NOTE: There are major spoilers ahead for Gears 5.
Rumours surfaced as recently as February this year that development of Gears 6 is in full swing. Whilst The Coalition haven’t officially confirmed anything just yet, it was well known they were at one stage working on a new IP in Unreal Engine 5. In fact, there’re two games in the works at one point, both of which have potentially fallen by the wayside in favour of the next entry in Microsoft’s hugely successful Gears of War franchise. So successful is Gears of War in fact that alongside a new game – which, whilst not announced seems inevitable at this stage – there are movie tie-ins and an animated series in the works thanks to a freshly minted partnership with streaming giant Netflix.
The inevitability of a sequel to 2019’s Gears 5 rests on that game’s ending too, which inarguably concluded on a cliff-hanger. Principal protagonist Kait Diaz, after uncovering her familial history and shadowy destiny, vows to fight on, hellbent now on defeating the new Queen of the Swarm and as is now known to us, her mother Reyna.
How Gears 6 will handle the canonical conundrum of a predecessor whose ending hinged on a tough player decision remains to be seen too. You see, during the game’s climactic battle Kait must choose to save either good mate Del or JD Fenix, son of Gears of War mainstay Marcus, from the clutches of the evil Swarm Queen Reyna. The main difference in narrative come Gears 5’s ending following Kait’s choice is felt mostly with Marcus; sacrifice JD to save Del and then Marcus laments the loss of his son, sorrowful and mourning whilst clutching his dog tags. Save JD with the loss of Del, then JD and Marcus embrace in father-son bond, Marcus shedding the shackles of his grizzly persona. Both endings reveal Marcus as vulnerable and emotional, but the ending where JD survives is most significant in terms of character development for both. They’ve been butting heads for two games prior, but JD surviving unlocks a lot of potential for Marcus to be handled in a new way come the next game in the series. The Coalition have not yet confirmed which ending is canon, but for the chance of a sequel rich in character development for Marcus and JD, it makes most sense if JD survives. Sorry Del.
Gears 5 already takes the series in a different direction, but a newly sensitive Marcus as playable protagonist in Gears 6 could provide a worthy narrative counterpoint to the bloody all-out war we assume will ensue in Gears 6 following the conclusion of Gears 5. Plus, if we consider the success of games with paternal story elements – titles such as God of War Ragnarök or The Last of Us which thanks to the popularity of its HBO TV series continues a stratospheric rise – the relationships between father and child present opportunities for deep and interesting character development. The emotional heft of a familial bond boosts the strength of a story too; a sometimes cited negative to Gears 5 is its underwhelming story. Having Marcus as playable protagonist as his relationship blossoms with JD against the backdrop of war presents a mouth-watering prospect for an emotional story, and one that’d hopefully be more memorable than Gears 5.
Marcus and JD’s father-son relationship would provide an intriguing mirror image as elsewhere Kait Diaz has familial ties to explore too. Throughout Gears 5 she’s tormented by headaches and lucid visions of the Swarm’s network. Embarking on a personal mission to discover the origin of these visions, she travels with Del to a secret lab in New Hope, then onwards to a site in Mount Kadar following the recommendation of scientist Niles Samson. There she discovers she’s the granddaughter of Queen Myrrah, an experiment of Samson’s who became the leader and originator of the Locust Horde from whom the Swarm evolved. Furthermore, Queen Myrrah’s daughter, and Kait’s mother, was instrumental in turning the Locusts against humanity. Kait learns that hereditarily she is destined to be the next Queen of the Swarm, a charge which she understandably revolts. Her visions then are a symptom of her mind being connected to the Swarm’s hivemind.
Kait’s backstory serves as fuel for the game’s climactic battle via her justification for the rearmament of the Hammer of Dawn. What’s really bubbling up beneath the surface though is the fact The Swarm, under Reyna’s leadership, are amassing an organised army, with new technology, weapons, and skills to flourish in all-out war. Reyna’s survival following Gears 5’s climactic battle sets up events for Gears 6’s narrative nicely. For lack of a better word, the action may resemble something more conventional, more akin to the first trio of Gears of War games, where enemy hordes assemble and attack in organised armies. But, above all else, Reyna’s continuing existence means Kait Diaz will be coming to terms with her origins, confronting her familial connections to the Locusts and the Swarm.
The Coalition’s shift to Unreal Engine 5 presents perfect opportunity for Gears 6 to wield dual protagonists too. Gears 5 expanded on the linearity of prior Gears of War titles with more open zone areas to explore. For Gears 6, and with the expanded scope provided by Unreal Engine 5, levels could become a myriad of pathways, locations ripe for exploration, with each character able to access certain areas that’re specific to them through their particular skills and attributes. Perhaps influenced by the wealth of customisation options in Gear of War’s surprisingly excellent turn-based strategy spin off Gears Tactics, Gears 6 could feature an overwhelming amount of weapon and class customisations. Of course, specific weapon modifications and equipment augmentations could be attributed specifically to Kait or Marcus too, with attachments that could facilitate their ability to explore the open linearity of Gears 6’s levels and environments.
Of course, the one sticking point to Marcus being portrayed as the sensitive father figure to JD in Gears 6, and thus the narrative mirroring to Kait’s exploration of familial ties, is that this is based on the assumption The Coalition will opt for Del dying and JD surviving at the end of Gears 5 as canon. Whilst Del’s death makes the most sense thematically, should The Coalition opt for one over the over then they’re reducing player choice to something somewhat meaningless. Unless they’re plans to adopt a Mass Effect style follow up with different branching stories which convolutely follow previous player choices it seems more likely The Coalition will opt for Del and JD to both take a backseat in Gears 6. This doesn’t mean Marcus wouldn’t have a valuable input as playable protagonist alongside Kait in Gears 6 though. Narratively, he could still display a changed persona following the traumatic events of Gears 5, especially if it turns out JD has died.
That said, gameplay is always going to be the most crucial factor over innovating story structures or character traits. Gears 5 was a triumph in gameplay, and with the extra power and pazazz afforded by Unreal Engine 5, Gears 6 will display the smoothest, most immersive moment to moment gunplay of the series so far. The grander scope afforded by UE5 means it’s not out of the question Gears 6 will feature dual protagonists, and there’s definitely narrative space in which to explore Kait and Marcus alongside each other.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.
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