The Expanse

Adapt This: Turning The Expanse into a Narrative Adventure

Space is expansive, mysterious, and full of possibilities. For ages, people have enjoyed films, books, and video games which have shown a more fantastical side of space. 

While the unknown certainly exists out there, there’s still a certain groundedness to space. After all, what would it really be like if humanity colonized a planet within the next hundred years? And more importantly, what repercussions could that have on society?

Questions such as those are asked and answered, in the book series The Expanse.  Written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, The Expanse has given readers a glimpse into a not too distant future where a cold war is brewing.  This premise makes The Expanse a fitting property to examine in a new installment of Adapt This.

FROM PAGE TO SCREEN

Originally starting out as novels, The Expanse has found a larger audience as a TV series on the SyFy Network.  Combining various installments of the series, the TV version presents a blend of noir, intrigue, and the occasional space battle.

Combining elements from the novels, the TV version of The Expanse has done a fantastic job at building characters and explaining this new, yet familiar world.  With the forces of Earth, Mars, and the OPA — the series’ resistance force — in space vying to protect and claim what they want, there’s a relatable element to the show.

MOVING BEYOND

The majority of sci-fi games today are all about action as they revolve around a different form of combat. Whether it’s a shooter, RPG, or space sim, there’s still an emphasis in most sci-fi games in which action is the primary component. But what’s not to say the attention of a player can’t be grabbed in a way that doesn’t involve firing a gun?

Combining shades of Raymond Chandler and Tom Clancy, the narrative of The Expanse has multiple elements which go seamlessly together.  Action does occur, but it’s without lasers or giant battles involving hundreds of ships. Rather than for the sake of a thrill, action in the series has a purpose and consequences for those involved.

Presenting players with an action-adventure game, similar to Heavy Rain or Life is Strange, would be an interesting change of pace.  More so, the multiple perspectives told within The Expanse would allow players to potentially see the action from both sides.  Rather than simply battle nameless enemies whose motivations appear hollow, players could experience what things are like from other perspectives. This could include playable characters for the martian or OPA forces, both of whom are fleshed out in the novels.   It’s this scenario which would make for an experience with depth and a level of thought rarely seen in most sci-fi games.

AN EPISODIC APPROACH

The best prospect for a video game adaptation of the series would be taking inspiration from Life is Strange.  A blend of active gameplay, narrative, and player choice having consequences, Life is Strange accomplished what other developers, such as Telltale, are still trying to achieve. Presenting chapters with cliffhangers, there was a desire for more with each installment of Life is Strange.

Taking the episodic route with a game adaptation of The Expanse would prove to be the best path. This would allow more control over the budget, and give proper growth and pacing for the narrative.

ROOM FOR GROWTH

With season two of The Expanse debuting in February, the property has shown it has room for growth.  Similar to other adaptations, fans of The Expanse have flocked and stayed with the series even though they already know the plot and outcomes for characters such as Detective Miller.  

Doing a straight video game adaptation of existing material may prove to be uninspiring to some fans, though there are other directions the series could take for games such as narrative prequels.

Under the right publisher and team, a game adaptation of The Expanse could be special.

Ian Fisher
A Chicago native, I'm a six year veteran of the game press industry with a deep passion for smaller indie games and all things Sony.

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