I need to start by saying something not obvious to everyone: turn-based strategy games aren’t for everyone. In fact, Gears Tactics will likely find itself a tough sell to most players because strategy games in and of themselves often only appeal to hardcore strategy-focused players. But Gears Tactics decided to take a page from Mario+Rabbids and attempt a more accessible XCOM.
…Gears Tactics adopts the core mechanics of XCOM.
Turn-based strategy games move very slowly which makes showing it to you in my concise reviews a bit impossible. Most of your time will be spent looking at the field from above, and it’s all about making strategic choice moves. Sure, that sounds obvious, but when you can clear stacked odds against you, it takes more than just selecting moves. Part of that is the more accessible close range combat mechanics and a much greater emphasis on explosives, namely a far superior grenade tossing mechanic. These both work to great effect, minimizing the overall stress and strain that XCOM placed on its uphill battles. But this is where a lot of the similarities stop: Gears Tactics completely lacks the late-game depth the XCOM seriesdoes. This is where it’s both good and bad: as a person who’s played XCOM 2, I have an appreciation for the continuing development of my own “heroes”. However, here the story-based heroes, classes, and skills come along more like a sundry selection with the only real standout being snipers which feel surprisingly more effective. Other than that, the sheer differences I would expect from varying classes just aren’t there, and a lot of it simply boils down to either long range or up-close-and-personal weaponry. Add to that the far more forgiving down revival system, and hardcore strategists won’t even consider this a “real” turn-based strategy game. The deepest part of strategy games is risk versus reward, and though Gear Tactics adopts the core mechanics of XCOM, in comparison it simply removes the vast majority of risk. The good, then? If you have a passing interest in turn-based strategy games, this game serves as an excellent primer for XCOM.
…this all clocks in on the short side…
I’d say I put somewhere just over 20 hours into it, at which point you see the ending, and then the game drops you right back into it for more endgame veteran missions. During your 20 hours, you’ll see a decent variety of mission types that range from destroying an objective to capturing two objectives to rescuing Gears to forced side missions (yes, you must do some to continue!). Though, there was a strange difficulty spike in some side missions, and I think it’s because I chose to play in the new Jacked mode which gives me Jack and stronger “deviant” opponents. This game does lack more common base-building and economic facets of this genre, but quite frankly I’m kind of glad. As far as strategy games go, this all clocks in on the short side, but as far as this being an introductory type of game, I feel this is a fair length to really get someone into the genre without tiring them out or overwhelming them.
…against the backdrop of said genre, it exceeds just about all of them.
As far as turn-based strategy games go, this is up there as one of the best-looking. Granted, I am getting a little tired of saying this: it’s definitely a last-gen-dialed-up-to-11; but against the backdrop of said genre, it exceeds just about all of them. And while the game lacks the use of ray tracing, it seems to use screen space reflections in a different way. Without the technical knowledge of what they did, I’m surmising this as best I can, but it reflects better for top-down viewing. The cinematics, while I personally believe use too much motion blur, look absolutely fantastic as well. The facial animations are good, too, and are wrapped in a decent story. It doesn’t quite explore the fact that you are playing as Kait Diaz’s father as much as I’d hoped, but there are some surprises in store. I don’t think any Gears story is going to hit the tear-jerking moments of Gears of War 2, but rest-assured you’re plodded along for the right reasons in this look at the early days of the franchise’s universe.
They did that double-edged sword thing…
This is another hard game to score. This is because I played the very game that Gears Tactics completely lifts its template from. They did that double-edged sword thing: they took out nearly all the stress and strains of losing your heroes and fighting seemingly near-impossible odds and failing. But in doing so, they also made this game accessible enough for anyone with a passing interest in turn-based strategy games that doesn’t mind the slower pace of playing with your brain and not your fingers. And that’s where this game succeeds: while lacking the longer-term depth, it recovers it by keeping the length fair and the graphics turned up. All-in-all, this game won’t be for everyone. But it offers up a good, far easier taste of the turn-based strategy genre.