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WIP Avatar of Victory by James Golen - T - Mass Effect/Avatar:tLA fusion

Discussion in 'Anime, Cartoons, and Comics' started by Othalan, Oct 3, 2012.

  1. Othalan

    Othalan High Inquisitor

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    Title: Avatar of Victory
    Author: James Golen
    Rating: T
    Genre: Sci-fi/Action/Drama
    Status: WIP
    Length: 10 Chapters - 197,342 Words
    Fandom: Mass Effect/Avatar: the Last Airbender Fusion fic
    Pairings: None as yet, though there are some FemShep/Kaiden and FemShep/Liara leanings, with some one-sided Tali/Kaiden and Jack/OC on the side.
    Summary: The Cycle of the Avatar has held for thousands of years. Other Cycles can stretch far, far longer.

    Avatar!Earth replaces Regular!Earth in the Mass Effect universe. Centuries after the Legend of Korra takes place, humanity has reached the stars, and brought their bending with them. Shepard is discovered as the successor to Avatar Hong (killed in the First Contact War) when she loses it and goes into the Avatar State during the Raid on Torfan.

    The premise seems a bit crack-y at first, but the author fused the histories and themes of the two universes in an interesting way. All sapient organic races are capable of bending, though only the Krogan, Batarians, and Humans mastered it before achieving space flight.
    The Krogan have their "Thunderwalkers" (Earth/Metalbenders), who leaned their skills from the Thresher Maws, while the Batarians are capable fire and earthbenders, though the Hegemony made sharing their bending knowledge punishable by death, so no one's really sure where they got it from, or to what extent they've mastered it. Humans are the only ones who figured out water and airbending, but are very open to sharing their knowledge, making Earth the top destination for alien benders looking to learn. The Spirits the Turians swear by are a bit more literal, and the Heirarchy has a long history of mutually beneficial Spirit World interaction. Conversely, the Asari exterminated their Spirits long ago in the name of their goddess Athame, and still regard them with suspicion.

    The Reapers are aware of the Spirits and the Avatar Cycle, which predates the current harvest cycle by an unknown amount of time. It's shown that each cycle a new species hosts the Avatar Spirit. In this cycle it's humans, in the previous it was the protheans. Before them, it was the inusannon, etc. The Avatar seems to be important to the Reapers' harvests in some way, as Soveriegn, Leviathan (the Reaper, not the bizarre giant cuttlefish), and Harbinger consider the prothean cycle a failure because they never found the last prothean Avatar, and have reason to believe that he still lives (*cough*Javik*cough*).

    A few other historical differences are present.
    The first example is that humans made first contact with a crashed pirate ship's krogan survivors. The first human to make contact with them? A descendant of Toph Bei-Fong, who proceeds to beat their leader into a bloody pulp, after which the others agree to return to earth with her. This happens twenty years before contact with any of the other races, who are horrified by the warm relations between the humans and krogan.

    Some characters are introduced early. Jack is a member of Shepard's squad from the start. She suffers from amnesia, which blocks any real memories of the Teltin facility and she was rescued and adopted by a kindly old couple after her escape, rather than picked up and raped by pirates as in ME canon. Legion makes an appearance on Feros, but doesn't interact with Shepard or join the squad. James Vega is the sole survivor of the garrison on Yue when the rogue VI takes over the base, but turns Shepard down when she offers him a place on the Normandy.
     
  2. Nauro

    Nauro Headmaster

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    I've only read half yet, but I don't think my opinion will change much.

    I didn't expect it to be as well written as it was, and the changes are really interesting - thus far, the story has gripped my attention pretty well.

    I'd give 4.5/5 rounded up. The half is for sometimes needlessly changed names (although I agree that it makes sense in this context) and some crazier scenes, that are actually pretty funny, but seem out of place. Like wanting to pee while suspended in a soul-gaze. Liara and bladder control seems to be a running gag too.
     
  3. Othalan

    Othalan High Inquisitor

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    Yeah, the often bizarre re-naming of certain characters and things, and the absence of explanation for the lack of renaming others is mildly annoying, but doesn't ruin the fic as a whole. I thought the humor was done pretty well, in terms of fitting with the humor in Avatar, though you are right that it can be jarring at times in the context of the more serious ME setting.
     
  4. Newcomb

    Newcomb Headmaster

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    *Long, deep breath.*

    Okay. 1.5 million words. I just spent the better part of two weeks with this as my sole "reading time" focus. And while there's a lot to say, there's really only one important thing:

    If you're a fan of the Mass Effect games - the type of fan that's replayed the game multiple times, who loves all the little inside jokes and character beats more than the actual gameplay itself, you will like this. It's worth your time.

    4.5/5, rounded up.

    So, this is going to get a bit rambling - because of the length of this fic, I could write 5K words about it and still forgo talking about some pretty important parts. Read on if you want to hear my somewhat incoherent thoughts about it, having literally just finished the last chapter.

    First off, here are three things that almost stopped me from getting past the first few chapters, and why they're relatively minor:

    1. As was mentioned elsewhere, the seemingly random renaming of characters. I see what the author was trying for, there, trying to make the integration of Avatar: TLA concepts and worldbuilding seamless, but it is really jarring at first. The story starts you right in line with the beginning of ME1, and having Shepard touch down on Eden Prime, and having Jack be part of her squad right off the bat, and having Jack being referred to as "Nilsdottir" is kind of offputting.

    You get used to it, though. Like Bungle in the Jungle with its 2nd person POV, eventually you don't even notice it. And while some of the names are kind of, well, stupid (I still struggle with Joker's name being "Jet" instead of "Jeff"... just... why?), most are painless - Asha instead of Ashley, for example.

    2. The canon rehash feel for the first bit

    and

    3. The way Shepard is a total dick for the first bit.

    These kind of dovetail into each other. Shepard starts as pretty much a full-on Renegade. It's the classic "batarian slavers Mindoir / Butcher of Torfan" setup, and it's... not great. Shepard is a xenephobic ass at first, and is pretty much a dick to everyone, including her team.

    That being said, the broad arc of this fic - and remember, we're talking 1.5 MILLION words here, is a very gradual, but very real progression into good qualities. It's something you don't really see in the game itself, since you're the one making all the decisions, and it's not like YOUR personality changes. But Shepard's does. She gets better in pretty much every way - less abrasive, more protective of her team, etc.

    She's never sunshine and puppies, but she goes from, basically, a female and more psychologically damaged version of Zaeed Massani to a female version of Malcolm Reynolds. (Zaeed would fuck over anyone for revenge and doesn't care about people; Mal is ruthless but incredibly protective of his crew... and, point of fact, there are enough Firefly references in this fic where it's pretty clear the author is on board with this comparison as well.)

    As far as the canon rehash-y feel goes, if it bothers you - and it bothered me - give it until the end of the Ferros arc.

    The Ferros arc is where things geled for me, and I went all-in with this being amazing. First of all, you have Liara and Tali starting to really be major players, and they bring a kind of lightness and whimsey that the fic was sorely lacking before. Second, the end of the arc, everything that happens with the Thorian, is where you start to get a sense of how the Avatar / spirit world / Leviathan stuff has impacted the overall Reaper arc.

    It hits the sweet spot - the take on the Reapers is novel enough that it changes some things in fundamental ways, but the author still dedicates the time to getting the little details that make Mass Effect great into the story.

    I'm not really qualified to talk about the Avatar stuff, as I haven't watched the show and know very little about it. Some of it seemed offputting and weird, but I'm willing to chalk that up to ignorance on my part.

    TL;DR: If you find some parts of the fic offputting but like the writing and the concept, stick with it until the Ferros arc. If you still don't like it after that, maybe it's not for you.

    However, I will say that the fic has a great enjoyment curve. Without fail, it pretty much just keeps getting better.

    Some parts do drag a little. There are a lot of battle scenes, and even with the addition of bending, Shepard fighting random mooks for pages is a bit repetitive at times. I found myself skimming some of the fights. The Fehl Prime / James Vega arc I found a bit tedious, if only because I'm not a huge fan of Vega and I didn't know any of the other characters. I ended up skimming parts of it because I wanted to get back to Shepard.

    I think one reason I like this so much is that it lines up almost perfectly with my personal notion of an ideal playthrough of Mass Effect. To whit:

    Female Shepard / Vanguard
    Save Rachni queen
    Ashley survives Virmire, Kaiden dies
    Wrex lives
    Save Destiny Ascension
    Shepard / Liara
    Recruit everyone (I thought Balek and an early Legion were great substitutions for Jacob Taylor and Zaeed - again, this hits my buttons perfectly. Jacob and Zaeed were the weak links of ME2 for me, and the author cut them out, which was perfect.)
    Destroy Collector base
    Save Maelon's data / cure genophage

    Also, the way recent chapters have incorporated elements of the Citadel DLC was pretty damn creative and cool.

    Zia being the one who's actually running through the beginning of the ME3 story with Earth / Mars was really well done; cool use of Shepard's clone. And I was really sad that it seemed the Citadel DLC story was going to be relegated to the background, but the very last chapter had an amazing flashback part with tons of awesome fanservice and fuzzy, warm feelings... just like the DLC.

    Random things I enjoyed:

    Nailed the characterization of Jack's general "jam out with my clam out" attitude. Gave her a solid arc and honestly a better one than ME2/3. Darker in parts, but a brighter resolution as well.

    Nailed the characterization of Grunt. And Tali. And Liara! Oh my god, Liara is amazing in this. She has several laugh-out-loud moments. I still chuckle, weeks later, when I think about her musing about what happens when you pee in someone's soul. She is an insane little asari, in a great way.

    The Wrex/Shepard Virmire showdown. Really well-written battle scene. Although, it does kind of beg the question - if Wrex can do that, how was any fight where they have Wrex not completely trivial? There's definitely a bit of Plot-Determined Power Levels going on here, what with the seemingly arbitrary rules about how bending works and when Shepard can use the Avatar State and how powerful it actually is.

    The fact that the chapters are between 20 and 30K words.

    Great running jokes and callbacks; some of them from the game, some evolving organically in the universe of the story.

    Random gripe: Talitha Shepard being alive, and ending up being the girl who's about to kill herself in the "I Remember Me" mission was a bit too saccharine for me, and a bit too coincidental. Plus, it's like Talitha drops off the map forever. Shepard sometimes randomly thinks about her, but she doesn't actually do anything except provide her with a Rage Button.

    Random gripe: The transition from the ME1 story to the ME2 resurrection timeskip was really abrupt.

    Random gripe: The narrative moving into third-omniscient at random times to interject things like "little did Shepard know that the answer to that question would prove important in the years to come." Not the most elegant way to do call attention to plot points.

    ...

    Anyway. I could literally go on for another few thousand words.

    This is a good fic. The length is kind of mind-boggling. If Mass Effect has a special place in your heart, I can almost guarantee that you'll like this.

    4.5/5, rounded up.

    ---------- Post automerged 02-12-2015 at 02:57 PM ---------- Previous post was 02-11-2015 at 06:13 PM ----------

    Updated.

    Covers the Lessus: Ardat-Yakshi Monastery mission.

    Good chapter, by the by.

    Adding a random gripe to my review above: Banshees are super-OP. I mean, what the hell? Shepard, in a not-optimized Avatar State, punches Sovereign in the face and kills it. Shepard, in a superior version of the Avatar State, can barely fight one Banshee to a standstill. Orbital strikes just slow them down. Kind of straining plausibility.
     
  5. Newcomb

    Newcomb Headmaster

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    Updated again. 20K word chapter. How the hell does this guy do it?

    I really enjoy the way he makes me love to hate the Quarians. Their "it's never my fault" attitude combined with their persecution complex just makes them terrible people but great antagonists. Zek got some great moments in this update.

    And, while I didn't find the Quarian arc of ME3 to be entirely logical (the "Reaper code" thing and what went down with Legion never made much sense to me), but the resolution was one of the more emotional moments in a game that was filled with them. Really looking forward to how it plays out here. Personally, I don't think we've seen the last of Adahn. Tali leaving his "corpse" for the geth to find would be a pretty big chekhov's gun to leave unfired.
     
  6. Nazgus

    Nazgus Headmaster

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    I just loved Conrad Verner being a closet genius scientist, never seen him actually be useful before.
     
  7. Newcomb

    Newcomb Headmaster

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    Updated x 3.

    This fic is kind of intimidating. You miss a couple updates, and bam, you're 60K words behind, which is longer than some actual books.

    These last three updates cover the Quarian arc from ME3, and it'll be another 1 or possibly two chapters to wrap it up. I have to say, while I appreciate the depth the author brings to the whole conflict with the whole "native Quarians on Rannoch" angle, I'm kind of straining to care about all these OC characters.

    Balak re-entering the narrative by swooping in at the end of Chapter 70 is pretty awesome, though. Great example of a character with a very small role in Mass Effect that got expanded into something awesome.

    Overall, these chapters were a little thin on the humor, which is ordinarily one of the highlights of the work. There was a lot of Quarian-on-Quarian conflict and drama and I struggled to care about it. Didn't kill my interest in the fic, but at this point I'm really looking forward to this arc being over and getting back to Shepard/crew centric arcs.

    We're getting close to the end, though - relatively speaking. I mean, after this, what's left in the main mission arc? Thessia, and then the endgame, pretty much.
     
  8. Newcomb

    Newcomb Headmaster

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    I recently replayed the Mass Effect trilogy and it made me want to read some fanfiction, so I came back to this. It hasn't finished, and looks like it stalled out 7-8 chapters from where I'd left it about a year ago.

    But where it ends - which is the conclusion of the Citadel DLC "throw a party" storyline -
    Also in this fic it's combined with Shepard and Liara getting married
    - is just... kind of a perfect place to stop. I've heard a lot of people say that they stop playing the actual game there, that they play out the Thessia storyline mission, then do the Citadel party as the very last thing before you commit to the endgame with hitting Cronos Station.

    It definitely doesn't have that sense of completion you get when a good story ends well, but the note that it "ends" on - and the author could finish it at some point - works very well as a nice capstone, is what I'm getting at.

    And yeah, I stand by my review a few posts up. This isn't the best written Mass Effect story I've ever read, and the Avatar stuff is hit and miss, but it comes the closest to the sense of crew and comradeship that make ME great in the first place.

    I think the biggest flaws in the fic - and this is true of most 1 million word+ fics - is that there are large swaths that just seem unnecessary. I think the Erdeni OC (or puesdo OC, as he's supposed to be a reincarnated character from ALA, and also kiiiinda takes Jacob Taylor's place, ish, narrative-wise) is the best exemplar of this, as the story would lose nothing if he were completely removed from it IMO, but there are plenty of others. Javik's daughter kinda came out of left field and although she had some funny moments, she doesn't quiiiiite mesh with the tone of the fic. The whole Quarian drama added a bunch of characters that also just didn't feel like they needed that much screen time, especially since the Rannoch arc is very self-contained. And as much as I liked some of Rai Li and the mirror Normandy/Widow crew stuff (because of the parallels between her and Shepard and Shepard's crew), it really felt tacked on. Oh, yeah, and then that second Prothean, Elli or whatever - just... why? She gets saved mid Book 2, then pops up in various places but doesn't really /do/ anything.

    On the other hand, a bunch of the characters that got expanded roles but did actually come from ME canon were great. I love what the author did with James Vega; I mean Vega's kind of a stupid character but he was at least tolerable in this version. Zia, Shepard's clone, has some great moments. Balak and Adhan (nee Legion) were really, really well done.

    The action scenes I tend to skim, as just by their sheer number they tend to lose variety. They're not badly written or anything, but they're not so good that I want to read them in full when I already generally have an idea of how they're going to go. There are some exceptions, as the author is pretty good at ratcheting up the stakes and tension when the narrative really calls for it, and there are some pretty sick moments of awesomeness - just off the top of my head, Grunt summoning a Thresher Maw like a pokemon, Shepard spirtbending Leviathan, Shepard beating down Morinth, Jack storming the Pragia base solo while she auto-cannibalizes her body with biotics (brutal scene, but still pretty awesome), Adhan's revelation as an airbender, Tali coming into her own early against the plant zombies on Ferros, and probably like a dozen more I'm forgetting.

    This fic is just hard to stay on top of. It's so goddam long. 1.8 million words, in fact.

    I think overall, this is how I feel:

    - The integration with ATLA makes for some very, very slow burn reveal but hugely important changes to the ME storyline that struck a good balance between catching me off-guard and seeming like they fit

    - The writing is pretty solid in general, but there's a lot of extraneous material - characters, plot threads - that could easily be cut, and at times the story sags under its own weight

    - The moments of crew bonding / teamwork / characters coming to understand each other are delicious and exactly what made ME great and that general feeling is captured really, really well here. The author is obviously a huge fan of Firefly as there are many, many references to it, and it's the same overall feel where it's clear that all the huge, world-shaking stuff is secondary to the character interactions. And that's a good thing, in my book.

    - It does a great job of scratching your ME itch.

    - The characters I really, really love from ME - EDI, Garrus, Wrex, Liara - the author just nails the tone and voice, which is a huge plus.

    - This fic's version of Ashley Williams is amazing and way better than canon.

    - This fic is really hard to get into at first, especially if you don't know ATLA, because of the triple threat of Shepard being an unlikable dick to start out with, "bending" not being overly explained (which is good, but hard to deal with at first), and there being some jarring differences like Jack being on Shepard's team from the get-go and some names being different (Ashley = Asha, Jeff = Jet, etc). Starting at that level, though, just means it's a very pleasant gradual upward curve in terms of enjoyment.

    - I could probably go on for another thousand words, just because things keep randomly popping into my head, like the whole Weaver/Samsara thing, which I definitely have an opinion on but I also have an opinion on so many other things, like Shepard's sister being alive, and the treatment of the Quarians in general, and yeah I'm just gonna stop.

    This is worth reading if you love ME, but it's a beast. Power through the first few chapters, read a bit about ATLA if you don't know anything about it, and employ judicious skimming.

    4.5/5, rounded down.
     
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