Next month, the Gears of War novel ‘The Slab’ will be available to buy worldwide. The author, Karen Traviss, has already written four Gears novels and contributed heavily to the story of the final game in the series, Gears of War 3. And after reading the other four books, I’m quite keen to pick up this latest offering too.
So what’s the point?
Well to give you a brief background, the first Gears began after the locust, a humanoid enemy, has emerged from tunnels underground. They immediately attack cities all over Sera (the planet) without warning. Almost on the brink of extinction, you take control of Delta squad in the fight back. The trilogy follows your journey as you try to eliminate the locust threat before they complete their genocide of humanity.
Despite the games having a big focus on action, there is certainly a solid plot behind it. By the end of the series, you’ll have experienced both triumphant victories and devastating loss. It often gets criticised for its gore and violence but Epic have went to a lot of effort to create this expansive universe. Unfortunately, to explore all these ideas in the game would bog down the story and ruin the gameplay. So instead they mentioned them briefly; just enough for to you understand how importance the event is, but not laid on so thick that it affects the pacing of the game.
So this is where the books come in. They explore the information that couldn’t be included in the game. As a result, fans have found out plenty from the Gears novels.
To start with, before Emergence Day, humanity was embroiled in a seventy year war as two opposing factions tried to control the planet’s fuels. The first book, Aspho Fields, is about the key battle that signalled the end of this fight, while introducing some of the main characters. The following books detailed some of the other crucial events that occurred before the games (e.g. Anvil Gate) while bridging the gap between each instalment. Furthermore, they also offer some insight into the decisions and personalities of the game’s biggest characters. ‘The Slab’ looks to explain what happened to the main protagonist between the locust attack and his escape from prison at the beginning of Gears 1.
That’s how books can be beneficial for games like Gears. Books can elaborate the story, giving fans the chance to learn more about their favourite characters and what makes them tick. They can see how everything has panned out outside the main storyline. You don’t have to read the books to enjoy Gears but it lets you see it from a different perspective. In my case I saw some characters in a new light. I was able to understand how difficult some of the decisions they made actually were. I feel it can add a personality and depth that you perhaps don’t see when you are playing the games.
I really don’t see a downside to companies writing books around their games. If they have created a great story, it deserves to be fleshed out more than just the game. Although I would argue the point that games make for a better medium than books, there are certain aspects where a story can benefit more from a novel. Developers can make more money off their ideas, gamers can learn more about their favourite universes and parents of young teenagers can relax as their gaming child reads a book for a change.
Anyway I’m looking forward to ‘The Slab’ and I really do recommend, if you are a gamer, that you have a browse online to see if the games you play have any associated books. After all, you never know what you might find.