Developed by The Coalition and Splash Damage, Gears Tactics is the latest game in the Gears of War universe but not how veterans of the series would expect. Gears Tactics is not the third person shooter that gamers have all come to know and love, but delivers this latest title in the remarkable series as a turned-based strategy game.
Across the last few years, turn-based strategy games have had a number of solid entries in the console market, with the likes of XCOM: Enemy Unknown in 2012, Wastelands 3 this year and even Mario had an outing with 2017s Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Bringing on a new generation, how does Gears Tactics stack up against the rest?
Gears Tactics is set prior to the events of the original Gears of War and sees the player take control of members of the Coalition of Government (COG) forces in pursuit of the Locust scientist known as Ukkon. Ukkon is known as the scientist behind many of the creatures of the locust that the COG has encountered throughout the war. The player will take on many of these throughout the game as they take their squad to their final goal. Gears Tactics offers 16 Chapters across 3 acts and 25+ hours that are accompanied by a significant number of side missions.
At certain points throughout the campaign the player will be required to complete side missions to allow them to progress onto the next chapter, but these side missions are worthwhile as they offer decent rewards and access to certain recruitable characters based on the player’s choices. The weird thing about the side missions is that they are mandatory and at certain points in the game the player cannot proceed with the main story line without their completion. They do bring with them a bit of variety but with only 4 side mission types, they end up feeling repetitive further into the campaign. The gear collected throughout Gears Tactics can make or break some missions so the value is in the rewards and maybe not as much the variety.
Each aspect of Gears Tactics sees the player have an influence in pursuit of Ukkon. As players progress through the campaign they are able to customise each character to suit the needs of their squad. Each character has a base class (support, heavy, sniper, scout and vanguard) that sets their basic weapon options but then the player can also customise the weapons and armour which offers the character bonuses to their base traits, for example, health and accuracy. On top of this, each character can receive further bonuses through their individual skill trees, which can be advanced as the character levels throughout. Be aware though, that levelling characters and providing them their best gear is all fine, just as long as they return from battle, as death is permanent, as well is the loss of everything attached to that character. Fortunately, this does not count for the main characters of Gears Tactics, as they are required to complete the story and their death will see the player fail the objective of the mission.
The main characters are where players will spend most of their time with, as the game gives players little reason to wander off from the main path as it continues to push players forward. This will cause players using and levelling their main characters more often than not. Heartless as it may sound, I was happy to sacrifice a side character for the greater good as I could recruit more after each mission.
The general mechanics of Gear Tactics are straight forward, in that the player builds a squad to take on a mission, each turn the player is allowed to undertake actions based on the number of action points held by each character, the enemy has their turn and then it is back to the player. The actions cover attacking, defensive and passive based skills and require planning and mastering to ensure the best outcome for your squad. These, and the finer mechanics work well in Gears Tactics and the big question for top down strategy games like this is how well do they transition from the keyboard and mouse of the PC to the restricted options of the controller. One thing Gears Tactics had going for it is that the PC version already offered the option to use a controller and I can say that this feel good when using a controller on the console as well. The controls are straight forward, shown on screen, and the need for those finer movements is easily addressed through holding down LT as characters aren’t tied to a grid when moving. These controls include the D-Pad for weapon and character option selection and fast select buttons like X and Y being mapped to attack and the Overwatch defence ability respectively. These abilities will become important to understand and master as the player progresses further into the story and as the difficulty continues to ramp up. For players that don’t like the transition to controller, there is a keyboard and mouse option in the menu or players can pick up and play Gears Tactics on PC using Game Pass Ultimate or Play Anywhere.
Visually Gears Tactics is beautiful and offers an experience that any fan would expect from a Gears game. The world on offer takes the Gears through many derelict and damaged locations that are gritty and offer a look the yells Gears of War. The soldiers look battle hardened and the battles are just as players would expect from a retro lancer charge or chainsaw dismemberment. To add to the visually pleasing look of Gears Tactics are the improvements that come with the Series S which include 1440p at 60fps, faster loading times, variable rate shading and more. The Series S version of Gears Tactics looks crisp, runs smoothly and delivers a much faster experience than that of the last generation.
As with any Gears title, it is not one to bring the kids to enjoy, as the battles, the blood and the gore are too much for little eyes while those looking to play this with friends will be disappointed, as it is single player only.
Xbox Gamer Dad for One More Game
9 – Amazing – as near to a 10 as you are going to get without it being a 10. It’s an amazing experience that just requires that little something else to make it a masterpiece. Your hard earned cash and time would be well spent here.
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Gears Tactics was reviewed on the Xbox Series S. It is out now and available on the Xbox and PC from retailers and via Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Xbox ANZ provided review code for the purposes of this review. The thoughts of this title are ours and ours alone.