Vega will find his numbers dwindling rapidly before the movie is halfway out. Still, Mass Effect hounds will appreciate the attention to detail. Place names, technological concepts, and cameos wink knowingly to the viewer. The game’s central conceit of making hard decisions is put to use here, bringing Vega to the breaking point by forcing him to decide the fates of those under his care. The sequences is handled well and those who experienced the pain of choosing which characters should live or die in the video game will sympathize with Vega’s anguish.

As elementary as the plot can be, Mass Effect: Paragon Lost is a decent entry in the franchise’s growing expanded universe. Outsiders are not likely to be impressed by the film enough to spend over 100 combined hours with the video game trilogy because, to be blunt, this is not really for them. Those that can tell the difference between a Krogan and a Salarian are more likely to enjoy the film in order to keep them busy until the next game comes out.

Mass Effect: Paragon Lost
FUNimation, 2012
directed by Atsushi Takeuchi
95 minutes, Number of Discs: 1
Company Age Rating: 17+