Review by C.J. Bunce
Gears Tactics is only the latest in the universe of Gears of War games, and Titan Books has just published a look inside the concept artwork and development of the story in their latest tour backstage into a popular sci-fi/fantasy franchise. A partnership of The Coalition, Splash Damage, and Xbox, Gears Tactics: The Art of the Game brings players and fans up to speed on the return of fan-favorite central character Gabriel Diaz. The key challenge for the designers? How to update and refresh the universe and still make everything look and feel as fully “Gears” as the past games in the catalog.
In the game, players create and operate a team of heroes and regular troop characters, who occupy a mobile base called The Convoy. A prequel set 12 years before the first Gears of War game, the campaign is a 40-hour excursion to defeat the villain called Ukkon. But you must get through the Locust Horde first. It’s a mix of fantasy monsters of the J.R.R. Tolkien realm and sci-fi troops of the Aliens variety. The development of the game, as seen in Gears Tactics: The Art of the Game, is as complex as any major movie project. Readers will find all the try-ons and also-rans in the development of character faces, stances, uniforms, and vehicles as you’d expect from any fully-realized, visual fantasy world.
In fact the production of the game, and the full-color look behind the scenes in its nearly 200 pages, most closely matches the development of major animated films. And being a prequel, the designers were required to find a balance between the old and new–taking characters that fans of the series know well and giving them the right updates to keep the game current and exciting. The concept artwork is straight out of any fantasy film art book–the only lacking piece is readers don’t get to see attribution to the individual creators that developed each piece of art, which would be a plus for fans of individual artists.
The book is more of a visual dictionary than a story guide, with art filling each page, while still backed with adequate explanatory supporting text. Readers will find coverage of every key character. Set viewing angles take on additional importance compared to concept art in live-action films or traditional animated content, as the game is required to coordinate player movements within the game–so the stage of each scene needs to be fully fleshed out. And where movies may have their own slate of costumes, the added benefit of the game format is the necessity for fans to have access to multiple costumes or “armor,” and props or weaponry.