REVIEW : Gears Tactics (PC)
Gear war games are at their most enjoyable when gamers are accelerating forward. The same is valid for Gears Tactics, the franchise’s first-ever turn-based tactics game.
But this point that developer Splash Damage asks gamers to stand still — whether it’s for a drawn-out boss fight, a protective mission, or just to scan the menu system — the fantasy falls apart.
Gears Tactics requires the pacing that delivers the iconic third-person shooters extreme fun to play, and it’s pulled down by a trust on stunt missions that withdraw from its otherwise solid basics.
Gears Tactics is presented from a top shot view, with Coalition of Ordered Government, or COG, fighters, and the monstrous Locust troops each exercising their turns before proceeding to the next round of action. Things hop back and forth until 1 side is defeated, or until that special mission’s objectives are met.
Gears Tactics might look like a smart clone of Firaxis’ XCOM games, but it’s something else completely. No grid provides strict rules for how units can move, so the game has more in common with miniatures-based wargames and battle systems like Bolt Action, Infinity, and Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team.
That subtle contrast gives Gears Tactics the flow of action — referred to as “horizontal platforming” by its developers — that makes the Gears franchise. Units lock into cover, use charges of the moment on moving enemies, and usually flit encompassing the board in a highly Gearsian style.
Gears Tactics is bogged down by the identical rules-heavy minutiae that can encourage casual gamers away from methods like Warhammer 40,000. Gears Tactics highlights few of the game-changing techniques common in recent XCOM games and rather offers far more incremental ascents for all of its five character classes. There’s just not ample to distinguish a Vanguard from a Support fighter in the first third of the play. Both of them get three moves and a gun.
The same can be stated of the game’s infinite stream of material, offered in the sort of weapon mods and bits of protection. The beginning hours were a bit dreadful.
But after 2-3 hours of play, you will start to understand what the game needs come to life. Gears Tactics relies on a nested sequence of buffs to generate new actions during the player turn and to provide the action some momentum. If you do something cool through your turn, you will be rewarded for it, and that compensation will keep your soldiers fighting.
Gears Tactics holds up the measures of the franchise for graphics quality, as well. Cutscenes were the same from those in Gears 5, as were some of the amazing animations. Every map covers a fully rotatable camera, and the lighting and the textures are all top-notch. This is the unique turn-based tactics game that you’ve ever played that begins with its benchmarking system.
But the game falls apart when it tries to build a cohesive, unified reality. The wires keeping everything together are too frequently visible, and it ruins what little immersion Gears Tactics manage to build up.
When things are going well for your side, the game can seldom sink to provide a sound that suits where you are in a level. Warriors will crack wise with a firm bark, or direct recruits to act more like warriors. Everyone needs to guard up and stay frosty! Meanwhile, the board is empty, and you’re just passing time for a few rounds before another surge of opponents invariably drops from the sky.
The menus that gamers use within missions are also badly designed. That’s particularly true of the equipment system, which engages all of your available kit four menus deep. Say that you need to reconstruct your lancer, the classic Gears of War rifle with a chainsaw accessory.
There are at least four other weapons in the game, indicating that you’ve got to do this action dozens of occasions ahead of each mission to try and pile up the best incremental rewards for your troops. I would have much rather had the strength to strip every soldier down to their skivvies and cover them up for each mission, rather than playing this bleak game of Tetris trying to figure out how to best spread all the possible equipment around.
Moving and hunting and cutting up Locusts is a great time, even in a turn-based system, but that’s not sufficient to sustain an entire game. Every other component of the game — from the class method to the perks, to the way that missions and UI components are created — needs more refinement and care. This is a near miss, but as anyone who has ever played a turn-based game will tell you, a near miss can be all the opponent needs to take you out. This is an exciting but hardly required to the Gears family.