Unless you've actually been out in deep space fighting a threat from beyond the galaxy, you probably already know that Mass Effect 3 came out this week. Thanks to a great combination of action and a thrilling story that reflects the player's choices, it's one of the best video game franchises of all time, and a big part of that comes from the distinctive character designs and the memorable environments that you encounter through the series.

For me, seeing them in the game just wasn't enough, but fortunately there's help for that: Dark Horse Comics has a pretty incredible book featuring the concept art of Mass Effect, with the characters, the locations, and even the guns. Read more for a few of our favorites!

Commander Shepard:

I was pretty surprised that it took three games to get an "official" take on the female version of Commander Shepard, but apparently some people actually prefer playing it as "MaleShep." Weird.

Garrus Vakarian:

For those of you who aren't aware, Garrus is a renegade cop on the edge turned deadly vigilante turned weaponry obsessed military specialist, which basically makes him the Mass Effect equivalent of the Punisher. If he somehow managed to beat space-Dracula to death with a surprisingly well-calibrated whip, he'd be the single greatest video game character of all time.


Speaking of awesome concepts, Tali is an engineering genius who is also the secret pirate princess of a fleet of exiled robot-hating hypochondriacs. With all that going on, it's probably for the best that they didn't go with also making her a ribbon dancer, too.


In the game, you don't really get a great look at Jack's tattoos, so it's pretty neat to see the thought that went into them and the meanings they have. Personally, I'm partial to the outer space equivalent of the black teardrop.

Kasumi Goto:

Another thing I've always been a sucker for is an RPG mission where you have to infiltrate or escape from a place without your weapons, so I was pretty excited about Kasumi right from the start. What really gets me excited, however, is the fact that her hood was intentionally designed to resemble "a medieval thief" which is one more piece of evidence in support of my theory that Mass Effect is secretly set in the same universe as Assassin's Creed.

The Citadel:

I love the design for the Citadel. The idea of a big ring that can close in on itself in times of trouble is great, and the fact that it gives you the ability to look up and see another "city" floating above you is a great use of what you can do in space that gives you a sense of vertigo. Plus -- spoiler warning for a five year-old game! -- seeing the bright, shining, super-clean proscenium in flames and rubble when Sovereign attacks makes for a pretty great contrast.


Speaking of contrasts, Mass Effect 2's Omega station is a great counterpoint to the Citadel. Where everything on the Citadel is bright and open, to the point where you can look up while walking around and see space, Omega is dark and claustrophobic even in its most open areas, lit by red neon to create the perfect environment for shady dealings.


As my full run of Punisher Armory will attest, I'm pretty fascinated by drawings of guns. As a result, it's pretty neat to see all of Shepard's weapons laid out, with a breakdown of how they collapse for ease of carrying. Now if only they'd explain why they decided to get rid of the ones with unlimited ammo.

The art book retails for $39.99, and also includes a bunch of spoilerific art from Mass Effect 3 -- a much larger version of the bonus material that came with the ME3 Collector's Edition -- and if you're a fan, it's well worth checking out.

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