Gears POP! (Mini-Review)

Last year when Gears of War developers The Coalition announced their upcoming titles at E3 2018 there was some surprise with the announcement of a free-to-play mobile title that would be tied with Funko’s POP! Vinyl figures. That game is Gears POP! and it recently had a soft release in Australia and I’ve been playing it since that initial release. Is it a game worth playing? Depends a lot on what you’re wanting to get out of it.

The gameplay loop is fairly straightforward:

  • Select your team – you can choose up to ten “pins” representing characters and items from the Gears universe. Each pin has a deployment cost in points.
  • When the game starts you have two minutes to destroy your opponent’s fixed gun emplacements and bunker. Whoever destroys the most wins but destroying the bunker is an automatic win.
  • Each second gives the player a point that are used to deploy one of their four pins available at the time or it can be saved for a more expensive pin. Halfway through the game there is a burst of double time where points accrue faster to help push a victory.
  • If there is a stalemate the game goes into extra time to see if a winner can be decided. If there’s still no result a draw is declared.
  • Winners get awarded “cogs” that are added to their player score and deducted from the loser. Collecting enough advances a player through tiers giving access to new pins and more challenging opponents. Winners also are awarded a chest that unlocks over time and gives them random pin upgrades and credits for unlocking them.
  • Winning any games gives players eventual access to a bonus chest that provides higher rewards the longer their winning streak lasts.

What I like:

  • The character designs are straight out of Funko’s POP! catalogue and coupled with the cutesy voices make it much less serious version of what’s been a grungy and bloody franchise.
  • Games usually last a couple of minutes. Even when there is overtime from a stalemate you aren’t spending a whole lot of time stuck on your phone which makes it an easy game to play quickly.
  • There is room for strategy. The characters you eventually have at your disposal allow plenty of options in choosing an approach to each battle. An example might be using cheaper soldiers in an attempt to get onto the field faster than your opponent. With the ability to define different pin sets (unlocked over time) you can quickly pick and choose much like decks from a card game.

What I don’t like:

  • It approaches pay to win territory the further you go up the rankings. As you start playing against similarly tiered players you can find a game can be decided by whoever has the strongest characters. If your opponent’s soldiers have a few extra hit points over your own thanks to upgrades it might decide the winner. As each character costs more to upgrade per level you quickly reach a point where you’re going to have to spend money to remain competitive.
  • Can be hard to find a game. You can find that you’re playing against the same players often which indicates that there aren’t a lot of users playing right now or there are even fewer players in the upper tiers. Those at the top are likely to remain there too if they’ve upgraded enough of their pins.

As a spinoff Gears POP! makes good use of the license and is easily digestible with the short length of the battles. If a version existed that boiled the game down to just its gameplay loop minus the leveling and upgrades I think it would make for a game worth a couple of dollars… even moreso if it let you set up private matches between friends. But I worry that players will quickly lose interest as they’ll reach a point where you’re going to need to continually cough up dollars if you want to take on the best and remain at the high level tiers.

Gears POP! is out now on mobile.

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