Tag Archive: Gears of War


Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the year’s best military sci-fi novels awaits you in the next Gears of War tie-in novel, Gears of War: Bloodlines Author Jason M. Hough creates a gritty tale of an unthinkable mission by current lead game character and former Gear soldier Kait Diaz and a forgotten, impossible mission by her father, Lt. Colonel Gabriel Diaz.  The story begins in the future at war, after the destruction of Settlement 2.  Kait’s comrade J.D. Fenix is severely wounded.  While Kait awaits his outcome, she is approached by an old man who claims he fought with her father years ago.  The man slips her a secret file, which recounts a mission that determined the fate of her father, marked a turning point in his life, and may influence who she may become.

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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.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The latest Aliens novel will come as a surprise to fans of the Alien franchise and tie-in novels.  More of a video game tie-in than an outer space/sci-fi/horror tale, Aliens: Phalanx finds its confrontation with the gloss black, spike-tailed Xenomorphs on a planet much like audiences saw in the sister series, Predators, where individuals are plucked from across the universe and dropped on an undeveloped planet to survive being hunted by that franchise’s title creatures.  Like something out of a post-apocalyptic nightmare, or the tie-in novels for Warcraft, Tomb Raider, or Gears of War, readers meet up with members of a pre-industrial culture fighting for survival.  Aliens: Phalanx arrives in stores everywhere today and is available to order here at Amazon.

Literally a society on the run, locals must strategize their movements to get from place to place, actually living among the Xenomorphs that they not surprisingly refer to as “demons.”  Writer Scott Sigler details in more than 500 pages–the longest Alien tie-in yet–his characters’ journey, all toward the ends of touching back into more of the familiarity of the Alien universe.  The conceit of the films is that humans could stand any chance against the Xenomorphs.  Readers’ suspension of disbelief will be pressed even further here, when those being asked to survive in the tale do not benefit from the full arsenal of Weyland/Yutani’s corporate-backed armament as found in the Aliens movie and prior stories.

Billed as a “medieval” tale, Aliens: Phalanx is probably more about “going medieval,” survival in the modern sense, more than anything that touches on the actual Middle Ages (as a historian I wouldn’t have guessed the Middle Ages presence here over, say, an early North or Latin America construct).  In fact, without the title and cover art, for most of the novel readers wouldn’t know they were reading an Aliens universe story.  The environment, the worldbuilding, the culture, the lack of naming convention all lend the book to have been readily adapted to an alien world of any sci-fi franchise, or even something like Cowboys and Aliens, as the vibe is more something out of S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk–primitive culture but not so primitive antagonists in a horrifying, primal bid for survival.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Usually a franchise tie-in novel or sequel will be able to serve as a standalone story to create a springboard into the story’s universe for new readers.  That’s not the case for readers of the new Gears of War prequel to the Gears 5 video game, Gears of War: Ascendance.  Author Jason M. Hough takes fans of the games on a journey back into field combat with a group of familiar characters battling close-quarters with the Swarm, with a backdrop focus on the political machinations of Coalition of Ordered Governments’ Minister Jinn and her reliance on Damon Baird and his robot army.  Unfortunately the story reads like the down day at a Dungeon & Dragon session, all about a group of characters getting from Point A to Point B, with little happening in between.

The entire novel is a set-up to bring the franchise’s first heroine to the lead position of gameplay, Kait Diaz.  The lack of development of the character is unfortunate, because it could have the potential for another alien bug fighter like Ellen Ripley, Rita Vrataski, Dizzy Flores, or Private Vasquez.  We meet Diaz following the burial of her mother.  She and her team are rescued from this planet only to return later so she can try to save a boy and a girl that she believed were dead when her group had abandoned their location.  So readers will be drawn toward her mission.  Backstory (available elsewhere) for the video games explains the significance of a special talisman she wears, yet each time it is discussed the reader is ready to learn more about it, but its purpose is ultimately skipped over in this book.  And readers don’t get to learn much about what makes Kait Diaz tick.  For that, readers will need to look to the game (which has been well-received by gamers).

So Gears of War: Ascendance is truly for fans already familiar with the game and its characters.  What a “Gear” even is, and what the opposing factions are and why, what one weapon is versus another–none of these concepts are ever explained (a Gear is a soldier, but is it an elite soldier or any foot soldier?).  The Swarm and other beasts are some kind of alien monster inspired by the Arachnid Bugs of Starship Troopers or that creature from Mimic, a kind of giant locust (it’s called the Locust Horde so I assume it looks like a locust) but all creepy like the Xenomorphs of Aliens, and telepathically connected like the hive mind of The Borg from Star Trek.  Why are they bad?  We don’t know, just as Heinlein treated his antagonists in Starship Troopers, although game players who dig in outside this novel will see they become more than that to Kait Diaz in the game.  Opening paragraphs in each section providing some backstory and setting, along with descriptions of characters would have been a welcome addition for those not familiar with the game yet.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Ahoy there, matey.  Gaming developer Rare and distributor Microsoft have said they expect their new shared world action-adventure game Sea of Thieves to be a major success for Xbox One and Windows PC, with a Rare company executive stating he expects the game to become a franchise as popular as Halo, Gears of War, and Minecraft.  As part of its efforts to bring in players, Rare has partnered with Titan Books to publish a tie-in to the game, Tales from the Sea of Thieves.  Sea of Thieves the game is a first-person pirate adventure allowing players to sail a legendary world alone or with a crew of up to four players.  Released in March, the game’s greatest appeal so far for fans has been its great visuals, opting for a cartoon-like palette versus a photo-real world, and its cooperative gameplay.

Written by Paul Davies, Tales from the Sea of Thieves is a fictional journal written loosely in the style of seafaring lore like you’d find in A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates, Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly novels, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, more recently William Goldings’ To the Ends of the Earth, and countless other historical accounts.  Its design becomes a real-world take-home prop from the game, a mock “battered and beaten” textured hardcover that looks and feels like a 19th century book that will go well with your tricorn, Jolly Roger, parrot, compass, and telescope.  The contents are in-universe, providing the accounts of pirate crew experienced years before the events of the game, introducing the types of adventures players can encounter in the game.

The tales are light fare, suitable for any age.  They don’t go so far as the darker side of the high seas as you would find in Lovecraft, but the voices are similarly evocative of his style.  The artwork is stylized from the game and fun, full color with the icons and emblems you’d expect from pirate lore.  Even the page edges are untrimmed as with journals and books of years past.

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