Boss Rush Banter: Should More Studios Commission Novels to Accompany Games?

Recently, Cold Iron Studios partnered with award-winning horror author Weston Ochse (and Titan Books) to create a canonically recognized prequel novel for the game Aliens: Fireteam Elite. Featuring a third-person-shooter style gameplay, Aliens: Fireteam Elite avoids cut-scenes and extensive dialogue to build its narrative, instead relying upon intelligence artifacts found on the field of battle and the corresponding intelligence reports from personnel aboard the USS Endeavor. These passive storytelling methods are okay–fans of the franchise will certainly devour every morsel connecting this game to the larger Aliens universe.

To be clear, I already loved Aliens: Fireteam Elite. I’m a lifelong fan of the franchise, and there was very little chance I would ever feel differently about this game. A few weeks after its release, I discovered the novel’s existence and immediately got to reading. I absolutely loved the book.

The novel, Aliens: Infiltrator, explores the riveting backstory of how Dr. Timothy Hoenikker ends up stranded aboard the Katanga refinery, overrun by Xenomorphs and in desperate need of rescue. The mission to save Hoenikker is carried out by the Colonial Marines, which is the opening sequence to the Aliens: Fireteam Elite.

The strategy to release a prequel novel alongside the game’s debut is fascinating. Recognizing that the style of gameplay would focus on player experiences rather than story, Cold Iron Studios invested in the companion book and the skill of an award-winning horror author in Ochse. To be clear, Cold Iron Studios didn’t simply commission the novelization of the game; they used a complementary medium to build a much larger story.

While the notion of reading a novel just to get depth in a game’s storyline won’t appeal to everyone, I believe it really worked well in this case. Aliens: Fireteam Elite is pure fun in its gameplay; and for those interested in deep storytelling, the novel provides the desired experience. In my case, it motivated me to replay the game from start to finish, while basking in the added depth of characters and locations made familiar to me through the novel.

Could this strategy work on a large scale? Probably not. But I do believe there are a fair number of video games that could benefit from this model of storytelling.

Tell us what you think! Should more game studios commission novels to accompany games? Share your reactions in the comments below or join the conversation on Boss Rush Discord.

Sources: Titan Books, Cold Iron Studios

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