Will the narrative choice made at the end of Gears 5 be worth the risk for The Coalition and the next entry in the franchise?
Editor’s Note: This article contains story spoilers for Gears 5: we recommend coming back to this piece after completing the single-player campaign.
After finishing the campaign for Gears 5, my thoughts are muddled. Most of my uncertainty around the game is due to several different things like Kait’s character arc (which doesn’t feel fully-developed yet), or how The Coalition (for the second time in a row) ended their game at a place that nowhere near feels like a conclusion. Naturally there will be another installment, but for the respective entries of this new assumed trilogy, it didn’t feel like a cohesive ending that also sets up the next game. However, my biggest thought isn’t really an issue with Gears 5, but more so what could potentially be a major issue for the next inevitable entry in the Gears of War series.
During Act IV, Kait has to make an important decision regarding the fate of her two allies, and you have to choose the outcome. The Swarm Queen holds both JD and Del hostage and with their lives on the line, you are able to save only one. For some players, they could have made their pick without a second thought, but there is honestly a lot to think about during that moment. Honestly, with no hesitation, I picked to save Del. He was with me the entire campaign and I really never liked JD as a character, but even then I was distraught after his death.
In hindsight, even though my decision would have stayed the same, I wish I put more thought into who to save because I didn’t think about how Marcus would react. While I was disappointed that Marcus seemed less upset about his own son dying in comparison to Dom in Gears of War 3, I’m curious to see if he evolves in the next game due to the loss of JD. But here is the problem that I see for the story of Gears 6: who knows if JD actually is dead? Who knows if Del is the one actually dead?
This narrative decision was an unexpected yet risky move by The Coalition, depending on how they execute the consequences of this decision in Gears 6. They are now in this spot where they either have to decide who was saved canonically or make two separate campaigns for the next game, one where Del lived and one where JD lived. I can’t see them putting in the work of having two separate campaigns based on a singular choice, but if The Coalition doesn’t do that, then fans could likely be upset that the person they saved wasn’t “actually” the choice made.
While I love the Gears series, I feel like now that the choice has been made to go down two different paths based on Kait’s decision, the future installments need to follow suit and have more decisions that affect the ongoing story. The problem with that, to me, is that the lore in the Gears universe isn’t expansive enough to pull something like that off. I think I would have been okay with the idea of having several paths throughout this new story if it started with Gears of War 4. Introducing a new generation of characters after the original Gears trilogy and Judgment placed down the building blocks; doing it in the middle of a trilogy makes me confused as to why The Coalition chose to do it at this point in the franchise. I just hope that this narrative moment actually means something once Gears 6 comes out, because as of right now having different story paths feels like it was done just for the sake of it.
Once the credits rolled, I decided to see what happens differently if you save JD over Del and unfortunately, the answer is not much at all. This adds to my worry because if they didn’t make any significant differences there, then how can I expect a full story that expands on that decision the next time around? The worst-case scenario for me is that they do the same campaign and you either have Del or you have JD as your companion, depending on who you pick, and they basically do the same things, say similar lines, and do similar actions.
This is truly where I feel Gears 6 is headed, especially because it is likely to be the conclusion of this new trilogy. Given the outcome of Gears 5, I want there to be stakes at hand, sacrifices to be made,and risks to be taken, and if those moments have to be with JD or Del depending on who you save, that will not be satisfying to me along with I think others who play the series. On the positive side, if The Coalition is planning on making two separate, entirely unique campaigns, then I preemptively applaud them for taking a chance like that in such a beloved franchise. Even though I’m conflicted with where Gears 6 is headed narratively, I’m hopeful that it will go in a direction that will please fans, myself included.