Well, I did it. I spent the weekend patiently making my way through the Gears 5 campaign and I am blown away. At the moment, I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that it’s over. Even though it was short enough to be finished in a weekend’s time, its story was deep enough and its characters relatable enough that I was able to get emotionally attached to the experience before the credits rolled.
Whereas I have already given my first impressions of the Gears 5 campaign in a separate post, this specific post will focus on the campaign as a whole, diving deeper into what makes it so fantastic.
SPOILER WARNING: this article contains major spoilers for the Gears 5 campaign. If you have not played the campaign and are not interested in learning about it in detail, stop reading now. You have been warned.
Aside from the major cliffhanger, when the credits rolled on Gears of War 4, I was left wanting more. It didn’t feel like a new Gears game. It just felt like another one. That wasn’t my experience with Gears 5. The story and dialogue are very well-written, and I believe each of the characters are a reflection of someone we all are at some point in our lives.
Although the majority of Gears 5 revolves around Kait, the pure-hearted heroine we met in Gears of War 4 who happens to have an ancestral connection to the Hive, you begin the story as JD Fenix, who was also introduced in the last chapter of the Gears saga. After JD orders the Hammer of Dawn be fired haphazardly in Act I, catastrophe strikes, taking many lives, both innocent and evil. After a short time jump that introduces Act II, Kait takes the lead and you begin her journey toward discovering just how deep her connection to the Hive goes.
The storytelling for this Gears is downright delicious. On their journey to uncover Kait’s connection to the Hive, she and Del meet an evil scientist named Niles who has preserved himself as an AI construct in a secret COG lab. Niles explains to them that his secret hybridization of children infected with Imulsion and the indigenous creatures of the Hollow were what brought about the rise of the Locust swarm.
Niles also explains that Queen Myrrah was once a human who was entirely immune to Imulsion and therefore could control the Locust due to the use of her DNA in creating them. When Reyna, Myrrah’s daughter and Kait’s mother, was born, Reyna’s father took her out of the lab, coincidentally causing Myrrah’s and the Locusts inevitable rebellion against the scientists and the lab, and thus resulting in their independence. Myrrah’s hatred for humanity then led to the Locust genocide against them.
Kait then realizes she is next in line to be Locust Queen and panics, demanding that Niles separate her from the Swarm’s hivemind. Niles puts Kait in a machine that successfully separates her from the hivemind, but also awakens Reyna, whose consciousness still lives in the hivemind. Upon realizing that Reyna, now reborn, is the new Queen, Kait and her friends set out to reactivate the Hammer of Dawn.
As Kait and the team arrive at Vasgar, Baird reunites with his former squadmate Paduk. Paduk then reveals to the team that the UIR had a rocket filled with Hammer of Dawn satellites. Once the rocket is assembled, a giant mutated Riftworm called the Kraken attacks the group during the rocket’s launch.
A welcome addition to the Gears franchise is the ability to make a game-altering decision toward the end of the campaign. As the team is setting up target beacons to direct the Hammer of Dawn, Reyna attacks Kait, Del, and JD, eventually leaving Kait with a Sophie’s choice, to save Del or JD. I chose to save Del on my first playthrough, as I thought the budding friendship between he and Kait was more valuable. Not to mention the fact that JD is older than Del.
At this point, each targeting beacon has been destroyed by the Riftworm, leaving the group with little hope when facing it head on. In one of the most heroic moments I’ve witnessed in a game in recent years, Jack, the faithful robotic companion, turns himself into a targeting beacon, enters the mouth of the riftworm, and the Hammer of Dawn goes to work. The game ends once the Swarm Riftworm is destroyed, but we are left with another cliffhanger, as Reyna has yet to be defeated.
One thing I found particularly interesting about the end of Gears 5, is that it ends with Kait removing her necklace. The same necklace that informed us of her lineage at the end of Gears of War 4.
The locations in Gears 5 are not only beautiful to look at, they are worth exploring, which is something unfamiliar to the Gears franchise. Any motivation to explore in previous Gears games has been solely influenced by optional collectibles that add lore and do little to affect gameplay. On the other hand, Gears 5 gives more reason to explore as robot companion “Jack” can now be upgraded using components found in the field.
Act II and Act III introduce the first “open worlds” to ever appear in a Gears game. The frozen northlands of Act II and the desert wastelands of Vasgar in Act III are not as large as most open worlds in today’s games (and that’s really okay), but they are still significant considering the linear formula Gears is known for.
The skiff is the primary way of getting around in these two locations as they are, for the most part, empty. Each location has several optional areas that are worth a visit simply for the upgrades to Jack that they reward. Most optional areas will have side missions that reward ultimate upgrades for Jack’s abilities, so they really are worth it. These side missions aren’t boring or monotonous in any way, partly due to the fact that there aren’t too many of them, but also due to the dialogue between characters and the role those side missions played in the overall environment. Between those areas and the primary mission destinations, you’ll spend your time travelling on the skiff (which is actually a lot of fun to use).
Jack’s abilities are another highlight of the campaign. Some of my favorite moments were using Jack’s cloak to sneak up on enemies for a stealth kill. Stealth is something that Gears has tried to encourage in the past, but there were really never many situations suitable for it. Being a fan of stealth myself, I took major delight in the amount of opportunities I was given for it during this campaign.
Another one of Jack’s abilities, Hijack (no pun intended), allowed me to take the allegiance of enemies for a period of time and have them fight for me. There were several instances in which I hijacked the strongest enemy in the area, giving me a favorable advantage. Each ability also has an ultimate upgrade. Hijack’s ultimate upgrade, for instance, caused the hijacked enemy to explode upon death. This presented opportunities for some serious strategical decision regarding the strength of the enemy I was hijacking.
The campaign for Gears 5 is one that will be difficult to forget. It is an intense, emotional, and explosive journey that is bound to leave an imprint on anyone’s memory. At the moment, the multiplayer in Gears 5 is pretty rocky, but the campaign is worth the time.
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