Gears Tactics is a spinoff set in the Gears of War universe. One might wonder why the popular third-person shooter franchise from The Coalition and Splash Damage would need a spinoff for an entirely different genre at that. Surprisingly enough, Gears Tactics manages to deliver and it’s bound to be a treat for fans of turn-based strategy games. Here’s our official review.
Note: You can also check out our technical review to learn more about Gears Tactics‘ graphics, options, performance, and in-game benchmark tool.
Gears Tactics: The story so far
Gears Tactics is set before the events of the first Gears of War game. You play as Gabe Diaz, the father of Kait Diaz from Gears 5. Diaz is aided by his comrades — the gruff veteran Sid Redburn who’s loyal to the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) and Mikayla Dorn, a leader of a ragtag force of the Stranded. There’s even Augustus Cole who’s a pre-order DLC character, though he doesn’t play a major role. Arrayed against them are the forces of the malevolent being known as Ukkon, a geneticist of the Locust Horde, and a “monster who creates monsters.”
The story in Gears Tactics is fairly linear, with a couple of twists and turns that won’t surprise anyone. In typical Gears of War fashion, though, the campaign does reach bombastic levels at times thanks to a few cutscenes.
You and what army
Think of Gears Tactics as XCOM in the Gears of War vein. You’ll be recruiting new soldiers that become available, and each one has a specific class or archetype. Leveling them up via kills nets you with additional skill points that can be assigned.
There are 30 skills for each of the game’s five classes for a whopping 150 perks that you can choose from. However, it’s also worth noting that a handful of these skills are so integral to missions that you’ll likely ignore others in favor of efficiency.
As for customization options, you can fine-tune your squadmates by way of weapon and armor attachments, as well as paint jobs. The main characters have their unique look, but the generic soldiers you recruit can be customized further via different hairstyles, scars, and tattoos. Oddly enough, it seems you can put a full beard on anyone:
With regard to missions, as mentioned earlier, Gears Tactics’ campaign is fairly linear, though there are some caveats. Each of the game’s three acts is divided into several unique story missions, and there are intervals where you’ll need to complete two or three side missions to progress. Many of these are of a similar variety such as defending control zones to obtain supplies or rushing to open loot chests while avoiding Nemacysts that bomb danger zones.
The Locust Horde
Throughout Gears Tactics‘ campaign, you’ll encounter Locust Horde mobs such as grenade-lobbing Boomers, deadly Theron Guard, and nasty Tickers that you can kick around before making them explode. Ukkon also has new genetic monstrosities such as the Disciple and Zealot, both of which emit a poison nova when they die.
You’re bound to face dozens of hostiles within a single turn (not just for the entirety of the mission). Some are already spawned at the start of a fight, while others are dropped by Reavers or come out of Emergence Holes. If you tried out the recent XCOM: Chimera Squad with its smaller engagements, then Gears Tactics will surprise you with the scale of each battle and its rampaging brutes.
It gets even better because the end of each act in Gears Tactics will have you battling gargantuan bosses such as the Brumak and Corpser. These boss fights last several phases and they also have unique mechanics that’ll test your squad’s capabilities.
You’ll know it’s a Gears of War game because even if it’s a turn-based strategy title — a genre that’s known for having a slower and methodical pace — the action just doesn’t let up. Executions by way of bayonet charges, chainsaws, or just slamming down hard with your Mulcher machine gun make for gory and violent moments, all while increasing your command points. Additionally, the game’s visuals and effects are rendered in vivid and striking detail as mentioned in our technical review.
The overwatch action, meanwhile, is head and shoulders above other offerings. Since it takes all your remaining points into consideration, you can mow down hostiles each turn as long as you’ve got the bullets. It’s like fighting a tide of bugs in Starship Troopers.
Knowing how to successfully tackle firefights is integral in a number of missions in Gears Tactics given that some restrict you to bringing only one or two squadmates. You’ll plan your moves, keep pace, and do your best to stay alive, and you’re bound to have a good time.
Gears Tactics: The final verdict
Unfortunately, Gears Tactics isn’t without flaws. Even though it borrows from mechanics perfected by the classic XCOM games, it eschews the base-building and research concepts in favor of a purely action-driven presentation. The linear story also doesn’t make you feel like you’re in a race against time, and you’re just going from one mission to the next. Likewise, the squadmates you recruit aren’t just expendable, they’re forgettable because you won’t actually feel attached to them. Newer and higher-level soldiers are made available as you progress, and these even let you respec their skill points freely.
Still, in spite of these qualms, Gears Tactics remains enjoyable. From the fast-paced action that never lets up to the brutal firefights that’ll keep you thinking about your next moves, it’s a stellar spinoff; a perfect cross between the Gears of War franchise’s frantic action-shooter goodness and the strategy genre’s methodical approach.
Gears Tactics releases tomorrow, April 28. You can purchase it on Steam for $59.99. You can also play the game via Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass for Windows. Stay tuned for our guides and features hub which will be available soon.