Gears Tactics Review
Officially dropping on PC tomorrow, Gears Tactics is a turn-based tactical shooter set in the Gears of War universe. With the rest of the games in the franchise sporting a heavy focus on fast-paced action, it will be quite interesting to see how a slower, turn-based and more cerebral approach to the Gears universe plays out. I certainly hope that the wide variety of weaponry available in the previous games will be a key part of Tactics because, let’s face it, Gears’ success was built on a tower of chainsawed grubs. Let’s dive right in!
When I first booted up Gears Tactics, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that I was about to walk into an XCOM re-skin. The entire experience seemed way too familiar at first, but soon the differences started to poke holes in my first impression. The detailed cut-scenes, less restricted movement (we don’t have to live in a square grid anymore!) rich environment and improved storytelling made it quite clear that I was looking at an evolution of the turn-based tactical shooter, not a clone.
Gears Tactics shows just how engrossing a turn-based tactical shooter can be when accompanied by decent storytelling and a believable environment. While these are certainly not the central points of interest in a game of this genre, they are integral to providing players with an elevated gaming experience. Additionally, while other titles like XCOM and Mutant Year Zero confine players to very rigid grids, where all of the cover and environment fits perfectly into those grids, Gears Tactics offers a more realistic look and feel. Like I said, these minor differences really start to pile up and can be the difference between an okay game and a truly impressive one.
These improvements aside, Gears Tactics still feels similar enough to other turn-based tactical games for veterans of the genre to pick it up with little to no learning curve. Each character has actions that can be used for movement, firing at enemies, reloading, throwing grenades, setting up overwatch or one of many other special actions – some of which are gained over time through the extensive skill tree that helps give each character a unique feel.
Give Me Options
Speaking of skill trees, I was quite impressed by the depth of options offered when customizing my Gears Tactics characters. Each Gear has specific equipment that can accept a variety of attachments, enhancing the performance (and appearance) of your weaponry. Side note: I was doubly impressed to find out that your upgraded equipment is properly reflected in cut scenes. This is another one of those touches that really elevates a game’s overall experience for players, even if most of them can’t put their finger on the differences themselves.
The mods and other equipment you use to enhance your Gears is collected primarily through cases. Players must always keep an eye out for these cases on the battlefield. While not hidden, they can be easily overlooked in the heat of battle. The colour of the case determines the quality of the gear inside, which mostly follows the now-standard loot-to-colour order. White is common, green is uncommon, blue is rare, etc.
Just when we thought we couldn’t ask for anything more, we get handed yet another wonderfully entertaining tool to assist in the dispatching of our familiar Locust Horde fiends: skill trees. Each Gear starts with a class and from there can work towards any of the four specializations. These specializations are given names that help players intuitively understand the playstyle of each, enabling them to quickly assign skills points towards their specialization goal. This is handy for players who want to maximize their efficiency while minimizing their time spent in menus.
Adapt To Survive
Whether you hastily toss skill points down or meticulously optimize each Gear’s talents, it is quite imperative that you assign their points as available. This is equally true for their weapon and armor upgrades, as the difficulty scale in Gears Tactics is no joke. I played through on the Intermediate setting as I have significant turn-based tactical shooter experience and I found myself struggling in a couple of the later missions. I consider this a big plus since few very players hop into such a strategic game hoping for a laughably easy fight.
I won’t get into the plot elements themselves (no spoilers here!), but suffice it to say that there is a well-told story that follows you as you progress in the game, paired with some honestly shocking character development – something rarely found in this type of game. Yet another area where Gears Tactics raises the bar of the genre. And that really is what it comes down to.
At the end of the day, Gears Tactics is a shining example of the turn-based tactical combat genre, one which does fans proud and offers the perfect balance of strategy, action, customization and good old fashioned Gears-style gore. If you are even the slightest fan of the genre or the franchise, this is definitely worth a buy and solid playthrough! A tip of the hat to the developers, this one is a gem!
For more information on Gears Tactics, visit: https://www.xbox.com/en-CA/games/gears-tactics