Gear Tactics is a squad based strategy game where you observe your team from above and give them orders to try and make the best use of the environment for taking on foes and completing your objectives. It’s very much in the style of XCOM in that respect. Each member of your squad has a “turn” to move and/or perform actions based on the points they can spend. Once that is done the enemy units have their go. Based on the Gears of War universe it’s impressive just how well the core ideas and mechanics of those games translate across but with cover and squad level encounters already being such an essential element it almost seemed like the franchise was long begging to make the jump into a new genre.
Taking place after Emergence Day – the event that set humans against the Locust hordes – the story centers around Gabe Diaz (father of Kate from Gears 4/5) who has been pulled back into doing the dirty work for his government by taking down a dangerous member of the Locust. There’s plenty of room for other stories in the franchise timeline thanks to substantial gaps between the games (FYI the original Gears of War was set 14 years after Emergence Day) and so this doesn’t require much in terms of retcons or anything. It also means everything is clearly established as you know the basic character motivations for the factions and the setting too.
As you progress through the campaign you can also recruit additional members to your team whose specific abilities tie to the classes they are assigned and allows unique actions to be performed. As they earn XP these can be further bolstered by unlocking additional abilities. This really allows players to experiment with combinations to find strategies that work for them. You could for example have snipers down enemies from a distance then follow up with scouts charging in with shotguns and execution kills. Some abilities can even earn bonus actions which can extend your turn if the odds are in your favour. The class/ability system I could see work more in the core series too – especially in modes such as Horde where having specialist perks to handle defense or offense may work nicely. Characters can also have their weapons and armour modified to further improve their efficiencies. Crates scattered around the maps provide loot to help you be selective with character loadouts but you unfortunately can’t swap out their weapons, which are class specific.
Tip: if you have a scout or the robot Jack available in your squad, use them to collect the crates. Just ensure that they have a spare action point at the end to cloak and you can effectively pick up all everything on the map without unnecessarily risking your anyone in your team.
What I’ve really enjoyed from the game so far is how accessible it is for players of different skill levels. While I continue to get my hopes crushed by XCOM2 (which this game feels inspired by) Gears Tactics really gives you a much better chance to succeed. You can still fail missions but opportunities to recover are much greater and you rarely feel like you’re stuck in a perpetual loop of restarting missions as mistakes made are more likely from your own choices and not because the random number generator wanted to screw you over again. This might make the game feel WAY easier as a result but it does wonders for game flow and progression. Presentation wise it’s another impressive Gears game as long as you are OK with character designs that make everyone look like prospective WWE wrestlers. It really looks and sounds as good as its shooter siblings and that makes the cinematic moments when the camera zooms in comes across exceedingly well and succeeds in making it feel like a Gears game “from a different perspective”. As part of a series that often pushed the envelope in graphical fidelity on Xbox we shouldn’t expect anything less but it’s appreciated that the developers at Splash Damage and The Coalition weren’t going to settle for anything less and it’s great.
While it may not have as high a profile as other games to have launched around the time of the Xbox Series X/S arrival Gears Tactics is a really solid game that I think accomplishes a lot. It brings something different to an established franchise while also introducing players to a genre that has often been intimidating in the past. It’s also a very easy game to pick up and play in small doses and I can see myself keeping it in my quick resume rotation for the next couple of months. 🙂
Gears Tactics is out now for PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.