Sunday, 1 January 2012

Gears of War 3: Reflections of the Story

I completed the single player campaign of Gears of War 3 a couple of days before the end of last year.  I have really enjoyed how the story that has progressed throughout the series and how it has wrapped up during this last instalment.

I am going to briefly discuss my thoughts on the story that has developed from the first to the third game (mostly focusing on the third).  I do warn anyone that has not played the game or completed the game yet that there will be spoilers within this post.

WARNING: There are spoilers within this post, so if you don't want to know stop reading now!

The game is about Marcus Fenix, the lead character, finding out that his father, Adam had not perished under the debris of his house years ago, but instead was held prisoner by Prescott, the chairman of  the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG), his boss essentially.  Adam was later held by Mira, Queen of the indigenous population of Sera the Locusts, to try and combat the real threat - the emulsion.

Throughout the previous games and the majority of the third, emulsion was thought of as a fuel, a resource.  However, Adam later explains that the emulsion is a being in itself.  Acting as a parasite it sought to infect every living creature on the world of Sera.  In the second game, the emulsion had only just started to affect the Locusts.  Those that were after were known as Lambent.  The locusts lived underground before the emulsion started attacking them so they emerged to the surface, E-Day was upon humanity.

In the third game, humans that had been in contact with emulsion for longer lengths of time were now showing signs of infection and behaving just as destructively as the Lambent in Gears 2.

The mission is to find Adam Fenix and help him finish working on the machine he had built to exterminate emulsion infected cells from all living things on the planet.

Introduction to the third instalment
The flashback at the beginning was good.  I found that it helped me remember and sum up what was previously occurred within the story.  However, I'm not sure if I was a new player that there was enough content in this section to do a sufficient recap for them but luckily the remainder of the game focused more on rescuing Marcus' father rather than relying on previous information gained from the other games.

Did the story unfold evenly across the duration of the game?
The game was comprised of five acts.  We learn that Adam is alive during the first act but only get to him during act five.  I felt that although I got to experience a lot more of the different environments throughout Sera, came into contact with more COG and Stranded so I could see how the war and E-Day had affected each of them, that I'd have liked to have had more information fed to me about Adam's whereabouts throughout these in-between acts.

I think something simple and short would have sufficed.  For example, before Mira started tracking Marcus and the rest of Delta we could have been shown scenes with Mira talking to Adam trying to coerce him into working harder to save the Locusts.  I think this would have been interesting to see as you find out that Mira and Adam had a relationship for a long time where Adam seemed to sympathise and genuinely wanted to help the Locusts if there were more time.

This would have been a nice addition but it was not essential.  The varying number of challenges that the Delta squad had to overcome throughout each act was enough to keep me amused and still focused in getting to Marcus' dad.

High points within the story

Emulsion infected humans
I wasn't expecting the humans to be infected by that emulsion.  But I suppose it makes sense when you think about it, although during the scene where you come into contact with the first infect human I was expecting more of a typical zombie than a fluorescent, raging and quick moving zombie.  So this was an interesting twist.

R.I.P Dominic Santiago
My fiance had played Gears 3 on the day of launch with his friends at my house while I was working all day  (much to my annoyance as I wanted to play it through in co-op with him, anyway...).  When I got home that evening I found the house still, perfectly silent.  Not the atmosphere of roaring orders at each other and swearing at the enemies.  So I presumed they had finished an gone home.  When I entered my front room I walked in to find four adult males in total silence eagerly watching a cinematic.  I said my hellos and left as I didn't want to see something that would spoil my experience later.
So when I saw this cutscene with Dom dying, I instantly knew that this was the cutscene that stunned all of those men to silence.  In my mind Dominic Santiago was your brother, he was the constant character throughout Gears that survived, that would be there at the end.  Not any more.  The death of his wife and kids just got too much for him and he nobly sacrificed himself so that the rest of Delta could live on.  However, Dom was emotionally going downhill from the beginning of the game.  His appearance was ragged as if he didn't care about keeping himself presentable and at the point of his death you could argue that he just wanted to end it all.  So he did.  Even so, his character went through a lot of pain, and turmoil so he deserved to go out whichever way he chose.  I loved his character, he was a great sidekick.

The reason behind E-day
I found it interesting to know the real reason behind E-Day.  The Locusts were just running themselves.  Who knows what would have occurred if Adam has come to a mutual understanding with Mira, the Locusts may have lived peacefully underground co-existing with humanity on Sera.  We don't know who attacked who first.  The Locusts could have been disorientated when emerging from underground and attacked out of fear.  Humanity may have also struck the first blow for fear of the unknown, which led to the fifteen year war with the Locusts.

Marcus' dad dying
Another emotional moment in the story.  After all the time Marcus spent searching for his dad.  He was killed by the very weapon he had created to save humanity.  Adam also seemed to be torn up by guilt and regret throughout the majority of the final act.  It was almost like he was punishing himself  for the devastation the Hammer of Dawn caused at Ephyra and not preventing E-Day.  At the end of the game, Marcus looks more lost than ever with no goal to persevere and no family left.

Anything missed?  Not covered?

The true fate of Marcus' mother
I was hoping to find out what happened to Marcus' mother.  She had apparently gone missing in the underground caves when Marcus was about 16 years old and she was a biologist.  The fact that she gets lost in the caves, Locust queen looking very human-like and Adam Fenix working with closely with the Locust Queen for 20 years is rather a coincidence no?   Did Marcus' mother turn into the Locust queen through some sort of experiment that went wrong?  The locust queen's very human-like appearance was mentioned once by one of the Delta squad but not expanded upon.  I think that this may have been a clever and deliberate thought provoking question for players to agonise over.  She may have been taken hostage in exchange for Adam's cooperation to work on the existing emulsion problem for the Locusts?  I don't know and I guess I won't find out.

After analysing this game's story it has taught me a lot about the building blocks required for a good linear story.  The twists and heart wrenching moments are just as important as the unanswered questions that make the player want to explore and persevere to find the answers.  One thing that I will keep in mind when creating a game story is to build up a character who is believable and likeable so that the player wants to help them achieve their goal, cares about their difficult decisions, feels and believes their pain.

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