We often look to movies to tell us if aliens exist, what they might look like. We’ve seen visions of these creatures in movies ranging from Independence Day to Aliens to Close Encounters to Star Wars to Avatar, and they’ve each tried to portray a unique picture of what life on other planets may be like.
But they’re not the only medium to do so. Video games have done the same thing, and given players the opportunity to interact with and murder (mostly murder) other sentient species as well.
I’ve picked a few good examples, and a few not-so-good which embody the do’s and dont’s of creature design and backstory.
Turians (Mass Effect)
To me, the Turian is the pinnacle of cool alien design, be it in a video game or even a film or TV show. It’s menacing without being pure evil, strong without being a caricature.
Bioware has a lot of great creature designs in its Mass Effect series, but the Turians are by far my favorite, and I can’t wait to see what they look like in the eventual movie.
Perhaps I’m biased because I can’t play Zerg for shit, but this race of ancient supreme beings is unspeakably cool. Even their most basic unit, the zealot, looks like he should be the goddamn final boss of a different game, with heavy armor and psi blades which would indicate that to be the case.
The race as a whole has an awesome array of technology that has everything from War of the Worlds-like Colossi to giant Motherships and invisible assassins. Simply, they are the total package, and have been for over a decade.
Asari (Mass Effect)
I told you Bioware knows their alien design. The Asari are pehaps the counter to the gruff Turians, as all of them are feminine, though the race as a whole is more or less genderless. They can reproduce with each other, or with other species, which is one of the few races in the galaxy who can do so.
They’re vaguely sea creature-esque, with tendril heads and blue skin, but they’re attractive in a way that can make you uncomfortable. I know I fell hard for Liara in the first game. Err, I mean Commander Shepard fell hard for her…
Halo‘s Covenant Elites are beasty hunters that remind me a little bit of the aforementioned Protoss with their power armor and light blades. I will overlook their propensity for purple (seriously, what the hell is with all the purple?) and respect them as one of the cooler video game races.
Their armor gets progressively more awesome as they rank up, and their big daddy counterparts, Hunters, are among the most feared enemies in any video game.
Locusts (Gears of War)
I don’t like the locusts simply because I think it’s a bit stupid to have a race of aliens that is literally the same exact build as your human protagonists, only with a scaly head and grey skin. The vast majority of the time, you might as well be fighting human soldiers, and it’s only when you get up close can you even tell the difference.
It just seems like there was a lack of effort here. There are a few Locust variants that are interesting, but then in the second game when they just made some of them glow and explode and called it a whole new species (“Lambent,” was it?), I was shaking my head.
I’m not saying that they’re not fun to kill, but the Chimera seem to be to be an exercise in lazy creature design. They’re just a mess of eyes and teeth that are so giant and pointy it wouldn’t even be possible for them to ever close their mouths if they wanted to stop snarling for a minute.
Otherwise, they’re just gangly, and know how to shoot guns like all us puny humans. Yes, there are a zillion different variants of them, but they’re just too over the top to be taken seriously, especially with glowsticks on their backs that make them easily identifiable in any terrain.
Batarians (Mass Effect)
Yes, I just spent a few paragraphs praising Mass Effect‘s expertise in terms of crafting alien species, and there are any number I could have included aside from the two I did.
That however, is not the case with the Batarians. Like the Chimera, they suffer from having too many facial features, again with a plethora of eyes but also eight nostrils. EIGHT NOSTRILS! You could smell the burnt flesh of a Geth raided colony from the next planet over with that kind of sniffing power. But it’s just not worth being horrendously, terribly ugly at all times. No wonder they’re such dicks.
What? Yeah, I know, I had these in the good list, but that’s because there are so many different TYPES of Covenant in the Halo series that half are good, half are bad. While I might have appreciated Elites and Hunters, Grunts are probably the single stupidest thing in the entire Halo series.
The game wants to be taken seriously as a hardcore space opera, but then to interrupt a serious battle with a bunch of little walking triangular turtle midgets running around with their arms in the air, squealing like Steve Urkel, it kind of kills the mood. They are truly Halo‘s equivalent of Ewoks.