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Heavy Gear

Entry updated 30 October 2015. Tagged: Game.

Role Playing Game (1994). Dream Pod 9 (DP9). Designed by Jean Carrières, Gene Marcil, Martin Quellette, Marc-Alexandre Vézina.

Heavy Gear is set in a sixty-ninth century much influenced by Battletech (1984). In the game's Future History, an economic collapse has caused the abandonment of Earth's interstellar colonies, including the world of Terra Nova. The setting's timeline begins after Terra Nova has emerged from a period of anarchy and become divided between two political entities, the Confederated Northern City States and the Allied Southern Territories. Both sides use "gears", human piloted bipedal Robots, for war. Meanwhile, Earth has recovered economically, but is now dominated by a fascist regime which has begun a war of reconquest against its former colonies. The tone is gritty and realistic, with few developments in technology other than the invention of Faster Than Light travel. Unusually for a RPG, Heavy Gear has a story arc; as new sourcebooks and scenarios are released, the overarching narrative of the war between Earth and the colony worlds progresses towards an eventual resolution. Other lost colonies have made an appearance in the story, including the waterworld of Atlantis and Utopia, a planet devastated by a civil war fought with nuclear weapons.

There have been three editions of the RPG, in 1994, 1997, and 2004. The first two iterations include Dream Pod 9's Silhouette rules system, as well as a Wargame which uses miniatures to depict battles between gears and armoured vehicles. (This Wargame was also released separately as Heavy Gear Tactical [1998 DP9; rev vt Heavy Gear Tactical Miniatures Rules, 2001] designed by Philippe Boulle, Jean Carrières, Marc-Alexandre Vézina.) The third edition of the RPG is a supplement which can be used with either the Silhouette rules or d20 (2000). In the twenty-first century, however, the franchise has largely focused on Wargames rather than Role Playing Games, a trend which began with the publication of a simplified version of the third edition miniatures rules as Heavy Gear Blitz (2006 DP9) and has continued with the release of the "sport dueling" game Heavy Gear Arena (2010 DP9).

After MechWarrior 2 the Videogame developers Activision lost the licence to create Battletech games, as Dynamix had before them. While Dynamix responded by developing their own similar franchise, Metaltech (1994), Activision chose to licence Heavy Gear. The first game developed under this agreement, Heavy Gear (1997 Activision, Win) designed by Tim Morten, is competent, but suffers from giving the relatively small and agile gears the handling characteristics of Battletech's huge, lumbering BattleMechs. The game's linear plot (see Interactive Narrative) follows the crew of a Confederated Northern City States hovercraft as they skirmish with a similar Allied Southern Territories vessel in Terra Nova's badlands; its credibility is enhanced by the use of details from the complex world developed for the RPG. The sequel, Heavy Gear II (1999 Activision, Win; 2000 Lin) designed by Jack Mamais, represents gear movement and combat rather more successfully. Players proceed through its linear plot by completing a series of missions as one of the members of a special operations team dispatched by all the Terra Novan factions to attack Earth forces on an occupied colony world. Heavy Gear II is an excellently crafted Robot combat game which refines and improves upon the gameplay of such predecessors as Earthsiege (1994) (see Metaltech) and MechWarrior (1989) (see Battletech), while adding some Real Time Tactics elements.

Related works: Heavy Gear Fighter (1994 DP9) designed by Jean Carrieres is a Card Game based on gear versus gear duelling; Heavy Gear Fighter: Weapons and Equipment (1995 DP9) designed by Jean Carrieres is an expansion. Heavy Gear (2001-2002) is a 40-episode animated series made for television by Mainframe Entertainment which focused on "gear duelling" tournaments between representatives of Terra Nova's Northern and Southern factions; it is aimed at a significantly younger audience than the RPG and Videogames. [NT]


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