The Gears of War series is one of the most successful modern game franchises around. Microsoft, via developer Xbox Games Studio, is no stranger to re-imagining their games via the lens of another genre. For example, Halo Wars – a strategy RPG in the Halo universe, which is otherwise FPS focused.
Gears Tactics is a turn-based strategy game developed by Splash Damage and The Coalition. It’s available for $59.99 on Steam, Xbox Game Store for PC and Xbox.
You begin the game as Gabe – a mild mannered Gear who is swiftly thrown into the action with an older Gear named Sid. Within just a few minutes you learn the basics of the game: use WASD and QE to control the camera along the battlefield, and action points are your currency for offensive and defensive actions. The game plays a lot like other turn-based strategy titles, such as X-COM. Here is the gameplay loop:
- Check your action points and position
- Assess the position of enemies
- Check your exposure and cover
- Check your action points
- Balance offensive and defensive options including skills
- Execute and end your turn
This is where the fun begins
When you take into account the gameplay loop and the character customization, Gears Tactics has a lot to offer. Characters have both passive and active skills that remind me of mini versions of the Path of Exile skill tree. It’s not as extensive in any particular direction, but it does give each character a sub-class or two, depending on how you spec the character. There is collectible loot within missions that yield weapon mods and armor of various levels of rarity. When you add 30 bonus health or increase evasion by 5%, it makes a noticeable difference. This is rewarding indeed as I found myself barely making it through some missions. If not for the loot bonuses and character level progression, I certainly would not have felt compelled to continue playing this challenging title.
The save system
Tactical shooters are notoriously difficult. Gears Tactics has a progressive save system that saves your game at new checkpoints. That means you cannot leverage the saves to go back turn by turn. This is unfortunate. Several times I found myself accidently taking an action that could not be undone. And while that one action likely did not cost me the mission, I did have to make up for them often through multiple turns.
Who it’s for
Gears Tactics is good for fans of the Gears of War series who want more Gears during a year where we likely will not get another core game. While the gameplay is certainly different, the characters and world design are indistinguishable from the Gears of War series, which is a huge plus for fans. As for fans of the turn-based strategy games, Gears Tactics succeeds in honoring the genre, while not adding anything new.