So today I am going to take a look at the “Locust” from “Gears of War” perhaps one of the most convoluted alien species of all time. They shouldnt be a convoluted species, they should be a simple alien species with a simple history, but poor writing decisions have made the Locust and the whole Gears of War series baffling.
During the first game the player is thrust into this war between the Locust and the Humans on the planet “Sera” there is no context given for where the locust came from aside from the fact they are subterranean and invaded the surface of the planet roughly 15 years before the game. Why humans are on this planet is unexplained, but it is known that this war occurs roughly 100 years after humanity started using a natural resource called “imulsion” as fuel.
In the second game there are more details revealed about the Locust culture, and it is revealed that the reason the Locust are invading the surface is because Imulsion fumes have released a parasitic organism into the atmosphere that is creating zombie-like mutants that are driving them out of their subterranean home. The player gets to see their cities and structures, absolutely ancient buildings, with highly intricate stonework, they stretch for miles and miles under the surface of this world in a honeycombed network called “the hollows” which are absolutely filled with life.
You learn about the locust language, the locust society, what they eat, who their leaders are. You even learn about their religion that they have where they worship a trinity of ancient several mile long worms that have long been dormant, ancient worms that are millions of years old that are said to have carved out the very hollows themselves.
All these facts seem to paint a very clear picture of the story of the series right? That humans came across this planet and colonized the surface, completely unaware of the sapient civilization below, and because the two never interacted there was peace of a sort between the two species. Until about 100 years before the first game started humans started using Imulsion, and the atmospheric toxins inevitably penetrated the hollows, forcing the Locust to attack humanity in a desperate attempt to survive by colonizing the surface.
It is a tragic story in which humans learn that they are the invading species too this world and not the other way around. But not according too the writers, according to the writers that is all wrong, the backstory the writers give in the books and other media and a bit in Gears of War 3 all completely contradicts this.
Instead the origin of the Locust is now that 100 years before the start of the game, when humans first started using imulsion, that it mutated some of the human imulsion miners and turned them into “sires” which then gave birth to more refined mutants that we know of as the locust, which the government then hid underground for some reason that is never explained. And that they jhave a low birth rate and have to survive by turning people on the surface into Locust (somehow).
The number of problems with this origin that they have written is baffling, it is hardly supported at all by anything in-game, and the writers seem hesitant to even confirm this origin story for whatever reason. It would only make sense if behind the scenes there was a constant argument for what the locust should actually be.
Here is a short list of the problems with this
- How do they know about the rift worms they worship
- How did they get such great numbers in less than 100 years as to swarm the surface in such great numbers that they were dubbed “the locust”
- how did they build a civilization that looks ancient too the point that it has crumbling ruins
- how did they domesticate about a dozen different subterranean species in such a short amount of time
- how were they able to turn new people into locust
- how do they have their own language both written and spoken
- why set the game on an alien planet? what purpose does setting this on “Sera” serve too the story? could have easily been earth if they are mutants.
- why in the 100 years since imulsion started being used, has there not been a major mutation epidemic among humans, despite all vehicles and technology using it. Why did the imulsion decide to stop effecting humans after mutating a few dozen oil rig workers into zombie monkeys?
I could probably keep going with that list, but there is one huge problem with this that cannot be ignored. It reduces the enemies to essentially being space zombies, and they then go ahead and introduce new space zombies in the form of the “lambant” later.
And the vector that causes the mutation that turns people into locust, and locust and people into lambant, is the same darn chemical. Imulsion somehow turns people into locust, but only when it is convenient for the story, and it will turn people into exploding zombies, and it will also turn the zombie people turned into locust into exploding zombies.
The space zombies turned into zombies by gasoline, turn into space zombies again when exposed to gasoline, and sometimes normal humans turn into either exploding zombies, regular locust zombies, or crazy monster monkey zombies. There is no way to make sense of it, just explaining it in text makes me feel like an insane person for writing it.
The bad writing here on the origins of the Locust is so baffling and pathetic, the fact that the companies in charge of these games haven’t retconned it away is just sad. And there isn’t much to definitively prove this origin within the stories themselves anyways, so it wouldn’t be hard to rewrite it.
Ultimately it was this poor origin in my opinion that led too the franchise falling out of favor and losing its popularity.
This essay is going to focus on the Ixll, a being that I have concluded is the single worst alien in the entirety of human fiction. There are a ton of reasons why these creatures are badly written, badly drawn, and just a horrible pathetic excuse for an extra terrestrial.
But the bottom line of it is lazyness… pure unadulterated lazy. They are basically balloon hamsters with no hands or feet, yet somehow they are able to create pouches, hoods, and grenades for themselves. It is ridiculous in every way shape and form.
At least that is what I thought at first, upon closer inspection of the image above (from Star Wars: Essential guide to Alien Species) in comparison too the images of the creature from the comic that they originated from, it turns out the artist who made the updated “realistic” image was just being incredibly lazy (do not worry the original is still terrible).
First appearing in Dark Empire Issue 2, the Ixll begins its awfulness by always being in flight in such a way as to obscure its actual size. The Ixll could be anywhere from bigger than the Millennium Falcon, to smaller than an x-wing. Yet the text in the Essential Guide to Alien Species indicates they are a diminutive species capable of pulling small pranks on people without them noticing.
Even from their very first appearance it is terrifyingly obvious what the artist for the Essential Guide got wrong, the Ixll does have hands that holds its fat inflated belly, and it it wears a hood that the artist for the Essential Guide for some reason fused with its skin.
The Essential Guides art flubs do not make up for the fact that the alien is ugly though, just a round fat hamster space lump that flies around and contributes nothing too the story. It isnt even cute or useful, it is simply there providing a visual distraction… and looking exactly the same every time it appears. Given the technology of the time the comic was drawn it is hard to see how the artist copy+pasted the Ixll so darned well for every single appearance it has.
And of course… there is the name, the terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible name of this pathetic creature. It is loaded with all the worst “alien name” tropes, for starters it has an “X” in it, which is a letter only used to make its name sound more “alien”, the letter has no unique phonetic sound, and cannot possibly be part of the native species name thus it shouldnt be part of how whoever wrote it down wrote down their name.
There is two “L” which is redundant, and would not make a distinct neough sound to be recorded by other races studying them. And there is no vowel between the LLs and the X, why did whoever was studying this alien not put whatever vowel would have sounded most appropriate there? And if it was a hard stop why not use an Apostrophe?
Near as I can tell the races name should be “Iksel” when written in english (or galactic basic as it is called in star wars) or Ik’ll, or Iksul, or even Iksil. NOT IXLL, NOT A PILE OF ALIEN NAMING TROPES LAZILY SMASHED TOGETHER.
Of course this isnt the worst part about the Ixll… the worst part is that they can breathe in space.In their final comic appearance, the Ixlls home world, a moon of the planet Da Soocha, is targeted by a planet destroying weapon. Somehow the Ixlls magically learn about this despite having no apparent technology outside of stomach pouches, learns of this before the republic forces on the moon, and flees the moon without telling them.
Apparently the Ixlls are flying too the planet below to flee their doomed moon, otherwise they are flying off into the depths of space. Both of these things are insane, but the first option is the slightly-less-insane of the two. And while it is true that they are aliens and can have different biological rules, this is a species that appears to fly with the aid of belly inflation gasses so this whole thing seems dangerous too me.
This scene was so stupid, that later writers and pretty much everyone would ignore it. It was just written away and said “yeah the Ixlls were saved by the republic forces and taken too a new planet to colonize”, but it was never specifically retconned out of exsistence so it still “technically” happened.
The problem with the Ixlls is that they are a perfect storm of little things that accumulate in one big stupid thing, they can easily be fixed too. All that needs to be done is for the idea of them to be cemented a little better, for example having a design sheet for the species would have helped prevented the weird art flubs from later works. Half the work is already done with the whole “flying in space” thing being ignored.
Professional character design artist, ScottAhemi made his own rendition of this terrible alien species. Through his artwork the full potential of their idea has been realized for the first time. What the Ixll were meant to be is cute little flying mammal mantas, and dang did he do a good job of making that work without breaking continuity.
Okay now that I have gotten Goblins and Orcs out of the way, it is time too look at the far less related “Troll”. Of all the outcast races Trolls are perhaps the most consistent with their depiction, but that does not mean there is no variation among the Trolls, often even within the same context trolls can vary greatly.
Trolls can be big or small, but are usually big owing too their mythological origins as giants, and they can come in virtually any color. There is also often an association with stone or plants, an example of this would be Tolkiens trolls turning to stone in daylight.
What is most consistent with Trolls is the fact that they are loners, hermits, or otherwise lonely (this does not mean there aren’t non-loner trolls in some fiction). This profound loneliness of the Trolls can either lead to great sadness or great cruelty, most often Trolls are a nuisance to everyone and everything, living alone but not by choice. Other times trolls willingly isolate themselves because of fear of humanity.
Trolls are creatures that dwell in dark environments, and most of the time only interact with the outside world to be a nuisance towards it. What constitutes being a nuisance changes culturally, long ago it was their lack of Christianity, these days the term troll has a much different meaning that I am sure you have all heard.
The “Internet Troll” the psychopaths that use their anonymity to bully and harass other people online, most often assumed to be living in a basement alone, it is easy to see why the term Troll has been applied. And while it may not be the most flattering legacy of these ancient giants, it has made the myth and the idea of them more enduring than almost any other species in the entire fantasy lexicon.
Trolls (Fantasy ones) are not always bad of course, there is the lovable Troll Dolls which are small almost gnome-like creatures, and there is also the Warcraft trolls which portray them as social creatures with a rich culture. Typically the less evil a troll is portrayed the further they are from their fantasy origins, but there is one notable exception though, a book written and illustrated by Eric Orchard.
His book, Bera the One-Headed Troll, rolls with many of the classical fantasy ideas surrounding trolls. They are isolated beings with a lot of sadness, they have a stone affiliation in that they turn to stone with age and sunlight, and they come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. Most importantly he got their cultural mindset right, they are loner creatures that generally live alone, and he gives each Troll in the story their own unique reason for doing so… Yet he was not afraid to show that this type of life can be unhealthy, and can lead to anger or sadness.
It shows that even trolls need someone to keep them company, even if you think you need to be alone. Maybe I am over analyzing his book a bit, but I really loved it and I would go as far as to say that Eric Orchard’s trolls are perhaps the archetypal example of this fantasy race, if you want a good idea of how to write Trolls or you want to get a sense of the Race/Species pick up his book.
(Also its adorable… the book is just, adorable in a really unique way)