12 must-know facts about the Gears of War universe

The grub hub

It's not uncommon for games to reveal nuggets of fiction via collectibles or transmedia--and in the case of Gears of War, you might've missed out on some important things if you haven't been playing close attention.

Ever wonder where the Locusts came from? Or what the heck happened during the Pendulum Wars? With Gears of War: Judgment--a prequel to the GoW trilogy--just around the corner, we've done some digging in an attempt to provide the ultimate refresher so you can jump in without missing a beat. Oh, and, obviously, there are a ton of spoilers for Gears of War 1-3 here, as well as the novels, but nothing from Judgment.

Mankind lives on a planet named Sera

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the Gears of War series takes place on Earth because Sera isn't all that different. People can breathe its air without wearing fancy space suits; there's freshwater and saltwater, and plenty of animals roam the planet; oh, and mankind wages war with itself, like, all the time. Yep. Sounds like Earth.

While there's very little information to be found regarding natural phenomenon such as plate tectonics and the like on Sera, it's important to note that the planet has a ginormous series of underground caverns beneath its surface. This subterranean network is commonly referred to as The Hollow, and is home to creepy crawlies and, eventually, the Locust Horde--which we'll get to in a bit.

Humanity faced a huge energy crisis until the discovery of Imulsion

Plop any Gears of War game into the tray of your Xbox and you're bound to hear talk of Imulsion and the great Pendulum Wars. Both of these things are incredibly important to the overarching story of the series, and they both stem from a decades-long energy crisis that the inhabitants of Sera faced.

You see, much like the people of Earth, Serans started to run out of oil and other energy resources, which is problematic when there are billions of people that depend on said resources to survive. The discovery of Imulsion--a luminescent, highly volatile fluid--changed all that. At first, the liquid was considered useless. Eventually, however, a scientist discovered how to refine the stuff into a practically limitless source of energy. Which is great because people needed that energy badly. Here's the part where the whole planet experienced everlasting peace.

Just kidding.

Imulsion caused economic collapse, beginning an era of war

So everyone on Sera was pretty pumped because they could all drive cars and watch their Seran TVs without worrying about running out of fuel or power, which were the two most important things on the planet. Life was good. Temporarily.

The problem with Imulsion was that it sparked a new gold rush of sorts, and tons of countries set out to extract and sell the stuff. Which they did--to the point where the world's economy--and many of its countries' currencies--became entirely dependent on the value of power juice. And, because so many were involved in Imulsion extraction and refinement, it flooded the market (get it?), causing a worldwide economic collapse, ultimately leading to decades of conflict.

The Pendulum Wars lasted 79 years, a couple of people died

By "a couple of people died," we really mean millions. The Pendulum Wars began shortly after the economic collapse brought about by the oversaturation of Imulsion. It's not clear what sparked the conflict, exactly, but we do know that it was a battle (or, more accurately, a series of battles) over Sera's natural resources--Imulsion included. Odd, considering there had been so much of the stuff readily available that its surplus caused worldwide financial ruin. But we digress.

The Pendulum Wars were bad news, spawning nearly a century of bloodshed. Though the whole thing began as a resource-claiming free-for-all, it ultimately coalesced into a brutal series of battles between two dominant superpowers. What were those superpowers, you ask? Well...

The Union of Independent Republics (UIR) was a big player in the war

By the time the Pendulum Wars entered their final decade, the only real participants remaining were the Union of Independent Republics (UIR) and the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG), as practically every nation on the planet had aligned with one of the two. The UIR--whose weaponry you'll become quite familiar with in Gears of War: Judgment--relied pretty heavily on sabotage and infantry to take on its opponent.

For a long time, conflict between the UIR and COG was akin to an unstoppable force that collided with an immovable object time and time again. The two were at a stalemate--that is, until the UIR developed the Hammer of Dawn (you know, that satellite canon that decimates everything in its path). Unfortunately for the UIR, COG forces managed to steal the weapon before it could be deployed.

The Coalition of Ordered Governments won the Pendulum Wars

The COG you're familiar with consists mostly Gears--Marcus, Dom, Cole, Baird, and the rest of the gang--who shoot everything that moves. But before the Coalition of Ordered Governments ever became The Big Military Force, it started as a socialist political faction sometime before the discovery of Imulsion.

But it didn't stay that way for long. During the Pendulum Wars, the COG gained a humongous foothold in the political landscape (apparently due to its vast control over Imulsion mines and refineries), ultimately emerging as a global powerhouse. After decades of battle, COG forces stole the UIR's newly developed Hammer of Dawn and used it on UIR cities, wiping out countless soldiers and citizens alike. Everyone agreed that was pretty messed up in hindsight, which is why so many people harbor resentment for COG and its Gears. Regardless, basically every nation in Sera swore allegiance to the COG following the annihilation of UIR forces.

Emergence Day occurred a mere six weeks after the Pendulum Wars ended

Just when everyone was getting settled into Sera's first era of peace following the Pendulum Wars, murderous creatures erupted from The Hollow and began assaulting mankind. They attacked with a coordinated, planet-wide offensive, which no one was prepared for. Many perished during the confusion--one-quarter of humanity's population was decimated on the first day alone.

The day those creatures surfaced from Sera's subterranean tunnels became known as Emergence Day (E-Day), and mankind would continue to fight these foes for years to come. The enemy's humanoid, reptilian appearance and the bug-like monsters they controlled (coupled with the fact that their deadliness was equated to that of a plague) earned them the nickname Locusts. The only thing the Locusts have trouble with are Gears. We're guessing that's because...

The average Gear looks like he can bench press 800 pounds

Seriously. Also, as a side note: There are some lady Gears--but for the most part, the COG's forces are composed of men.

Gears' primary weapon is the Lancer

Though most Gears look as though they could punch a hole through a cement wall without much effort, they still rely pretty heavily on their firearms. The most popular weapon of choice for COG's army is the Lancer, a rifle with a sharp bayonet on the end of it. If you've played any multiplayer matches in Gears of War 3, you're probably pretty familiar with that little guy.

Once the Locusts began their assault, the Lancer was modified into the chainsaw version you're most familiar with. Why? Well, because the bayonet that was fitted onto "retro" Lancers couldn't easily penetrate the Locusts' tough reptilian skin. It was decided that a friggen' chainsaw would make for a better melee CQC weapon should things get up close and personal. Yep. It sure is an awesome melee toy.

The Locusts are descendants of humans...

Unless you've bothered to read some of the Gears of War novels, you probably didn't know that Locusts were actually humans at one point. How did they turn into murderous monsters? Simple: Imulsion. See, when the Imulsion "gold rush" hit, countless numbers of folks turned to extraction for work--unfortunately, overexposure to the stuff resulted in a sickness, called lambency, that began transforming humans into monsters.

The COG quarantined all infected miners inside its New Hope Research Facility (you know, that AI-controlled deathtrap you explored in Gears of War 2) so Imulsion extraction could continue without interference from outside forces concerned about morality. Eventually, though, things started to get out of hand, so the facility was shut down, and a majority of the infected were transferred to a separate facility on Mount Kadar. The underground tunnels between Mount Kadar ultimately became the Locusts' capital stronghold.

and there are many types of them

The Locust Horde is a caste-based society, which operates similar to bees in a hive. There are tons of different kinds--Wretches, Drones, Therons, and, of course, the bigger ones such as Corpsers and Brumaks. Seeing as the humanoid Locusts are descendents of humans, we're guessing the other creatures are Imulsion-infused animals that were native to Sera. At the top of the chain, though, is the Queen, Myrrah, who--oddly enough--is...a human?

How do we know this? Well, all Locusts are technically lambent on a cellular level, as they were humans transformed by Imulsion. When the Imulsion-killing device was activated at the end of Gears of War 3, Myrrah was not harmed: thus, she is not a Locust. Either that, or she was somehow immune to the effects of the machine. We're not really sure where she came from, or why the Locusts obey her, but she's definitely the one in control.

E-Day happened because Locusts were trying to escape lambency

Right, so you know how we just said all Locusts, technically, are lambent on a cellular level? Well there's a whole different degree of lambency that occurs after prolonged exposure to Imulsion. This results in the explosive, mindless hordes you've been shooting down since Gears of War 2--the Lambent. For several years prior to E-Day, the Locusts were mutating even further while underground, causing a civil war between the "normal" Locusts and the "lambent" ones. Queen Myrrah, it turns out, wasn't exactly cool with this, so she developed a plan to wipe out mankind so that her "children" could live in peace, far away from Imulsion.

Fun fact: Adam Fenix--Marcus' father--knew about the Locusts' existence several years before E-Day, and made an agreement with Myrrah to deter the Locust assault. He promised to find a cure for lambency so long as she and her Locusts remained underground. Obviously, she lost patience after a while, and billions died as a result.

It's Judgment Day

With all of this in mind, you'll be more than ready to hop into Gears of War: Judgment without fear of feeling lost. Was there anything here you didn't know already? Or did some things surprise you? Let us know in the comments below.

And if you're looking for more, check out questions we've always had about Gears of War and everything we know about Gears of War: Judgment.

Ryan Taljonick

Ryan was once the Executive Editor of GamesRadar, before moving into the world of games development. He worked as a Brand Manager at EA, and then at Bethesda Softworks, before moving to 2K. He briefly went back to EA and is now the Director of Global Marketing Strategy at 2K.