Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Extra! Which Gears of War will those be then?

A busy week for yours truly, including trips to the pictures to see the Iron Man movie (IMDb), and Doomsday (IMDb); a Combat Commander session with Badger on Saturday; and Descent with Andy, Donald and Tony on Sunday. I've started learning my way around the Linux Ubuntu OS which I installed on my external hard drive not long after my recent rant about Windows Vista. I'm too low on the learning curve to be getting much use out of Ubuntu yet, but I really like the look of it. On top of all that, the housing association sent a workman round with remarkable prompitude so that I've finally got a working shower. Yay!

Meanwhile, here's a story which came to my attention last month. Commenting a while back on this story from ICv2, Yehuda over at Purple Pawn asked "Just how many six hour space themed galactic conflict games does one need?". But are FFG really likely to dish out another Twilight Imperium or Starcraft: the Boardgame with this licence? Gears of War is a 3rd-person squad combat shooter set on an Earth beleaguered by alien Locust horde. Here is a a short sample of the gameplay.

This video gives a deeper sense of the background, shows the richness of the settings across which the battles are fought, and demonstrates the vast scale of the war for which the PC game's protags are the pointmen.

And IGN Gears of War has a rich resource of screenshots and video clips for readers who'd like a little more detail.

Reading this page on the official site gives the impression of a game of tactical combat across an incredibly deadly post-apocalyptic earth battlefield, as human soldiers and their monstrous alien foes lay waste to their surroundings with weapons of extreme destructiveness. Looking at this, I'm more worried that FFG might plump for a cheap Doom clone than anything else.

There is definitely a great board wargame in Gears of War. The question is whether FFG will deliver it. If we're not going to see a Doom clone- which would be a sadly obvious way to represent Gears of War's gameplay, then exactly what kind of game are we going to see? Here is where I think we're more likely to see a dull retread. FFG's whole 'box-full-of-toys' production approach makes me fear that the subject of Gears of War- grunts in combat against waves of monstous aliens- will mean that the new game will be a Doom-clone.

I really hope not. I'm hoping that FFG are following the approach taken with Starcraft, refocussing the gameplay at a higher level of the battle. It is being embedded in this bigger battle which distinguishes the action in Gears of War from that in Doom; and it is this bigger battle which is represented too in the wide and rich variety of settings in Gears of War; so we really have to hope I think that FFG choose to open the game up in this direction somehow or other.

Sleek, intuitive rules for the effects of fear and confusion on the battlefield, the deadly combat environment, the destruction of cover, and hidden aliens strike me as other features of the computer game which would be nice to see in the boardgame. They'd give it its identity and could prove interesting. To be true to its original the game will have to represent a wide variety of terrain features on several different battlefields; and a good system for generating scenarios will be needed to give it strong replay value. Regular readers will need no reminding where I'd suggest the designers look for mechanics to handle some of these systems!

The Gears of War boardgame could prove interesting then, depending on what FFG make of it. I'm going to be keeping an eye on this one. ;)

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